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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 26 June, 2019

Parking Mad: Filmmaker Paddy Slattery on attempting to access accessible parking

Filmmaker and wheelchair user Paddy Slattery appeals to drivers to think before blocking accessible parking spaces.

Paddy Slattery

WE’VE ALL SEEN it before. People parking in a disabled spot without a permit.

Hey, some of us may even be a little guilty of committing this act. “Ah shur I’m only running into the shop for a minute. I’ll be out before anyone notices”. Well, we notice.

For some drivers that five minutes in a previously empty space, is nothing major. However for those with disabilities who qualify for a pass to use these parking spots, blocking them and access to them, causes significant issues.

I suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a car crash and as a result I am paralysed from the waist down and use a wheelchair. These spaces are for a variety of people ranging from those with less severe mobility issues to those as serious and more serious than my own. They allow us to maintain our independence and to stay a part of our respective communities.

Almost every single time I travel into town, which is a lot, I encounter this problem. So much so that I’ve recently decided to photograph these offences. 

My most recent encounter was in the short-term car park at Dublin Airport (see photo above). Some gobshite in a white sports car parked on the space dedicated for wheelchair access to a driver seat.

Well, you may have caught your flight (and I truly hope you did) but I caught your registration plate.

Luckily for me, my brother could access my van to move it. If I happened to be on my own and driving that day, there’s not a hope in hell that I would have been able to access the driver seat, of my own van, in my wheelchair.

I don’t know who that driver was, but they must have been late for a flight. There’s no other excuse for such ignorance, because there’s always available spaces the further you ascend the high-rise car park.

First world problems

I have to admit, I feel more than a tinge of guilt for speaking out about something that sounds like a first world problem, especially when we as a country have bigger fish to fry, like taking care of our mental health or solving a homeless crisis, but if we don’t kick up a fuss then this chronic misuse of disabled parking spaces will persist.

Or, as the renowned philosopher John Stuart Mill once said; “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

Yes, I had to Google the correct phrasing of that great quote. And before anyone calls JS out for sexism, he was also the first member of parliament to demand a woman’s right to vote (yes, I also found that out on Google).

So much information at our fingertips thanks to the internet and for this reason, I’m quietly optimistic about going on a rant about our parking problems. I take a picture of a parking offence on my phone, post it to social media and hey presto, people all around the world can see or read about it.

The power of media is in our hands, literally. So, I’ll sleep better tonight knowing that I did something. 

Here, while we’re on the subject of careless parking and since we marked the introduction of ‘Make Way Day’ recently, it should go without saying how important it is for drivers to be conscious of how and where they park.  

Parking photo 4 Here this driver parked in the space intended for wheelchair users to access their vehicles. Source: Courtesy Paddy Slattery

Labyrinthine footpaths

Wheeling down a path nowadays is like trying to navigate a labyrinth at times. If I strapped a GoPro camera to my head (I’m not going to do that) your blood would boil with what you’d see.

I can appreciate how difficult it can be to find a parking space, but please take a moment to appreciate how difficult it can be to get around a parked car in a wheelchair, without having to dismount a high curb and wheel out in front of oncoming traffic.

Ok, I’m probably running out of space here (pun intended) so I’ll tackle world peace another day.

Paddy Slattery is an IFTA nominated filmmaker who uses a wheelchair. He recently completed shooting his debut feature film titled ‘Let Your Guard Down’ which is expected to hit cinema screens next year.

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