Friday, 24 June 2011

Disabled Parking

Yesterday I took a stand.  I stood in my local convenience store, which is actually a Tesco Express, with a Petrol Station attached, and asked a question loudly, while people were queuing behind me.
I said, "Does that Golf parked outside belong to a member off staff".

The checkout guy replied "yeah - it's hers", nodding at the young woman serving at the next till.

I turned to face her and loudly stated "Did you realise you are parked halfway across the disabled bay?"

"I had to park there, the car next to me was parked halfway across their space," she replied defensively.

At this point I was feeling a little faint at my audacity at tackling someone in a shop full of customers.  Though with hindsight that could have just been the pain from standing up so long.

"Well, you are stopping people, who are disabled parking there," I continued.

"Do you want to make a complaint to my manager?" she spat at me. 
I was gobsmacked.  She was angry at me because I had the temerity to ask her - a member of staff - to move her badly parked car.  The car that was stopping disabled people being able to park next to the shop, and use the store where she worked.  This space is hard enough to get into at the best of times, because people stop across it to get money from the cash point, or because they are "just popping in for pint of milk".  Big loading trolleys are also left out across this space.  I have actually complained about the trolleys to the manager and I was assured it wouldn't happen again - yeah RIGHT!

This store has around 15 parking spaces ranged around the outside of the petrol pumps.  Outside the garage there is a quiet road, where it is easy to park on the street.  These places to park only require a 30 second walk, but rather than use any of those places, this member of staff had chosen to park halfway across the disabled bay, and didn't see anything wrong with it.  Not only did she not see it as a big deal, she was angry at me for pointing out that what she was doing was wrong.  I know she was embarrassed at being told off in public, but I could see she was really angry at me.  I felt the only thing stopping her from letting forth a torrent of verbal abuse was the thought of losing her job.

After being challenged about whether I wanted to make a complaint about her, to her manager, I felt that getting her into trouble wasn't going to solve anything.  I had also reached my standing up time limit and was about to fall over, so I just asked her to move the car.  I'm hoping the shame she experienced, in front of all the customers, might make her think about parking there again.  It might make those customers think again.

I feel so weary sometimes about this constant battle to remind people that parking in an empty disabled bay is not something you should do if you are able bodied.  Just because it is empty now, doesn't mean that 2 minutes after you go into a store there won't be someone who drives up that does need to use it.

I understand that if you are fit and healthy, the difference between where regular parking spaces are and the disabled spaces are, seems negligible, but that is because you are healthy.  When you aren't able to walk very far, every centimetre counts.  Every metre you have to drag yourself across before reaching your destination feels like a mile.

I have often contemplated printing up flyers to put under the wipers on cars parked in disabled bays, without a permit, that say;
"It's hard enough being disabled, and because you parked here, you just made it harder"
I don't know what the answer is, to getting people to understand how vital disabled bays are to the sick and disabled.  Before I got ill I didn't understand how vital they were.  I never used them, but I still didn't understand how important it was that they were free for people who needed them.

Every time I challenge someone about parking in a disabled bay, when they don't have a permit, I have either been ignored or sworn at.  It seems that because people, with invisible conditions, are witnessed getting out of cars and walking to the shop, it is assumed that the Blue Badge means nothing, except the user is a scrounger and a fake.  Helen at Humanity before Hatred wrote an excellent post about this recently, I recommend reading it.

I just don't know how to reach those who don't understand.  Do they even want to understand, or do they like having someone to blame for the state our country is in.  Is parking in a disabled bay one way of showing the sick and disabled how little they mean, or is it just blind and unthinking ignorance?

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