Friday, 18 April 2014

Access All Areas : if you can get a park!

What's wrong with this picture?
A small Mercedes hatchback has squeezed between two other cars in a car park.
One of those 'other cars' is in a disability parking bay.

One school that I regularly visit has two lovely wide disability permit parking spaces at the front of the school, right by the door to the main office. They are well-used and appreciated.

When the school found out that I usually visit one of the rear buildings, a brand new parking space was made right next door in the rear staff car park. 

It was a lovely gesture because it was instigated by a staff member. I hadn't even thought about or mentioned the possibility to anyone. An observant staff member had noticed that it would be much easier for me to park right next to the buildings I frequented.  She made the suggestion and the simple changes were instigated.

The school took two parking spaces, removed the white line in between and created one wide disability permit park. Thank you so much! 

It was nice to have someone else take the initiative. I get tired having to ask for help regularly or point out access issues. I don't want to be known for always asking for something or to be misconstrued as a chronic complainant!

I think that's why I like crocheting gifts for people - so I can give something back instead of feeling like I am always 'taking' by asking for assistance.

I was tickled pink that the school had provided me with an accessible and safer car park and I used it straight away.  It hadn't been there long when, after one morning at the school, I returned to my car to discover this scene...

A small Mercedes hatchback has squeezed into the access zone between two cars, straddling the lines into the disability parking bay which is in use
by a valid permit holder. 

The rear car park is often full and it can be difficult to find a parking space but that is no excuse for the cheeky so-and-so who thought their small Mercedes might be able to fit in the narrow gap!

The small car has parked too close to the permit holder's car.

There is inadequate space to open the permit holder's driver's side (right) door properly.  A person who needs room for a wheelchair or other piece of equipment cannot gain access if other drivers park too closely.

(I see this sort of thing frequently at the hospital car park too where there are rows of wide parking spaces which almost invite people to sneak in-between.  I feel sorry for any wheelchair user who has to wait until the culprit is found and offending vehicle removed before being able to get into their car . The hospital now issues fines for drivers who do the wrong thing.)

Thank goodness for mobile phones with cameras. On this particular school day, I took a photograph of the offending vehicle and informed the school office. 

The culprit turned out to be a visitor from another school - someone whose status would indicate that they should know better.  I am glad that the school was able to identify the person very quickly and I wonder whether the culprit was suitably embarrassed (or  had a conscience that was suitably pricked). 

I do not want to embarrass people on purpose, but disappointingly, it sometimes takes that level of emotional disturbance to raise people's awareness and force them to reconsider their behaviour.  

To be fair, I should ask whether that narrow gap was ambiguous - is it narrow enough to be obvious that it is not intended as a car park, or is it unfair to blame the driver whose tiny car almost fit there?  I suppose the gap could have been used for a motorcycle.  It never looked large enough for a car to me.  Anyway, it was a learning experience for everyone.

Within days, the school got out the yellow paint again to make it very plain that there is no parking adjacent to the disability access space. Since then, there have been no more problems as far as I know.

The access zone is now painted with yellow stripes.

Four years on,  I am extra pleased to see other wheelchair users and visitors with disabilities making good use of the parking space. 

It justifies the loss of the two regular spaces and the cost of creating disability access (not a huge cost at all - just a can of paint!).

It highlights my belief that when you help one person, you end up helping lots of others too.

I praise the school for their initiative and quick action to make amends and provide an accessible environment.  I feel properly included as a valued member of the school community when my needs are acknowledged and I am supported to access the school.

Does your community provide good examples of access and inclusion for everyone?

For more 'Access All Areas', click access in the 'Labels' list in the right hand column.

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