The rights of disabled people are enshrined in the South African Constitution and by law, public buildings and other places need to be accessible to everyone.
The UK has been on a massive drive to make public areas accessible for people with disabilities, and this includes the public transport network and parking lots.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to travel abroad you’ll notice how many European cities provide amenities for the disabled, but their infrastructure is still lacking.
Is it surprising then, that South Africa is dragging its feet when it comes to facilities for the disabled? While I’ll admit most major facilities and holiday attractions do offer some sort of aid for the disabled (like lifts or specialised parking spots), these areas are often neglected or un-policed, meaning able-bodied persons take advantage of the system.
Case in point is the large amount of cars parked in bays reserved for disabled people. Not so long ago, Autodealer ran a photo of a Ferrari parked in a disabled bay and welcomed a host of comments. Mostly along the lines of how ignorant and selfish the Ferrari driver was.
Sadly, this driver is not the only culprit and our brothers in blue are just as guilty. Having visited a shopping centre in Germiston, I found a police vehicle parked in a designated disabled parking bay. They were never asked to move because they seem to be above the law.
So, how do we change people’s mindsets and get them to understand that these areas are designed and dedicated to assist the disabled by making their lives a bit easier?
The old saying: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, certainly rings true. Many of us are oblivious to the idea of having to live in a wheelchair or live our lives without the use of our legs. So, next time we quickly decide to steal that parking spot outside the retailer’s front door because we’ll be five minutes – Let’s not! Think about the disabled individual who will now have to park some distance away as they make their way to the shops. It will surely take them more than five minutes to get to the door. Why be so inconsiderate?
Thankfully, a new initiative is underway, urging people to report cars parked illegally in handicap bays. The number to call is 086 167 2226 and hopefully we can make a difference by extending a helping hand to a disabled person.
Worryingly, it doesn’t seem as simple as we thought because while people with disabilities are supposed to display a parking disc to highlight their disability, it seems that each municipality regulates who qualifies for these identity discs. There’s no universal windscreen disc and a person living in Pretoria can’t use the same disc in Johannesburg. Disabilities don’t change from city to city, so surely there should be one law in place?
The severe lack of clarity has left the disabled in the dark as to who qualifies for a parking disc and how severe your disabilities need to be in order to obtain a disc, as this also varies from province to province.
One clearly understands that rules and regulations need to be formalised as to who can park where and these laws need to be adhered to and strictly policed.
Thankfully, while we await clarity on the parking disc fiasco, (which is set to be discussed this month between the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa and the transport department), the South African Community Action Network will help prevent illegal parking in the mall by contacting mall management to clamp down and fine illegally parked vehicles.
Ultimately, it’s all about self-respect and respecting the rights of others. Our time is not more valuable than theirs and we need to pride ourselves on being law-abiding citizens and treating each other with dignity and reverence.
We can work towards a better future if we all try to make a difference. We want to know if you’ve been affected by illegally parked cars in a disabled bay or whether you’ve reprimanded any wrongdoer.