Today I want to talk about two issues: Disabled Bays. Parking Barriers.
I live in the U.K which means that for me the steering wheel is on the right-hand side – I also have a type of cerebral palsy called Right-Hemiplegia. This means that the right side of my body doesn’t work very well, in fact, it has the motor skills of a small infant so I often call my right side my baby 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. I have to go into the shopping centre’s car park and I dread it because I know that there is going to be a barrier but I have no choice, there is not an entrance that doesn’t have it. I drive up close, careful not to scrape my mirror, put the handbrake on and reach across my body reaching out to press the button. Sometimes I have someone in my car that can help me, other times I’m by myself – it’s these times that are the hardest. Sometimes I succeed, I press the button and a ticket is printed out that I can grab with the tips of my fingers. Other times I have to reverse the car, get out, press the button, get back into the car with the ticket in my hand. 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 button.
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 UK.
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. Here’s the parking information from Broadway Plaza. I know this car park has not used barriers for over a year now, but there is nothing on their site to mention this. I love Boardway for removing the barriers, but someone who is not local wouldn’t know until they get to the site that this is the case and this is seen throughout the UK. If a venue has made preparation for easy access and does not mention it on the website, people won’t know. What Brits have become accustomed to, is to expect barriers at the entrance of a car park.
I am always surprised when I go somewhere new if there isn’t a barrier to the car park. 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 time 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.
I learned that staff do not answer that number, it is practically non-existent now even though it still works because people just 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.
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 and then most of them don’t stop users abusing the bays, which brings me on to my next topic. Disabled bays.
Having Cerebral Palsy means that I qualify for a disabled parking permit, in the U.K it’s called a Blue Badge. Here’s the annoying thing, more and more people have started parking in a designated parking space without displaying a Blue Badge – so when I or someone else comes who actually needs these spaces, we are forced to park somewhere else.
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.
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. People are aware of this and 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. Taking the person to court to get the money would be too much hassle too.
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 needed because they were too lazy to walk a few hundred more yards?
Those of us who have a blue badge didn’t ask to be disabled. We just are and that means we need the extra help. I hope one day the government changes the law for private parking.