The lack of awareness and social courtesy surrounding the use of disabled parking has long been a bug bare of mine.
It’s a problem that I used to routinely experience when either dropping my son off or picking him up from college.
My son has autism along with several other health issues which affect his muscle tone, his joints and his vision. He finds it incredibly difficult to walk for any distance or on uneven surfaces, hills or inclines and his muscles fatigue quickly causing him pain that can last for hours as a result.
His vision difficulties make navigating high traffic environments, such as parking lots, extremely dangerous for him as he can not judge how close he is to a car nor how fast it is moving.
In short, we have a disability parking permit for several very good reasons.
Yet despite this, we constantly find that we are unable to use most of the spaces allocated for disability parking because they are always filled with vehicles and drivers that shouldn’t be using them.
There are two disabled parking spaces located side by side in the top car park closest to the college’s main entrance but they are always filled with cars that do not have permits to use them.
Whilst I understand that it may be convenient for parents of non-disabled children to park themselves there and wait for their darlings to wander out of class, it’s still not appropriate nor even legal for them to do so.
Yet they continue taking up those spaces and no one at the college seems prepared to do anything about it.
In reality I’m sure all it would take would be one teacher or admin person standing in front of the spaces telling people to move on if they don’t have a permit to fix the problem.
However no one at the college seems to feel that it’s in their job description to ensure the safety of disabled students within the car park.
Fed up with it all I remember glaring at a woman one day as I walked past her on my way to collecting my son from his classroom , while she sat in her car, parked in a disability parking space without a permit and stared back at me.
10 minutes later as I emerged from the college entrance with my son leaning on my arm and clearly having trouble walking, the woman who was still parked where she shouldn’t have been, mouthed the word “sorry” to me and quickly looked away.
At least she apparently felt some modicum of guilt over her actions and whilst sorry may be a start, it didn’t help either my son or I that day as we struggled a good 15 meters further than we should have had too, just to reach the car.
To this day, those disability spaces are always filled with cars that shouldn’t be there.
Fortunately for my son, I discovered a disability parking space much further down in the college’s lower car park that is a walkable distance for him at the rear of the building.
Though it still annoys me that we have to enter and exit from the rear of the building like servants or those who shall remain unseen as it was in the old days.
This problem is by no means reserved to school environments.
Shopping center’s, public streets, pay and display car parks, even local sporting clubs.
Last week, while picking up my daughter from her trampolining lesson at the Police and Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) with my son, I was forced to park down in the over flow car park, which is quite a distance away from the front doors of the building, all because a big sparkly new utility truck had taken up the one and only disabled parking space allocated to the entire parking lot.
Having to walk up an unpaved hill from the over flow car park to the front doors of the building was quite an effort for my son. ( And no, before anyone goes there, there is absolutely no way I’d even consider leaving him alone in a car surrounded by the darkness of an unlit and unfamiliar car park).
Once inside the doors I approached the receptionist and asked her if the spot out the front of the building was the only disabled car space they had. She replied that it was so I then drew her attention to the fact that it was being used by a new utility truck that did not have a disability parking permit, where as we, on the other hand who do hold a disability parking permit were forced to park in the overflow car park and walk up.
She apologized and said “unfortunately it happens all the time.”
I was gob smacked by this response for two reasons, firstly the venue was the Police and Citizens Youth Club and secondly the disability parking spot could be clearly seen from the reception desk. Which means that the staff there, who are mainly either retired or current police officers volunteering their time, could see whether or not any vehicle parked there had the required disability permit.
So clearly the staff there had decided to ignore the validity of the purpose of that parking space and turn a blind eye to those abusing it.
” Well this is the PCYC so I’m surprised that no one has done anything about it” I replied.
The receptionist, who was also wearing a police uniform I might add, then said, ” Yes we probably should do something about it. I’ll write a note and leave it on the car warning the owner of the car not to park there again. I think I know who it is anyway”.
What? A police officer opting for writing a warning note instead of fining the person concerned?
Once again I was gob smacked.
If this had happened on a street the offender would (or should) be fined. So why was this police officer opting for only leaving a note? Sure she might have officially been off duty but she could have called and had an on duty police officer issue an on the spot fine.
I don’t know about anyone else but I don’t get a warning note if my parking meter runs of out of money.
No I get a fine and an expired parking meter is a much smaller offense than illegally taking up a disabled parking space.
So why wasn’t this person getting a fine for abusing a disabled parking space instead of a polite note asking them not to do it again?
Still chewing on the irony of it all my son and I went and watched the last 15 minutes of my daughters class.
As we headed for the front door I could see the utility still parked there with piece of A4 paper stuck under its windscreen wiper.
I stopped at the car and read what she’d written on the paper.
“Please don’t park here again unless you have a disability permit”
Not much of a warning if you ask me.
So just what is it about disability parking spaces that makes those who don’t need them so apt to abusing them?
Is it simply that we live in a society whose cultural attitudes towards disability somehow makes it seem Okay for people to take advantage of our parking spaces?
Is it because our parking spaces are usually located as close as possible to whatever building they’ve been allocated too and so therefore they’re simply too convenient not to abuse?
Or is it because no one seems interested in actually taking the proper actions in fining those who abuse them?
How can we get the message out there to others that it’s not Okay to take up a disability parking space just because it’s convenient or you think you can get away with it?