Misuse of reserved spaces still a problem despite heavier penalties

Ms Judy Wee, 56, who was born with limb deformities, uses a wheelchair. She has a Class 1 label for her car that allows her to park at wider lots reserved for the handicapped. But too often, these lots are taken up by cars without the label.
Senior manager Judy Wee says that for a driver like herself, an occupied accessible parking space means she has to either wait or drive home and forgo her plans.
Senior manager Judy Wee says that for a driver like herself, an occupied accessible parking space means she has to either wait or drive home and forgo her plans.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

For three weekends in a row, Mr Richard Kuppusamy pulled into the carpark of a supermarket near Tanglin Halt, only to drive off again in search of another place to buy groceries.

The 40-year-old regional digital integration manager has spina bifida, a condition that requires him to use a wheelchair. He has a blue label which allows him to use the accessible parking spaces in carparks.

However, because another car - which he could see did not have the label - was parked in the space, Mr Kuppusamy had no choice but to leave. "If I try to park in a regular space and then someone parks next to me, when I return from the supermarket, I will not be able to get into my car," he explained.

Despite heavier penalties against offenders who misuse accessible parking spaces, the disabled community said that abuse has continued to deprive them of the parking spaces they need.

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Urban Redevelopment Authority figures showed the number of summonses issued has dropped, from 237 in 2013, to 175 in 2014, 153 in 2015 and 63 last year. Last year, the Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Social and Family Development also revealed that fines had risen from $50 to $200 for drivers caught misusing parking spaces for the disabled.

 

However, people with disabilities said that they still witness cases of abuse that deprive them of a parking space.

Mr Nicholas Aw, president of The Disabled People's Association, said: "Sadly, things are still largely the same. There are so many people without the labels for the disabled who park in accessible spaces for a short while to run errands. There are also caregivers who park in the space without ferrying anybody with a disability."

Mr Aw believed, in addition to fines, vehicles parked in accessible spaces should face wheel-clamping. "Clamping the car would be more inconvenient. People may be able to pay fines, but they will think twice about wasting time trying to get their vehicle back," he suggested.

A spokesman for AsiaMalls Management, which manages shopping complexes such as Tampines 1 and White Sands, said that an announcement is made when a vehicle without a label is parked at the accessible space. If it is not removed after 10 minutes, a wheel clamp will be used, with a fee of $200 to release it.

Other malls like Ngee Ann City also have signs above accessible spaces to warn drivers of wheel-clamping if they misuse these spaces.

Ms Judy Wee, 56, a senior manager, said: "Many times I have seen abuse, but things have improved over the years. People just have to understand that if they use the space without actually needing it, they are depriving someone who needs it badly."

Ms Wee was born with deformities in her limbs and is wheelchair-bound. For a driver like her, an occupied accessible space means she has to either wait or drive home and forgo her plans.

Mr Kuppusamy said the solution lies in greater civic consciousness. "There is a bigger picture here. It is about how society treats others and those with disabilities. People cannot just park for 15 minutes and think it is fine. Your 15 minutes is not more valuable than mine. Driving for disabled people and parking in that space is not a privilege; it is a functional necessity."

Sue-Ann Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2017, with the headline 'Misuse of reserved spaces still a problem despite heavier penalties'. Print Edition | Subscribe