Disability advocates are hailing the introduction of the first legally backed parking identification tags for vehicles with disabled passengers as the law to protect designated spaces is finally enforced.
At a ceremony to launch the tags, the president of the Barbados Council for the Disabled Kerryann Ifill joined fellow advocates in looking forward to the end of the indignities of daily navigating hostile conditions while able-bodied individuals occupy designated parking spots.
“I am sure that every day in Barbados somebody undertakes the opportunity to violate the disabled parking spaces.
“Some people think we don’t have a right to be out there. ‘I only going in for 15 minutes; disabled people don’t drive’.”
Ifill’s remarks reflect a daily struggle of the disabled community to integrate into regular life largely without the support of law enforcement.
The launch at the BCD’s Harambee House headquarters in the Garrison, signals the end of a nearly two-decade struggle that will see the issuance of special disabled parking identification supported by law, and at the same time make it easier for violators to be prosecuted.
Ifill recalled that with the backing of over 12,000 signatures on a petition, the Road Traffic Act was amended in December 2014 to legalise parking spaces for those with disabilities.
But the original parking tags had no legal backing of the Licensing Authority, hampering enforcement against violators.
“I have encountered no cases,” was how Inspector Lionel Hackett responded to a media query of whether anyone has ever been prosecuted for violating the 2017 parking regulation.
Hackett was at the launch along with Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works Peter Phillips and Chief Licensing Officer Virgil Knight.
Ifill pointed out that the absence of official parking tags made many hesitant in reporting the violations.
She said: “Since we now are issuing the parking IDs, that would have been part of what people were waiting for.
“We did have the old ones. Those were not actionable.
“Now people can identify if you are legitimately parking there
“So from September 3rd when we start issuing them, then I’m sure that Inspector Hackett’s rank and file members would be busy issuing fines to persons.”
Minister Phillips spoke of a feeling a “high level of repugnance when I notice able-bodied persons parking their vehicles in areas earmarked for persons with disabilities”.
Declaring that more support is on the way for the disabled community, he said that for those who have no access to private vehicles, the Transport Board is to include a number of buses to accommodate people with disabilities in its soon-to-be-purchased fleet of electric buses.
He said it is “paramount that the public transport system be developed taking note of the specific challenges and members and needs of persons with disabilities”.
These parking IDs, valued for two years, are to be issued to individuals and not vehicles, making them transferrable to whatever form of transport in which a disabled person may choose to travel.
BCD will be issuing these IDs to people who must be certified disabled by a medical doctor, or to the assigned parent, other family member or caretaker of a disabled individual.
There will also be temporary IDs for visitors who are similarly registered in their home country, or for Barbadians who may suffer a temporary disability such as a broken leg.
Ifill said that there are many misunderstandings about how disabled people go about their daily lives.
She said: “Some people believe that the parking space is designated for drivers with disabilities.
“They forget passengers with disabilities.
“Other people think that persons with disabilities are only wheelchair users. And they’re not.
“They are people with a variety of mobility challenges.
“People don’t seem to recognise that persons with disabilities have business to conduct and have the right to participate in everyday life like any other person.”