The accessible parking facilities are a human right for wheelchair users only argues Ari Seirlis
There seems to be a confusion among many, including people with disabilities, about the use of the wheelchair- demarcated parking facilities. Let me give some context to the design and purpose. The National Building Regulations Part S10400 (2011) provides clarity on the provisions for people with disabilities and this includes the design, the quantity required and layout of wheelchair-designated parking.
To keep it simple and understandable, all accessible parking facilities should be 3500 mm in width and this is to ensure that a wheelchair user can enter or exit a vehicle on either side without an interference or obstacle of another vehicle. The number of parking bays designated for wheelchair users varies depending on whether the facility is a public space, a rehabilitation centre or a place of employment.
To conclude the specification explanation, the regulation also states that the wheelchair- designated parking must be no further than 50 m from the entrance of the facility. Many facilities comply with these regulations or at least tried to comply. Often accesible parking bays are set out in demarcated, but, unfortunately, are not the correct width and so make them pointless and unfunctional.
The Road Traffic Act (Regulation 305, June 2011) states that no person other than a person with a disability or the driver of a vehicle transporting a person with a disability issued with the sticker shall park on a parking bay reserved for people with disabilities.
The dilemma faced by wheelchair users relate to some of the explanation above. The distance of the bay to the entrance and the ambiguity of the Road Traffic Act. People abuse the accessible parking facilities because they are close to the entrance! Fact.
The bays are abused as the Road Traffic Act does not specifically state “wheelchair users” as the category for which the bays were designated. I have overheard discussions between wheelchair users who wish that the demarcated bays were further away from the entrance to reduce abuse from people with disabilities who always seem to be in a rush or “only two minutes”.
However, the consequences of moving them further would be safety risk to wheelchair users having to navigate through a busy parking facility. Too often people with disabilities, not wheelchair users, take advantage of this myth that the bays are for “disabled people” and use these facilities as a privilege rather than a need.
Wheelchair users are adamant about the fact that “wheelchair parking bays for wheelchair users only”. They are not a nice to have for the elderly and frail with walking sticks, limps and short of breath. They are also not for people with pacemakers, dreaded diseases and post heart transplant. Unfortunately, this constituency have no conscience in abusing these facilities by using them.
Traditionally, municipalities adjudicate and issue official disks that qualify the applicant to use a wheelchair parking facility and herein lies another problem.
The criteria to apply differs from municipality to municipality and most find it almost impossible to stick to the principle of issuing these accreditations to wheelchair users only.
Then, of course, there are some people who purchase a sticker of a wheelchair from a local hardware store, or Google search it and print from their computers, to then displayed them, unashamedly, on their dashboards. Blatant cheats and frauds.
Leave the accessible parking, few as there are, for wheelchair users only. Enjoy the privilege of being able to walk those extra few metres while you can. That is the call of wheelchair users and in fact it is their Human Right.