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'Back in 5' campaign highlights unfairness to disabled drivers

10th July 2018

HAVE you ever parked in a disabled parking space?

Have you ever said ''I'll be back in five minutes, I'm just running to the bank, or for coffee?''

If you have, then you are making life very difficult for those with disabilities.

There are a limited number of disabled parking spaces in Tullamore and if able bodied people use them, then those who really need these spaces often have to circle the town in the hopes that when they return the space may be vacant. This can result in people being late for work, or missing appointments. Aside from that it is extremely unfair. 

Last Thursday afternoon in O'Connor Square, members of the Irish Wheelchair Association held their own 'Back in 5' campaign by taking over three regular car parking spaces.

Josephine Kenny service coordinator for Laois Offaly Irish Wheelchair Association said 'Back in 5' is the slogan that came from people with disabilities. They hear this every day, when they actually go to park and people say to them  ''I will be back in five minutes'' and it could be a half-an-hour or an hour,'' she said. 

''A person with a disability needs the space perhaps to allow for the operation of a lift.  Or they may need space beside the vehicle to get their wheelchair out. What happens, in some cases is a person with a disability will have to park in an ordinary car parking space, so when they are getting out they can often injure themselves. Some have injured their hands or legs because they don't have the space. They really struggle and sometimes they fall,'' Josephine Kenny explained. 

''People parking in disabled parking spaces is one of the big things at our AGM every year,'' The council have been fantastic and the gardai can only monitor so much. Really people should think.

We are taking up parking spaces today so people might think when they might have to end up driving around the town, themselves.'' she said.

Mary Smyth is a woman who has encountered some very rude people in her efforts to park in a disabled bay. Mary uses a crutch and has a disabled parking permit.

''I can never get a space because they are all filled up. One day I came up here (O'Connor Square) and there was parking space by the library. I went to go park up there and this girl came up and shot in on front of me. I said do you realise you are parking in a disabled parking space. 'So?' she said. I said I'm disabled. 'You don't look disabled,' she answered.  I said I am and you shouldn't be parked there. She responded by saying  I'm only parked there for a minute.'' Mary ended up having to wait for the woman to return to her car.

Another day Mary was in Dunnes stores on Church Street and once again the spaces were full. It was raining and Mary was worried her crutch would slip on the wet surface.

She said eventually a  woman came out and threw her shopping into the boot of the car. She was about to get into the driver seat when Mary told her she was parking in a disabled spot. She gave Mary the fingers and used abusive language towards her.

The campaign in O'Connor square is one of many around the country taking place around this time to focus on the issue. People are being asked to support the effort by leaving disabled parking spaces free for those who really need them.

Camilla McLoughlin

Tullamore & District Chamber
Unit 2A - Second Level, Bridge Centre, Tullamore, Offaly, Ireland
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