Enniscorthy Guardian - - NEWS - By BREN­DAN KEANE

THE Ir­ish Wheel­chair As­so­ci­a­tion (IWA) in Wex­ford has been in­volved in a cam­paign aimed at high­light­ing the level of abuse that goes on with re­gard to able-bod­ied peo­ple park­ing their cars in dis­abled park­ing bays.

Aside from be­ing il­le­gal such bad habits can cause much in­con­ve­nience for dis­abled drivers and one of the main strate­gies of the ‘Back in 5’ cam­paign was to re­verse the role.

Through the ini­tia­tive, which took place yes­ter­day, the IWA ar­ranged to have wheel­chairs parked in any va­cant, non-dis­abled park­ing space its mem­bers could find along the Cres­cent Quay area of Wex­ford town.

The wheel­chairs were adorned with a sticker dis­play­ing the mes­sage ‘Back in 5’ sig­ni­fy­ing that the owner would be back in five min­utes.

A spokesper­son for the IWA said the aim of the event was to: ‘Raise aware­ness of the mis­use of dis­abled park­ing spa­ces.’

She went on to com­ment that the ini­tia­tive was based on the Lis­bon Ex­per­i­ment which took place in Por­tu­gal in 2014.

‘That was a cam­paign de­signed to highlight the frus­tra­tions peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties face every day when able-bod­ied peo­ple park their cars in wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble spa­ces with­out a valid park­ing per­mit or rea­son to do so,’ said the IWA spokesper­son.

The cam­paign con­cept was rel­a­tively sim­ple, as the spokesper­son pointed out: ‘Each reg­u­lar car space on the street had an empty wheel­chair parked in it with a note pinned to the back with mes­sages such as ‘Be back in 5 min­utes’ or ‘just gone to the bank’.

‘These are the throw-away state­ments that peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties en­counter every day when peo­ple use ac­ces­si­ble spa­ces who do not need to do so,’ said the spokesper­son.

In ad­di­tion to the prob­lems cause by abuse of the park­ing spa­ces that do ex­ist the IWA says an in­crease in the num­ber of dis­abled park­ing bays is needed in the town - es­pe­cially along the quay-front.

‘Ac­ces­si­ble car spa­ces are lo­cat- ed near­est to build­ing en­trances or lifts to make it con­ve­nient for peo­ple with limited mo­bil­ity or those us­ing wheel­chairs to ac­cess services,’ said the spokesper­son.

‘It is im­por­tant that these spa­ces are not abused in any way,’ she added.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Des­ig­nate De­nis Whe­lan from Wex­ford Garda Sta­tion was one of a num­ber of Gar­dai in at­ten­dance to en­sure the safety of the cam­paign­ers and also of road users but the mem­bers were also there to give their sup­port to the event.

‘We would be sup­port­ive of the mes­sage they are try­ing to re­lay to the gen­eral pub­lic about rais­ing aware­ness of the is­sue,’ he said.

‘We will be clamp­ing down on such ac­tiv­ity over the com­ing months, we will be is­su­ing tick­ets and ve­hi­cles will be towed away,’ he added.

The IWA spokesper­son said her or­gan­i­sa­tion is ‘acutely aware’ of the need for peo­ple to have ac­cess to park­ing and of its im­pact on lo­cal busi­nesses and ser­vice providers. ‘We also ac­knowl­edge the rev­enue from park­ing in town,’ she said.

Last year there were 120 fixed-charge-penalty no­tices is­sued in the Wex­ford Garda Di­vi­sion for the of­fence of park­ing in a dis­abled park­ing bay.

Wheel­chair users with lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Garda of­fi­cers and sup­port­ers at Cres­cent Quay yes­ter­day (Mon­day).

John Su­grue (Bal­ly­gar­rett), Char­lie Han­ley, Yvonne Lacey and Ger Jor­dan from Gorey.

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