Media reports of supermarket staff being abused while challenging customers who misuse disabled parking bays are disappointing but not particularly surprising.
A few years ago we heard about a non-disabled chap who would turn up to play football at a village sports centre and routinely park in the only bay designated for disabled visitors. When challenged he said it didn’t matter because disabled people didn’t do sport anyway.
Leaving aside such breath-taking ignorance in a country which won 147 medals at the Paralympics in 2016, it’s clear that people need to open their minds rather more to the needs of disabled people, including drivers and their passengers
Disabled people need accessible parking bays for a variety of reasons – some are unable to travel far, some can’t use public transport, they generally need the extra space that an accessible bay has with its hatched markings to the side and rear so that doors can be fully opened. The extra space can help in many ways, for example a wheelchair user can position their chair alongside the car, and someone with limited mobility can open the car door fully to get in and out.
People who don’t have these requirements shouldn’t park in these bays. They have the ability to move around freely without being disabled by distance or lack of space. The same applies to inconsiderate drivers who park across footpaths – they create problems for other people in society.
Those who park in accessible bays without justification or who obstruct pavements are clearly inconsiderate of others in society and no doubt think only of themselves. People need to be educated to appreciate the importance of accessible parking spaces in the same way as they have become accustomed to accessible WCs. That means recognising that not all impairments are visible, and not all disabled people use wheelchairs. Indeed, the Government is currently looking into extending blue badge permits to people with hidden disabilities.
In addition to the moral questions, the misuse of accessible parking bays should be recognised as a business issue for the shopping centres and other facilities served by the car parks.
The spending power of disabled people and their companions is known as the “purple pound” and in 2017 it was calculated at £249 billion per annum. If disabled shoppers, diners, drinkers and – YES! – visitors to sports centres can’t park in a suitable space they will spend their money elsewhere and the businesses which cannot accommodate them will lose out.