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Former kickboxer Jason ‘Psycho’ Suttie calls out drivers who misuse disability carpark spots

William Sangster, Te Rito Journalism cadet

A former Muay Thai World champion is kicking down barriers, going viral about the abuse of accessible car parks.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Pili Jason “Psycho” Suttie, is a six-time kickboxing champion and current head trainer at Elite Thai Kickboxing Gym in Auckland.

Suttie is also a proud father of 11-year-old Phoenix; who was born with Cerebral Palsy, has an intellectual disability and is in a wheelchair.

Speaking about his son, Suttie describes him as bringing “calmness” to his life.

“He’s just a beautiful person to be around. He’s a calming person and teaches you patience.

“He laughs out loud because he hears my voice. That’s something special, you know, because he can’t talk - but for him to notice and then you think: ‘Oh, he knows me’.”

The Samoan-born former heavyweight kickboxer hails from Salei’a in Avao, Savaii, and is proud of his roots.

A video he shared on social media recently went viral - as he shared his frustration about people who took advantage of disability parking spots without holding a mobility card.

The video shows Suttie demonstrating how difficult it is to set up his son in a wheelchair in a specially decked out van.

‘Think about us’

“Hey! You know when you’re in a rush and you’ve got to go to the shop and then you’ve got to get something - run in and then run out?

“Can I please encourage you not to park in the handicap car park - because this is how long it takes me,” Suttie says in the video.

He then demonstrates how he wheels son Phoenix into the van - which involves pulling out a ramp for the wheelchair and then some time securing Phoenix’s chair safely to the vehicle.

Suttie says it is infuriating to see a vehicle parked in the disability car park spot - without a disability pass showing.

“Think about us,” he says to the camera.

The proud dad believes that there should be more penalties handed out to those who use the spots when they should not be - and is interested in an app that allows a person to take a photo of the offending vehicle to report to authorities.

CCS Disability Action is the major provider of mobility parking permits in New Zealand. In 2018, it tested out an app just like that, but could not iron out the details.

Spokesperson Raewyn Hailes says they have consistently found people without mobility issues using the car parks.

“Mobility parking spaces make it possible for a wide range of people to be able to live their lives in an ordinary way in the same way as their peers.

“As the older population increases, so does mobility impairment - therefore the demand for accessible parking will increase. CCS Disability Action encourages the provision of accessible car parks both public and private spaces and will continue to lobby for better enforcement.”

Auckland Transport said from January 2022 to December 2023, wardens issued 4057 infringements for those illegally parked in accessible spaces.

A total of 296 infringements were later waived when it turned out the person was permitted to park there.

A dream for Phoenix

The fine for parking in a disability or mobility parking space without a permit is $150.

AT spokesman Rick Bidgood said their parking design team is working with CCS to overcome issues about identifying offending parties.

“As always, we encourage people to report misuse of these parks when they witness it, as we need to make sure they are available for those who need them.”

Suttie is planning to educate people about different aspects of Cerebral Palsy in the future. He also has big dreams for his son - and hopes his son will live up to his name.

“We wanted to call him Phoenix about a month before he was born. It’s fitting - he’s gonna rise. He’s gonna rise and walk and talk one day.”

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