Not as blue and white as it should be

It is simple theft; the stealing of precious space –– parking spots reserved for the handicapped or disabled of our community. And the more we talk about it, the worse it seems to get.

Advocates for the disabled –– not least among them the president of the Council For The Disabled, Senator Kerryann Ifill herself –– say fines for the able-bodied who illegally park in the spots for the handicapped should be twice or triple what they are now. A few have recommended instead a mandatory seven days in jail.

The more soft-hearted have suggested a month of community service in the heart of The City, preferably ensuring that other able-bodied people do not disadvantage the disabled in the many car parks there are. Whatever the submission, the haunting question always is: why in a Christian society should we have to up the law and its penalties for citizens to be considerate to those who suffer disabilities? Why indeed would strong, fit, able, lusty, agile, hard-backed people park illegally in the handicapped’s space?

Part of the answer must be that they are lazy. They park as close as they can to the entrance of the supermarket or other business place so they don’t have to walk “too far”, and they care not if they take up a disabled’s spot.

Then there are those who think because they are in a hurry and they “will only take a minute” that it is a justifiable reason to delay the handicapped driver –– who as far as they are concerned will take as much time getting out of his car as they spend inside anyhow.

And, of course, there are the consummate selfish and vainglorious who pay no attention to where they park, as long as it is up front for fear of getting their shining car or sports utility vehicle scratched.

Most worrying of all are those who haven’t looked into a driver’s manual in decades because they are not fond of reading, or simply can’t, and have little idea of the significance of the blue and white sign posted, or painted on the ground with the advice that the spot is for handicapped parking only –– in which case they should not be driving at all.

You may hazard a guess or wager that this kind would ignore No Parking signs generally, be a danger on No Entry lanes and could be tragic accident waiting to happen by their confusion over the colours of the traffic lights.

And then there are the big-ups whom no one will pick his teeth with. They will even park diagonally, taking up two spots, because they are special, and the business needs their bounteous patronage. They can pay quadruple the current fines on the law books, but they won’t, because everybody will turn a blind eye, including the security guards patrolling the premises.

The problem is ubiquitous, and is likely to get worse before it improves, given the upcoming Christmas season, for all its good cheer. Nonetheless, we are happy and pleased with the initiative of Globe Finance Inc. and Carter’s General Stores in providing for the Barbados Council For The Disabled 2,500 parking permits, which disabled IDs would hopefully lead to a greater awareness and effort in rectifying the disagreeable practice handicapped parking spots being abused daily by citizens without any disability whatever.

These disabled parking IDs, as council president Senator Ifill explained, are to be affixed to the back of the rear view mirrors of the handicapped’s cars. The concept is of course not new; it obtains elsewhere in the world; but it has not come without some fallout itself.

In some states of America, for example, there has been the misuse of these very disability vehicle ID cards and stickers by unscrupulous family members and by widows and widowers who are not disabled. So much so that laws had to be enacted to deal with the infelicity. We hope for no such misconduct here.

Our present and urgent task, as Carter’s director of marketing Brian Hurley has said, is to mount a wider community drive for the cause of the Barbadian disabled. This country and its able-bodied need to get with the programme. This disrespect for disability must cease.

Security guards and parking attendants must feel an obligation to advise
the able-bodied when they do park in disabled’s spots that they shouldn’t and request of them politely to go elsewhere on the premises –– show them where even –– in consideration of the handicapped and wheelchair-bound.

For many reasons it behoves us all to be inspired to do the right thing by the disabled in our land through considerateness, deference, courtesy and civility –– much as we the able-bodied ourselves would rather have if we should one day be handicapped ourselves. It makes for a better Barbados and an even kinder people, and certainly for a most noble deed.

It would be a true manifestation of loving our neighbour as we love ourselves.

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