Should Disabled Have Priority Over Parents with Children?


Should Disabled Have Priority Over Parents with Children?

In the UK, the Supreme Court recently ruled that disabled passengers have a right to priority access over the wheelchair space on a bus. This case started in 2012, when a wheelchair user was prevented from entering a bus because the driver refused to insist that a mother with a child in a stroller should move from the wheelchair space.

Initially the County Court ruled that wheelchair-users should have priority in the use of dedicated wheelchair spaces, but this was subsequently over-turned by the Court of Appeal. However, the UK Supreme Court has now over-turned this decision, meaning that bus drivers are now required to ask passengers blocking the disabled space to move.

This was heralded as a victory for disabled people’s rights.

Although this ruling was about wheelchair space on a bus, it made me think whether this would have implications for parking. Although most carparks have designated disabled spaces, these are frequently taken by people who are not disabled.

I believe that in the same way that bus drivers must now ask non-disabled people to move from the wheelchair space, all parking operators must now ensure that the disabled spaces are kept free for disabled people.

I believe that failure to keep these spaces free for those they are meant for could lead to legal action by disabled people. This would be something I would welcome, as it is terribly inconvenient if all the disabled spaces are taken and I need to get my wheelchair out of the car.

To overcome the issue on buses of pushchairs in the disabled bays, many newer buses are now being designed with both types of space: one for wheelchairs, and one for strollers. This is not dissimilar to the situation in many carparks where there are spaces for people with disabilities and spaces for parents with children.

However, I do admit to parking in the parent and child spaces when all the disabled ones are full, as they have the extra width that I need to get my wheelchair out of the car. I have, on occasion, been told off by an angry parent who is annoyed at my parking in the wrong designated space, but this is a risk I’m willing to take.

The risk I’m not so keen on taking is being issued a ticket, which is, of course, a possibility, although not one I’ve ever encountered.

Being issued a ticket for parking in the parent and child spaces is often a surprise to disabled people who think they can park in any space they like. However, the legal position is quite simple: Off-street carparks can have designated spaces for pink limousines, if they want. And if they put up the proper signs, they can charge you if you park there with any other vehicle. Therefore, disabled people without children cannot park in the parent and child spaces.

Under the Equality Act, supermarkets have a duty to make sure that disabled people can access their goods and services, but there is no such requirement that says they must make it easier for parents with children. The reason that parent and child spaces are provided is because it makes life easier for parents who spend lots of money, and that’s good business sense.

What’s not good business sense is issuing tickets to disabled people for parking in the wrong space. Disabled people don’t park in the parent and child spaces because they can’t be bothered to walk a bit further. They park there when the disabled ones are full and they need a wide space near the door.

So, should parents with children be allowed to park in the disabled spaces? As far as I’m concerned, absolutely, but only if the parent is disabled.

I may be accused of being a hypocrite, considering that I park in the parent and child spaces, but for many disabled people, a wide space close to the door is essential, whereas for parents with children, a wide space really is just a help.

Article contributed by:
Helen Dolphin
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