Selfish, inconsiderate and arrogant drivers are being caught on camera parking in bays designated for disabled drivers only. And, what is worse, able-bodied drivers are buying the special tags to use parking bays meant for the disabled.
Ari Seirlis, chief executive of the KwaZulu-Natal-based QuadPara Association of SA, said the organisation was aware many drivers were simply buying the special blue signage, which has a picture of a wheelchair on it indicating the driver is disabled, to take advantage of parking bays located closest to shop entrances and public-access areas.
“It is not acceptable. Drivers need to be considerate and educated,” Seirlis said.
His organisation recently embarked on a major campaign to create a “Big Brother” system in terms of which the public are encouraged to report drivers who park in bays designated for the disabled without displaying a disabled sign by sending an image to a Whats-App number, 073 853 9675.
“Whistle-blowers” are encouraged to include the location, date and time they saw the vehicle in the disabled bay.
“We receive about 55 WhatsApp messages a day from this whistle-blowing opportunity.”
Hundreds of images have been collated by his team, and the information is used in creating more awareness and education about the rights of the disabled.
“If there is abuse (of disabled parking bays) in shopping centres, we then liaise with the shopping centre and encourage them to be more vigilant in policing these areas.
“We also give suggestions as to how they can improve their services for people with disabilities and follow up with them.”
If a commercial vehicle with branding abuses the facility, Seirlis said they would contact the firm and request an explanation, and also suggest that their drivers be educated to be sensitive to the need of disabled people.
“We try to use the approach of educating the abuser, rather than taking disciplinary action or getting angry.
“We encourage shopping centres and corporate offices management people to apply strict protocols to these facilities, and rely on their integrity and values to do so.
“On one or two occasions we have had confrontations with abusive members of the public. These are unpleasant, and also indicate to us how far we still have to go to sensitise the public,” he said.
The Durban-based St Giles organisation, which works with the disabled, has also joined the campaign.
“Disabled parking is one area where South Africa and shopping centres have made allowances for the disabled. When abled-bodied people use these parking spaces, it is a disgrace,” said Terry Rennie, managing director of St Giles.
On a recent trip he made to Vosloorus in Gauteng, Rennie saw an amusing way to deter drivers from abusing the parking bays designated for the disabled. A local one-stop garage had posted a “Stupidity is not a disability” sign in front of the parking bays for the disabled.Independent on Saturday