Disabled people and footpaths

 

Sir, – We in the Disability Federation of Ireland have consulted extensively with people with disabilities and can confirm that parking on the footpath is a barrier to the inclusion and equality of people with disabilities. The practice is so widespread that it is a daily frustration for the 643,131 people living in Ireland with a disability. This daily frustration erodes people’s independence and ultimately their desire to go out, leading to isolation and exclusion. Ahead of our annual public awareness campaign, Make Way Day, September 24th, we have spoken to a mobility impaired 13-year-old schoolboy routinely taking the long way to school as the short way is blocked; to a wheelchair user who has trouble getting out of his own drive – because two of his neighbours have cars on the path; to a young mother on a housing estate who is constantly asking her neighbours not to block her three-year-old as he attempts to walk, with his walker, to pre-school. He wants to be like everyone else and someone’s illegally parked car is stopping him. We must face up to the fact this this is not a harmless habit. That it’s not acceptable if the driver is in a hurry, doesn’t want to get wet or will only be five minutes. Neither it is a problem for the local council or the gardaí. The gardaí and every local authority in the country are supporters of Make Way Day. This is a matter of individual responsibility. We need to see parking on the footpath as unacceptable, just like smoking indoors or beating children. Because there is a large percentage of the population who cannot step around your car or van. Most of these people have invisible disabilities that include problems with balance and depth perception. It is 100 per cent not their duty to explain themselves as they are routinely asked to do. Parking on the footpath is illegal 365 days of the year.

This Make Way Day we will make an online test available so everyone can get out and survey their area. People with disabilities and their allies can rate their neighbourhoods. We aim to get an overall map of the country. People can take photos of the obstacles in their areas, cars, bins, bikes and perhaps street furniture using the hashtag #MakeWayDay21. Every year cars parked on footpaths are the worst obstacles. So become aware of the needs of people with disabilities in the public spaces we all share this September. Then be the change you want to see. – Yours, etc,

CLARE CRONIN,

Communications Manager,

The Disability Federation

of Ireland,

Dublin 8.