A scroll through the Queensland government website would inform you that after applying for an Australian Disability Parking Permit, “You will receive notification by post of approval or refusal of an Australian permit within approximately 28 days from when your application is received”. But don’t be deceived.
Having waited 56 days and multiple phone calls before receiving it last year (more on that experience in part one of this letter), I planned ahead this year.
With my permit set to expire on 20 March, I went to the Chermside Department of Main Roads and Transport customer service centre, and applied for a renewal of my permit on 1 February 2016. On 10 February I received a letter (curiously dated 25 January 2016) stating that although the application had been received, it could not be processed as it should have been accompanied by a processing fee. I returned to the Chermside centre on 12 February, processed the payment, and was assured that my application would now be processed.
(Interestingly, your website says that when renewing a permit you don’t have to pay the processing fee again, but I have since been informed that only applies to five year permits. Your words on why I wasn’t charged the fee when I went to the customer centre and my application was ‘processed’? It is a confusing system and staff don’t always know what the rules are. How reassuring.)
Having heard nothing further, I phoned the department on 30 March, and was told that processing had not begun as they hadn’t realised that payment had been received. The supervisor had already left for the day, but would call me the next day to discuss it more. Said supervisor phoned on 31 March to confirm that processing had been completed and the permit sent to the printers, and I would receive the permit in 7-10 days.
Now 60 days after lodging my application, with my permit having expired eleven days ago, I was starting to feel a little desperate, and asked whether there was any interim system that would mean I could leave the house independently while I waited for the permit. The only advice he could offer me was that next year I ensure my doctor writes “five years/permanent” instead of “1-2 years”, so I would not have to navigate this process annually.
I did not expect my doctor’s optimism that the last five years of chronic illness and disability would not stretch into a seventh to be such a barrier to my right to access society.
With my permit expired and university mid-semester break over, I am left with the unfortunate reality that I will not be physically able to attend my classes at university without use of the disabled car spaces I usually rely on throughout the campus. With such a comprehensive system as the Australian Disability Parking Permits in place, UQ no longer offers its own short term permits.
I don’t know what makes one month the period of time which it is appropriate for someone to be deprived access to society. Maybe it’s how long it takes for taxi money to run out? Or for our friends and relatives to become sick of ferrying us from doorstep to doorstep? Maybe it really does take a whole 28 days to ensure the doctor that said the permit was required is a real and qualified person and pack a piece of paper into an envelope?
Maybe it’s just that 28 days is the longest they think they can set while still sounding reasonable. But there is no point in setting a timeframe if people can’t rely on it. Last year it was 56 days. This year it is 65 days and counting.
In just the last 14 months, I’ve spent a third of a year waiting for the department to get their act together. I’ve nearly collapsed twice because you called me, my crutches, and my numbered ticket to discuss a disability parking permit, up to a standing-only desk, and then having to crane up from my wheelchair at that same desk a third time.
It’s time to take responsibility and treat the people with disabilities who come to you with respect and consideration. Be upfront about your waiting periods, train your staff on the correct procedures, and put mechanisms in place to track and follow up the process of applications to ensure you meet the 28 day waiting period.
Telling me I’m simply unlucky and will just have to be patient isn’t good enough.
Have you or someone you know had a bad experience applying for you permit? Get in touch!