Mon | Jun 26, 2017

No parking for the disabled ... able-bodied drivers keeping them out

Published:Wednesday | August 6, 2014 | 8:00 AM

Sheldon Williams, Staff Reporter

DISABLED DRIVERS are being kept out of parking spaces designated for them by able-bodied drivers and there is little the police or the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) can do about it as they have no jurisdiction over private property.

The International Symbol of Access, also known as the (International) Wheelchair Symbol, that shows the image of a blue square overlaid in white with a stylised image of a person using a wheelchair is used to identify these parking spaces, but is no deterrent to some motorists who are not disabled.

Adrienne Pinnock, public education officer at JCPD, the entity that supplies disabled motorists with specialised disabled stickers, admitted that they are aware of the infringement.

She explained that there is no action the entity can take against operators of parking lots and places where these parking spaces are being abused because there is no legal obligation for them to honour. The provision of disabled parking spaces is based solely on their discretion.

"Before the 22nd of July, the only autonomy we had was one of voluntary compliance. So we would go into entities where we were invited or invite ourselves where we were accepted and provide education as to the importance of having a parking space," Pinnock said.

"But while the Disability Bill has been tabled (and passed), when it becomes law, it will give us that legal autonomy to compel persons to provide these spaces. But before then, we didn't have that autonomy," she reasoned.

"You cannot enter someone's private premises and compel them to. There is no monitoring or transferring of information," she emphasised. However, she revealed that if disabled parking spaces are abused on the public roadways, then there is claim to recourse and the police can prosecute.

"If you are on the public road, say for instance, you are downtown, and you park in a parking lot that is designed for someone with a disability, that's where the police have some autonomy, but in a private company they would not. Now with the law, it will give the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, the autonomy they need," she added.

private vs public property

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Gary McKenzie of the JCF Traffic division underscored Pinnock's point.

"The situation is that in a mall, it is really a private property with public access and the designated areas that are made out are made out by the property owner. In terms of a criminal offence, the police do not have the latitude to prosecute a person for say disobeying a road traffic sign. If it is on the road, then the police have that jurisdiction," DSP McKenzie told The Gleaner.

He said offenders can be charged if they infringe on these parking areas in public spaces. "The offence would be failing to comply with road traffic signs with parking in an area designated for disabled parking," DSP McKenzie said.

sheldon.williams@gleanerjm.com