THE Association for the Physically Disabled (APD) is fighting a continual battle against motorists who abuse the privilege of parking in a bay reserved for the disabled.
APD executive director Brian Bezuidenhout on Friday spoke out strongly against selfish drivers who sneak into spaces reserved for those who really need them. It is a traffic violation with a legal and financial penalty in just the same way as running a red traffic light, for example, or not stopping at a stop street.
“The extra width of the bay – 1.1m – is there to give a person using an assistive device such as a walking aid or a wheelchair, the necessary space to open the car door and use their aid effectively,” Bezuidenhout said. “It is not for people to park close to the shops.”
In fact, he said, a physically disabled colleague at the APD did not qualify to use the bay, as he could climb out of the car without needing the extra space before picking up his crutches to walk.
“Applicants generally will not qualify for a disabled parking disc unless they use devices such as crutches or wheelchairs and have great difficulty transferring in and out of their vehicle, or have limited mobility,” Bezuidenhout said. Furthermore, of the 20 or so applications for a permit each month, he said about 70% were successful.
“I deal with this every day, and it is such a topical issue because you would not believe what chances people take.
“We really see the extremes – once we had someone with gout saying they needed a permit.”
On the other hand, he appreciated the situation highlighted in The Herald last week where an elderly woman in a wheelchair was fined R300 (“Wheelchair-user fined over disabled parking”, July 9).
The public needed to know how the process worked, such as that a disc is valid only in the city where it is issued. In other words, a Port Elizabeth holder may not use their permit in East London.
“Regrettably we have been lobbying for a national roll-out for many years now. I guess it’s lying on someone’s desk, somewhere.”
The public also needed to know that the disc was issued to a person, not to a vehicle, and hence could be placed in any vehicle. However – partly due to this – discs could be, and often were, abused by family members and friends.
Bezuidenhout said the permit holder had to be in the car and also had to exit the vehicle.
“It is not acceptable for the disc holder to remain in the vehicle while an able-bodied partner leaves the car on their behalf,” said Bezuidenhout – so you are not allowed to use that space to nip into the shops quickly while the permit holder remains in the passenger seat.
Fines raised did not go to the APD, but to the traffic department as it was a traffic violation.
- Application forms are available from the APD, (041)484-5426, and the screening panel meets once a month to assess applicants.