Rego Costs For Drivers With Disabilities Cut, But Transport Access Issues Remain
Monday, 16th October 2017 at 2:10 pm
The Victorian government has announced it is cutting the cost of registration for wheelchair users who modify their cars to drive, but disability advocates say people with disabilities’ access to public transport also needs to improve.
Around 2,500 Victorians own vehicles modified to suit a wheelchair user, and they will be able to apply for a 100 per cent concession on their vehicle registration fee under the scheme, resulting in a saving of almost $300 a year.
Eligible vehicles must be fitted with hand controls for accelerating and braking, and need to have undergone a Vehicle Assessment Signatory Scheme report asserting the vehicle has been significantly modified.
The Andrews Labor government announced the initiative last Thursday, and Roads and Road Safety Minister Luke Donnellan said the change was “long overdue” and would make a “positive impact on the lives of thousands of Victorians living with a disability”.
“We know that wheelchair users face significant costs to have vehicles modified – that’s why we’re cutting rego costs to make it easier for drivers,” Donnellan said.
The director of SpinalCure Australia, Gary Allsop, added that this discount would “help ease the financial burden” that wheelchair users faced while also helping them to “maintain their independence and mobility”.
National disability rights and advocacy organisation People with Disability Australia (PWD) also said they welcomed this new scheme, but warned that more needed to be done to address the broader issue of transport accessibility.
PWD senior policy officer for employment and accessibility, Samantha French, told Pro Bono News that many people with disability struggled to access the public transport system.
“Transport is a huge cost to people with disability generally speaking, so any initiatives that can reduce the costs for people with disability to travel is welcomed, and we see it as a positive move,” French said.
“Many people with disability though can’t currently access the public transport system because it is largely inaccessible. Even where you may have the train station accessible, the surrounding areas and access to the station may not be accessible.
“So given the barriers people with disability still face just accessing every day public transport, it means that many people with disability either rely on private vehicle or taxi travel as a way to get around.”
While this scheme is beneficial for people with disability who modify their car, French notes that many people are unable to afford to do this in the first place, with some modifications costing upwards of $100,000.
French said people with disability needed greater financial support, especially through the mobility allowance.
“There is some assistance available through the mobility allowance, however the government currently has a bill before the senate to get rid of that allowance and only make it available for people on the NDIS,” she said.
“This will mean an additional cost that people will have to wear. So the government needs to be looking at broader initiatives such as increasing the mobility allowance and making it available to any person with disability who needs to travel.
“Because it’s a very important payment that people rely on when they need to modify their vehicle or use taxi transport. And there should be increased funding available for people with disability, who often aren’t able to access the public transport system and therefore need to rely on their own vehicles to drive.”
French said going forward that governments needed to focus on improving accessibility to public transport, which was putting a severe strain on the lives of people with disability.
“Transport and affordability of transport continues to be one of the biggest barriers to participation for people with disability, and that includes people on the NDIS and not on the NDIS. I think that it needs to be recognised that if you can’t access public transport or get around, you can’t get to work or get to school. It affects every aspect of your life,” French said.
“So making public transport accessible for the whole journey, instead of a piecemeal approach just fixing a certain train station or bus stop… should certainly be a major priority and should be a much higher level of investment.
“This isn’t going to change overnight, so in the interim we need a whole range of supports to assist people to get around.”