Today I want to talk about two issues: Disabled Bays and Parking Barriers. Both are issues I deal with on a regular basis. One of them has a fix with the right investment.
I have a type of congenital cerebral palsy known as Right-Hemiplegia—it literally means right-side half-paralysed. So, as you can imagine, my right side does not work very well. In fact, it has the motor skills of a small infant, which is why I often nickname it my baby side.
I live in the United Kindom, so for me, the steering wheel of a car is on the right-hand side. While I can adapt to most things, one of the hardest challenges for me is entering a car-park, especially if it has multiple floors because it increases the chance that there will be a ticket barrier.
Often, I’m in my car, driving to the Bullring or some other shopping centre and all the on-street parking is taken. That is, if there is on-street parking. This forces me into the shopping centre’s car park which is something I dread. I dread it because there is no doubt going to be a ticket barrier and as we drive with the wheel on the right, that is where the barrier will be.
So, I drive up close, narrowly avoiding scraping my mirrors. I push the handbrake on and reach across my entire body to press the button. My fingers just about manage to grab hold of the edge of the ticket. I throw the ticket on my seat and try to get through the barrier as soon as I can.
Sometimes, there is someone in the car that can help me by getting out and pressing the button for me and grabbing the ticket but if there is no one with me, then I have to stretch and reach, praying that I don’t drop the ticket… and yes that has happened.
Mostly, it is the position of the car that I struggle with the most. I didn’t get close enough or am at the wrong angle, I have to reverse and try again but then there is that impatient driver behind me. Preventing me from reversing and beeping their horn. In these cases, I have to get out and press the button, get back in and drive through the barrier.
It’s stressing, especially as the first and only time I crashed my car was at a barrier due to a faulty handbrake when I reached for the sensor.
The UK is often slow-moving and behind the times. When the rest of the world got 4G in 2009-2010, the UK was just starting to offer a limited 4G service at the end of 2012 early 2013. This is the same with everything in the UK. Including disabilities.
The only thing we are better at is having predictable weather, usually.
As the rest of the world adapts for disabilities, the U.K thinks we’re still in the Victorian era. Since I’ve got my passport two years ago, I’ve noticed an immediate difference between how the rest of Europe and the US view and treat disabilities, and the adaptations they offer compared to Britain.
More recently, I noticed the barriers.
When my dad and I were flying to New York earlier this year, we noticed that Frankfurt Airport had non-barrier parking as an accessibility feature. It was featured clearly on their site as a disability access point.
A hospital I visit near my university has barriers on all eight of their car parks. On the side of the barrier is a number to call if you struggle to press the button. I called the number several times the first few times I went.
Each time you get an automatic message saying that someone will be with you shortly. Eventually, 20 minutes were up and I called another number I found on the website, I explained the situation. As I made frequent visits to that hospital as a student, I quickly learned the staff do not answer the number on the barrier. Even though the number is still live, it is essentially non-existent as the staff ignore it.
So if I am by myself, I have to struggle in and out of the car park and pay £2.40 or more for the privilege. What makes things worse is the whole hospital has a car park specifically for disabled users, but they still have those ghastly barriers.
This is what I love about Broadway Plaza, Birmingham. For over a year, they have removed all barriers and tickets. You pay by entering your registration number as you leave and it knows how long you have been in the car park. However, they do not advertise the accessibility on their website, so many people with disabilities are likely to try and find alternative parking.
It has been conditioned into us as we are used to being hit with a barrier. I am always surprised when I go somewhere new if there isn’t a barrier to the car park.
I don’t mind paying to use a car park if I can access it without any hassle, spending 5 minutes of my time to get a ticket most people get in 3 seconds is frustrating and something I shouldn’t have to expect with the amount they charge per hour.
I would happily support the Broadway Plaza car park because I know I can use it but I don’t see why I ought to pay for the Bullring or other places when I cannot access them easily. And they also cannot prevent the Disabled Bays from being abused.
This brings me on to my next topic.
Edit 20/07/2018: Until I went through PIP, having Cerebral Palsy meant that I was automatically eligible for a disabled parking permit known as the Blue Badge. This may be taken off me if I can not win my appeal once it expires.
Over the years, I have noticed a massive decline in respect for disabled people. More and more people are abusing disability faculties. From toilets to priority seats to the Blue Badge Parking bays. This has become an alarmingly regular event. There are several bays, probably 10-15 at a local supermarket and many of the spaces were gone. Only two or three people displayed a badge.
There have been many queries as to why we need those spaces because many people find them “empty” or the person in the bay is not what they think a disabled person ought to look like.
So, maybe, just maybe that is why there are a lot of disabled spaces. To make up for the abuse that the stores know will inevitably happen. Wheelchair users especially will find this annoying and inconvenient as the extra space makes it easier for them to get in and out of a car.
And it all boils down to not meeting the expectations of the abuser’s idea of disabled. When most people think of disabled, they think of a wheelchair or an elderly person. They do not think of someone who can only move short distances but can indeed walk. And I don’t think many people are aware of how many people are actually disabled.
I have been given the finger-wag by an old lady for parking in a blue badge space. She clearly did not think I was disabled but I can say the same about her. We live in a culture that judges a book by the cover.
Here’s the problem we are having in the UK.
As the law stands, if you park in a private car park, such as Aldi, Sainsbury’s or shopping centres, then even if the owners of the car park give you a fine you DO NOT have to pay. No one can force you unless ordered at a court. And really, private carpark owners have more to do than threatening to take someone to court. They don’t want the hassle.
People are aware of this and as a result, do not fear to abuse the system.
This gives the owners no motivation to give a fine to the people abusing the spaces. I was having a conversation with a security guard and one of the managers in Aldi’s and they say people just ignore it and they do not have time to give everyone tickets, which is fair enough, especially when they can just be chucked in the bin.
This goes for private parking at residential properties too. I live in an apartment block, and more often than not, I return to my home to find one person in particular in the disabled space without a blue badge. It’s annoying and something needs to change.
People don’t park on yellow lines or without paying on public streets if they know it is heavily monitored by traffic officers. They don’t risk it in a council car park. This is because they will have to pay the fine by law.
Why is it different for private parking? Why? They’re abusing the same rules, the only difference is the organisation that manages it.
Yes, it means that if the car park is full, the person without a blue badge would have to walk further to their destination, but if you were in a wheelchair, if you could only walk short distances or if it was a family member, how would you feel if someone took a space that you or a loved-one needs because they were too lazy to walk a few hundred more yards?
Those of us who have a blue badge did not ask to be disabled. We just are and that means we need the extra help. Able-bodied people are blessed to have legs they need to walk those extra steps.
What can be changed?
First of all, multi-storey car parks need to invest in barrier-free car parking. Make it more common for a car park to have ticketless systems and no barriers so that the car park is accessible to all. Maybe it will encourage more people to use it and as a result, the prices will go down?
The car parks need to make people aware of whether they are accessible by adding it to their website.
The law for private car parks needs to match those run by the council, with the same fine that people have to pay.
Thanks for reading. What do you guys think? What is disabled parking like in your country or city?