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Accessible parking still remains distant dream for people with disabilities

Being able to drive your own vehicle and move around freely is undoubtedly a way of being independent. Thanks to latest technologies, people with disabilities are able to drive around. But one of the biggest challenges faced by disabled people in India is lack of accessible parking in public places. From malls to parks, theatres and even hospitals, disabled friendly parking still remains a distant dream.

Apart from other laws, even Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 has given prime focus on importance of providing disabled friendly and accessible parking spaces. But we all have come across people without disabilities parking their cars and bikes at exclusive accessible parking spaces. This is clearly a violation of the law. Lack of stringent punishments is what makes people do this in spite of laws being introduced.

Prajith Jaipal is a disability rights activist from Kerala. He had visited the United States last year to take part in an accessibility expo. Jaipal is bringing down the expo to India, mostly by next year. Jaipal recently introduced a plan to make a public space in Kozhikode accessible. Funds have been generated and construction of the parking space will begin in a couple of weeks. He says that even hospitals lack exclusive parking spaces. Often, disabled people have to seek help from others to go to a hospital.

There must be strict punishments for if a non disabled person parks their vehicle at the disability parking space. There are government provisions for accessible parking. But it is not implemented. This is just plain ignorance. Even multinational companies and corporate companies fail to have exclusive parking spaces for disabled people. Why does the government ignore rights of people with disabilities? I have felt that authorities need to be pushed so that they can implement our rights. You must approach them and make them aware so that they can implement it rightly-Prajith Jaipal

Jaipal also points out that the only way to make people stop such malpractices is by providing awareness on the importance of accessible parking spaces. For that, he already has a few plans lined up. One of Kerala's most popular disability rights activists who works for accessibility, Jaipal is sure that he can bring in a difference.

Last month, the Disabled Association of Chandigarh in Punjab had submitted a proposal to the Social Welfare Department asking for special colour stickers to be introduced so that they can easily park their vehicles without being discriminated. If this is introduced, other states can also follow suit. Introduction of such stickers will make things easier for people with disabilities, especially those who have loco motor disabilities.

In many western countries, parking vehicles at spots for disabled parking is a punishable offence. They have to give a hefty fine and their vehicles will even be towed away. In spite of strong laws, why is the Indian government turning their heads towards the rights of disabled people?

Sarath PS is a wheelchair user from Kerala. He says that wheelchair users are forced to pay money at toll booths in spite of them not paying road tax.

"The Disability Act of 1996 also points out that all public places must be made accessible and they must also have disabled friendly parking spaces. They must also ensure that there are wheelchair ramps which most of the places don't have. The central and state governments had agreed to all these provisions. Now, if a disabled or elderly person has to go a hospital, they have to undergo so many hassles. That is not fair", says Sarath.

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