Sunday 5 February 2012

More apply for parking labels for disabled; Please do not abuse facilities

Growing awareness, ageing population cited as possible reasons
By Maria Almenoar, The Straits Times, 3 Feb 2012

FREELANCE project manager Lim Puay Tiak, 55, may be wheelchair-bound but he is not immobile.

He uses a specially-modified car to drive to work appointments every day.

In the past year, however, he has found it more difficult to find a space for the disabled to park his car.

This is especially so at Housing Board (HDB) carparks near MRT stations, including Boon Keng and Kallang, where he usually parks before taking a train.

Said Mr Lim, who has been a polio sufferer since he was young: 'If there are no disabled lots then I have to park at a regular lot. There isn't enough space for me to manoeuvre, and sometimes there are potholes which make it dangerous.'

Parking labels are issued by the Centre for Enabled Living to people who have been certified disabled and use a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair, and need more space to exit a vehicle.

Disabled drivers can park in the designated spaces for as long as they want, though only the first hour is free.

Labels are also issued to disabled passengers who are ferried around by caregivers. Drivers using these labels can park in the spaces for up to 60 minutes, to allow them to drop off passengers.

With more disabled people and their caretakers applying for parking labels, some like Mr Lim are finding it difficult to get a parking space reserved for the disabled at times.

The Centre for Enabled Living said it gave out 1,363 of them last year - a 36 per cent increase from the 1,028 in 2010.

The bulk of those issued last year - 1,049 - were Class 2 labels, for caregivers ferrying disabled people. This is a 38 per cent increase on the 757 given out in 2010.

Class 1 labels, given to disabled people able to drive on their own, made up 314 of those given out last year. This is a 15 per cent increase on the 271 in 2010.

The Centre for Enabled Living said the increase in demand for labels could be due to the growing ageing population and greater public awareness of their availability.

HDB said that of the more than 550,000 spaces in its carparks nationwide, about 4,800 are set aside for the disabled. It said it had not received any feedback suggesting that parking spaces for the disabled were inadequate. 'HDB will increase the number of such parking lots, where feasible, if there are any particular carparks where the demand is higher than the standard provision,' it added.

In HDB carparks built before 2007, additional spaces for the disabled will be added - usually when upgrading works are carried out, said an HDB spokesman.

Both the HDB and malls The Straits Times spoke to said there were very few cases of such spaces being misused.

Those caught misusing HDB parking spaces for the disabled face a fine of $50, or risk getting their vehicles clamped.

Said Mr Lim: 'Whenever I find another car in a handicapped lot, it is always someone else with a valid label.

'It's a bit frustrating that these lots are so popular, but it's also good to know that more people are venturing out.'

Please do not abuse facilities for the disabled
Letter from Nicholas Aw President, Disabled People’s Association
TODAY, 2 Feb 2012

I write on a matter close to my heart: The abuse of facilities for persons with disabilities (PWDs) - not by the public but by family members, among others, of PWDs.

A case in point is Kallang Leisure Park's basement car park. I often see cars with handicap labels parked in the handicap lot that is especially convenient for those going grocery shopping at the supermarket there.

On Saturday, a car with a Class 2 parking label, which allows one to park in a handicap lot provided the vehicle is ferrying a passenger with physical disabilities with mobility constraints, parked in the lot.

A young, abled man got out from the driver's side and a young, abled lady, from the passenger's side. No PWD was in the car.

I perused the website of the Centre for Enabled Living (CEL), as it administers the issuance of such labels, and I believe there is abuse if the vehicle is not driven by a PWD (blue label) or is not fetching any PWD (orange label).

Who is enforcing the regulations? There are loopholes, such as cars with such labels parked at reserved lots for convenience and not for ferrying a PWD. Orange labels are also issued easily, which family members may not surrender when the need is gone.

There is a need to ensure the system is not abused, and I have written to CEL about my concerns. Meanwhile, I hope this "privilege" will not continue to be abused, for I fear that this would provide abled persons with an excuse not to give way to PWDs.

There is a dire need for graciousness in our society, abled or otherwise.

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