Bearing Disability: Parking Barriers and Disabled Bays

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.

The other requires stricter laws.

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.

So, it doesn’t help when my disability meets barriers… literally. Parking barriers are a nightmare for me.

Parking Barriers

Parking Barriers

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 parking barriers that I have to get through.

What are parking barriers?

Parking barriers are a bar-like thing across the car park that requires you to press a button for a ticket. Or in some cases, to make sure you have the correct permission to access the car park. The latter is found at University Halls of Residence.

How does it affect me?

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 parking barriers at the entrance and as we drive with the wheel on the right, that is where the button will be.

So, I drive up close, narrowly avoiding scraping my mirrors on the post. I put 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 now above me as soon as I can.

Sometimes, there is someone in the car that can help me by getting out and pressing the button on the parking barriers for me. They then grab the ticket while I drive through and find a space. 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.

You can’t teach Old U.K new tricks

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 parking 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. In other words, they removed the parking barriers. It was featured clearly on their site as a disability access point.

A failed accessible feature

A hospital I visit near my university has barriers on all eight of their car parks. On the side of the parking barriers, there 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 parking barriers.

Broardway Plaza, Birmingham.

This is what I love about Broadway Plaza, Birmingham. For over a year, they have removed all parking 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 parking barrier to the car park.

I don’t mind paying to use a car park if I can access it without any hassle. But spending 5 minutes of my time to get a ticket most people can get within 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.

blue badge (important information censored.)

Disabled Parking

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.

Why are there so many?

Whenever I go shopping, I am lucky if I find a free disabled space. As I walk past, I check the cars. Probably 3/5 cars do not have or display a blue badge. So, maybe that is why there are so many disabled spaces. The supermarkets are trying to estimate how many people are going to abuse the space.

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.

Problem with the law

Here’s the problem we have in the UK.

As the law stands, if you park in a private car park, such as Aldi, Sainsbury’s or most 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 car park owners have more to do than to take someone to court.  They don’t want the hassle.

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.

People are aware of this and as a result, do not fear to abuse the system.

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.

Council-owned roads and car parks

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.

Edit (27/07/18)

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.

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?

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3 responses to “Bearing Disability: Parking Barriers and Disabled Bays”

  1. A friend of the family has taken to naming and shaming cars that are parked in disabled bays now without permits/Blue Badges by taking pictures of them, and sharing these on Twitter and Facebook. Amazing how people jump at you to defend themselves once they have been caught out. Well it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t parked there!

    Also, thank you for writing about the barrier issues people may have – maybe I’m ignorant but that hadn’t even occurred to me!

    • I don’t think it’s ignorance, I think it’s just not thought about because 90% of the world is right handed, so you’re expected to use your right hand. I love living in the UK, proud to be British, but the attitude to disability and other minorities is changing so slowly compared to other countries. The UK really do start needing to take a leaf out of our neighbouring countries’ book.

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