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 with spasticity. It literally means the right-side of the body is half-paralysed and prone to spasms.
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.
This is why it doesn’t help when my disability meets barriers. Literally. I’m British. For me, that means that my driver window is on the right-hand side, and so too are these parking barriers. But even if I wasn’t British, but another European or American, someone with Left-hemiplegia would have the same issue as me.
Parking Barriers are a nightmare for the disabled!
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
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.
Broadway Plaza, Birmingham, is a mini entertainment centre with restaurants, bowling, cinema and rock-climbing.
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 first.
It has been conditioned into us to find alternatives. 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! More on that soon.
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? I feel that the barrier-free system may seem expensive at first, but cheaper in the long-run.
- The car parks need to make people aware of whether they are accessible by adding it to their website.
- Any car park that uses barriers must give disabled people free car parking —either fully or for a total of three hours.
Thanks for reading. Please do describe to my blog, and read more posts on disability and driving, including the blue-badge scheme. And please don’t forget to follow us on here, on facebook or on twitter.
What do you guys think? What is your peeve about driving with a disability in your country?