EDITORIAL: Disabled parking spaces not for the able-bodied
Sat, 04/02/2016 - 12:59am
THE efforts of the Barbados Council for the Disabled must be lauded in seeking to get an amendment to the Road Traffic Act, to make provision for parking spaces for the differently abled and to fine able-bodied persons who use them. They have to date amassed 12 000 signatures on their petition and their cries should be heard.
Far too often, lazy, unsympathetic Barbadians drop their vehicles into designated parking spaces for the disabled at supermarket car parks, outside of banking institutions and businesses on a whole, and some are even quick to give you a negative word or two if you dare oppose them.
Of course there is still some way to go on Government’s part, as it has been noted that the draft amendments to the Road Traffic Act have been finalised for over two years, but were never acted upon. However, Prime Minister of Barbados, the Rt. Hon. Freundel Stuart, has given the assurance that this matter will be brought to the attention of the Cabinet and the amendments soon brought to Parliament.
It is hoped that with the legislative backing being given to better ensure that the disabled can have access to parking when conducting their business like anybody else, that callous Barbadians who previously turned a blind eye to the issue, will now sit up and take notice. Walking a few more steps to get into any building in Barbados cannot and will not hurt the average Barbadian, who perhaps could do with the exercise anyway, given the steep rise in chronic non-communicable disease.
Barbadians must also realise they must be their brother’s keeper and in so doing, they must ensure that they do not take advantage of, or make life at all difficult for those who are in a vulnerable group.
Of course, this is not to suggest that disability has anything to do with inability, but the idea is to ensure that the members of the disabled community can bat their ball on a level playing field. How frustrating it must be to turn up to a car park and find that an able-bodied man or woman has taken the spot designated to you, simply because he or she could not care less that you, a disabled member of society, needs the space allotted to disembark your vehicle to sit in a wheelchair or a motorised chair, so that you too can carry on with your daily activities just like anybody else. Considering that an accident or injury could render any citizen disabled at any point in time, we really must consider how our thoughtless actions affect members of the disabled community.
In other parts of the world, a Disabled Parking Permit Scheme is in effect to allow people with limited mobility to maintain their independence. With the permit scheme, the value of accessibility to parking bays is emphasised as their availability supports disabled people’s right to inclusion.
In the US, however, we are now hearing that some persons are abusing “placard holders”, which are issued to persons with limited mobility, to allow them access to parking spaces for the disabled. Apparently, these placard holders are easily accessible. Placard holders can park in the specially-painted spots in the front of stores and businesses and for free at spots with parking meters, and it is said that investigators catch hundreds of people misusing the disabled parking permits every year. This shows that this matter is not only a local issue, but a global one.
We hope, however, that when any new legislation comes on stream here, that Barbadians will recognise the need to treat this matter seriously and able-bodied men and women will give way to those persons who need these parking spaces the most.