Since setting up a local Access Group focusing on, improving unsurprisingly, Access in the area I live there has been many times when I have felt that people act as they do because they do not fully appreciate the issues faced by others. It is not exclusively for disabled people as Access covers a wide range of people. Pushchair access and LGBT acceptance are just two areas of Access that go beyond being disabled.
Each area has it’s own issues but by far the biggest area of complaints the Access Group receive surround parking. Either people abusing disabled parking bays using them when they don’t have a badge, the response to challenging behaviour being I’m just running in and out or there are other spaces free blah, blah blah blah or even worse – well you don’t look disabled so it’s none of your business. The truth is it is everybody’s business, Disabled or not challenge others as a caring community. A free car parking space some weeks is the difference between me seeing people and me returning home not getting out and feeling very low. Especially when I can see cars without badges displayed. This does go both ways and blue badge holders are guilty of parking in parent and toddler bays and unless they are parents with toddlers with them they should not park there either. It is this mutual disrespect (a bit like cyclists and car users have developed) which causes people to have the mentality it doesn’t matter. As a wheelchair user I can tell you it really does matter.
The real problem is however that as a group we are trying to educate people the importance of these spaces. The wheelchair users who need the wider bays, the colon cancer or crohns disease sufferer who needs to be close to the entrance to run in to the toilet to avoid embarrassment, and all so people think twice when they park.
In recent months I’ve spoken to postmen, delivery drivers and bin men regarding parking and keeping pavements free. Another problem is vehicles parking on pavements and blocking them so that parents with pushchairs cannot get past and nor can people in wheelchairs or on mobility scooters. Visually impaired people can have accidents the list is endless. I have explained this to postmen and delivery drivers who have been understanding when I’ve spoken to them and generally when I explain what issues their parking has caused they are respectful and listen. More often it is the general public who are rude, aggressive and intimidating when challenged. I recently thanked the local binmen as they have little time to collect and return bins an average if about 10 seconds I believe, but even still they get the bins put back out the way and keep the paths clear for people who need it this is great and I felt it deserved a thank you.
After all this, why the title. Well today we took my LG around our cul de sac on her balance bike. I can’t do it on my own as if she falls I cannot pick her and her bike up again, so guilty as I feel we make the most of days together. We’re going around our road and 5 houses round the corner and a little red car is blocking the pavement so we go into the road, in the door I can see a blue badge wallet. To make the journey worse almost opposite once we get around the cul de sac is another car blocking the pavement and I find myself reversing and back down and into the road. Going past the vehicle it is a WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle) complete with person hoist and ramp inside. I have to ask myself, if we cannot get drivers or passengers with complicated needs and wheelchair users to park considerately for others in a similar condition what hope for converting other’s habits??
I certainly won’t give up as there is so much more to achieve to make Wymondham Accessible and I hope to be able to start educating the next generation so they are understanding and compassionate. They will also probably have more success in shaming their parent’s to move than I ever could. Making it illegal and more easily enforceable would be a start but Rome wasn’t built in a day.