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Text alert campaign to combat abuse of disabled parking

A campaign has been launched calling on city and county councils to introduce a text alert scheme to combat the misuse of accessible parking bays.

It comes after a survey conducted by the Disabled Drivers Association found that fear of physical and verbal abuse is stopping members from approaching people parked illegally in public spaces.

Over 2,600 people from across the country took part in this survey.

96 percent of respondents said they would welcome a mobile phone text alert scheme to notify the local warden when someone was parked illegally.

Nikki Bradley is a disability advocate who lost a leg to cancer when she was 16.

“As someone living with a physical disability, I have experienced first-hand the negative knock- on effect that occurs when someone unlawfully parks in a disabled bay. I have often found myself left with no option but to park in a ‘normal’ parking space which makes it extremely difficult to get out of my car”

Ms Bradley has also had to deal with people not believing she is a disabled driver

“I don’t look disabled from the waist up. It’s only when I get out of the car that you can actually see my prosthetic leg. And I found myself in situations before where I felt the need to rush out of the car to show them that you know I had a disability which isn’t right. I shouldn’t have to do that. So my one piece of advice is to please look for the badge”

Nikki Bradley is a disability advocate who lost a leg to cancer when she was 16

The Donegal woman is an avid fitness fan and motivational speaker. She is now campaigning to have the Text Alert Scheme introduced into her native county.

“The text alert scheme would be honestly life changing for so many people in my position and I welcome it wholeheartedly. It will give those living with reduced mobility that feeling of power and control that they have not had prior to now. Parking in an accessible parking bay is not a luxury. It is a necessity”

Around two thirds of the people taking part in the survey were female and a third were male.

When the respondents were asked why they wouldn’t approach anyone parked illegally, 88 percent replied along the following lines:

  • Fear of confrontation
  • Fear of being physically or verbally abused
  • Didn’t want to cause a scene
  • Too shy to do so
  • Not worth the abuse
  • Too dangerous/fear for own safety
  • No point/waste of time
  • Don’t have the power to tell them to move or issue a fine

It is against the law to park a vehicle in a disabled spot without a valid parking permit.

Offenders receive a parking fine of €150 which increases to €225 if not paid within 28 days.

Despite this, parking bay abuse is still going on, according to Richard Ryder of the Disabled Drivers Association.

“Our survey wasn’t confined to our members, we received a huge response from across the community, with many people without disabilities commenting they are annoyed and frustrated with the misuse of accessible parking bays.”

Mr Ryder added: “It’s very clear that people want an opportunity to be able to do something about parking bay abuse but in a safe way. It’s why we are calling on city and county councils to begin using a Text Alert Scheme in their areas. It’s safe, it’s easy and it’s a significant deterrent.”

Richard Ryder of the Disabled Drivers Association

The scheme is already up and running in Lucan and Rathfarnham in Dublin, and in Gorey County Wexford.

Every publicly accessible parking bay has a sign displaying the bay number and a mobile phone number. If someone is parked in one of those bays without a permit or is misusing the permit, people can text the bay number to alert the traffic warden.

Mr Ryder says it’s a simple process and already proving to be a good deterrent.

“We’re sick to hear about all these excuses day in and day out. People need to realise that people maybe sometimes we’re going to turn to might have to go home if they can’t find a space. So please, please do not use the spaces that are needed by people. And we will call on people just to stop using them think again and stop the abuse.”

Over half of the respondents in the survey said they had at one point confronted someone parking illegally in a disabled spot.

The vast majority of people who took part in the survey said a Text Alert Scheme would be safe and anonymous, eliminating the fear of verbal abuse and harassment and giving traffic wardens a better chance of catching and fining those parked illegally.

It is also hoped the scheme would facilitate accurate data collection on abuse of accessible bays.

David Walsh and Neven O’Neill are students from Coláiste Éinde

People walking the Salthill Prom were very supportive of the proposed scheme. David Walsh and Neven O’Neill are students from Coláiste Éinde. David is on crutches at the moment.

“I’m only using these temporarily but it gives you an insight into what it’s like not to be able to move as freely as you would normally. I can see from talking to Nikki that it’s really important to respect the rights of people with disabilities and show them respect and leave those spaces accessible to them at all times”

Neven agrees saying “the Text Alert Scheme sounds like a great idea. It gives people an opportunity to take action against this terrible behaviour. Bring it on!”

Phil Harte says the abuse and misuse of disabled spots disgusts her

“It’s horrendous to see people taking the spaces of disabled people. I would welcome a scheme like this that would let me ring the warden if I see the cars of able bodied people parking where they don’t belong”

Currently gardaí and traffic wardens do not have the power to issue fines to drivers parked illegally in accessible bays in private car parks like shopping centres, educational institutions, hospitals and other spaces.

Only public car parks are covered by existing legislation.

The Disabled Drivers Association say it should not be left solely to private owners to manage the problem.

The survey results will be highlighted at the charity’s AGM in Galway City where details of a three year strategic plan will be announced.

Chairman Seamus Reidy said, “Our mission is to present physical disability in the best possible light and strives to show that most physical disabilities can be overcome, and individuals can go on to achieve their full potential, with the benefit of support and training”.

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