Free Parking

One of the terms or adjectives that I’m personally uncomfortable with is the word ‘disabled’. Instead, maybe the term should be replaced with the phrase ‘differently abled’. The courage and determination of ‘differently abled’ athletes has to be admired – that latter statement alone could be deemed to be patronising but it is not meant to be. For example, in the field of road racing, adapting equipment such as wheelchairs, exhaustive training and getting used to a range of different terrains is where the challenge starts.

The other day I was visiting the Gurdwara. I’d parked my car and was proceeding to the entrance. I was impressed by the disabled parking zones that have been set-up close to the entrance. However, I noticed a car quickly ‘pull in’ and park in one of these spaces. For some reason I had a suspicion that the person who had just parked in the zone had ignored the disabled markings of the space, albeit faded. I walked past the space and checked for a disabled badge / timer card – for what do I know, maybe there were issues that I was unaware of with the family. I searched the dashboard but was unable to locate one. Then, in a manner that I considered friendly, I jogged up to the driver and his family as he approached the entrance of the Gurdwara and asked him if he was aware that he had just parked in a space that really was reserved for the disabled. His reply was swift and nonchalant, ‘don’t worry I’ll only be 5 minutes’. I then suggested that in this case time was irrelevant and that he should consider the needs of those that would find difficulty in walking or unloading their wheelchairs. He repeated his reasoning and then suggested that there were never/no spaces in the back.

At this point I felt a sense of frustration settling in. With careful restraint I repeated my point. As we walked in parallel and then turned to entered the Gurdwara he asked me what my problem was. He repeated these words but as he uttered them his hand proceeded to gentle push against my chest. I warned him not to touch me.

After five minutes had passed, the illegal parker walked past me. I rather daringly looked at my watch and then with a gaze and a smirk said, ‘your five minutes have past’!

Over the next few minutes I tried to find a member of the Gurdwara management and when I found someone who vaguely looked like he may be on duty I asked him about the official policy. Interestingly, the illegal parker was lurking in the background. I asked the apparent official about the whereabouts of any car patrol, the policy on parking on a disabled space and what I should do. Unfortunately the answer was not what I was expecting. Instead I was embarrassed on two counts. Firstly by the official’s declaration that the car park is on private land and that no official motor rules apply but mainly because of the illegal parker comments – he basically approached me and became rude and abusive suggesting that the Gurdwara had blackened my face.Isn’t hindsight great! I wondered if I should have bothered, not been such a ‘moaning-mini’ and really found a cause worth fighting for. After all, its not like there was anyone waiting for the space. I had nothing personally against the illegal parker but maybe he thought that I did.

Maybe I should have approached the right official or written a letter.Although the result was not what I expected, I believed it was important to take a stand. Writing a letter and take a suggestive approach could also help. My stand is against those who disrespect the need to help people and abuse facilities that have been set-up to help those that have different needs. In recent years too few laws have been passed to provide greater access for differently abled people. Instead what continues is the misuse of disabled parking badges and restricted access to buildings and shopping facilities.The day entered in some irony. In the evening I decided to ‘head’ for the gym to vent some anguish, a result of the situation. Upon leaving the gym I noticed a car in the gym car park that had parked in a disabled space. A single bright yellow wheel lock was firmly positioned on one of its rear wheels!

Categories: 2005

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