The Disabled People's Association (DPA) welcomes the stronger penalties for drivers caught misusing handicap parking spaces ("Fines up for disabled parking misuse"; Monday).
This is a timely effort, considering the recent spate of events involving the misuse of these parking spaces ("Cab leaves no room for wheelchair user"; Jan 5). But imposing higher fines may not be enough to deter offenders and would-be offenders.
More public education needs to be carried out to explain why access to handicap parking spaces is strictly restricted to people with disabilities.
In busy areas such as shopping malls, where parking spaces are limited, some drivers may think it is acceptable to park in a handicap parking space, and they will continue to believe that, unless some effort is made to explain the need for such restrictions.
The fines should continue to be complemented with public education to help address the need to change behaviour over time.
In particular, the DPA urges private carparks, such as those in shopping centres, to educate the public and their own staff about the proper use of facilities for disabled people and the need to properly implement any penalties the management has for the misuse of those spaces.
The parking space for people with disabilities at Cluny Court is repeatedly used by people without the appropriate parking label. The carpark staff even tell drivers to park there when there are no other parking spaces available.
Such cases are not isolated to this shopping centre, but it does illustrate how poor commitment to implementing the proper use of the handicap parking spaces undercuts the point of having those spaces in the first place.
Stronger penalties help spread public awareness that such conduct is not just socially unacceptable, but is also against the law.
Yet, without proper implementation, people will continue to believe that the misuse of parking spaces for people with disabilities is something that they can easily get away with.
These reserved parking spaces are not about giving special privileges to a group of people. People with disabilities have no other choice but to park in these designated spaces, as the wider spaces are needed for them to get in and out of their cars.
This parking issue has a wider significance in Singapore's journey towards an inclusive society.
I urge members of the public to report the misuse of these spaces to the management of carparks and follow up with them in properly penalising the misuse.
Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills (Dr)
Disabled People's Association