Disabled motorists feel under siege from their able-bodied kin
When an Eastern Cape construction worker parked his company bakkie in a bay meant for disabled people at a shopping centre, he thought he could get away with it - now he is facing disciplinary action at work.
A woman who saw the man refuse to move his vehicle reported him to the QuadPara Association of SA (Qasa).
In her complaint, the woman said the construction worker was "a very rude and arrogant man".
A company spokesperson told the Sunday Times: "The driver in question has had disciplinary action against him and we believe an incident like this will not happen again."
The woman's tip-off was one of about 40 calls a day Qasa gets about the misuse of parking bays meant for disabled people.
Last year the association sent 600 drivers "kind" notes and photographs of their cars in wheelchair bays. Recipients included people with limps, crutches, walking sticks, pacemakers, emphysema or those "who feel they have a right to use this space when the bigger bay is specifically for a person with a wheelchair", Qasa CEO Ari Seirlis said.
"There is a myth that anyone with a disability may use this parking facility," said Seirlis. "If you use a wheelchair you can use the parking, if you don't use a wheelchair then don't use the parking."
Sue Martin of Amanzimtoti, who has been using a wheelchair for three years, said she felt "extremely annoyed" when an able-bodied motorist used a bay for the disabled.
"It happens very often," she said. "We have possibly four parking bays to about 500 able-bodied parking bays but these motorists still want to take the four we have been allocated because they want to be closer to the shop."
Johannesburg project manager Ajay Devnarain, a paraplegic with cerebral palsy, said he had approached a few able-bodied motorists to ask if they were aware they had parked in a wheelchair bay.
"To my astonishment, I was sworn at and made to believe that what they were doing was perfectly legitimate," he said.
Qasa project co-ordinator Ronelle Lyson said they had addressed more than 60 shopping centres countrywide in the last year.
"We suggest ways in which they can improve the monitoring of the wheelchair-demarcated parking. In this way we find that the shopping centres alter the management of the wheelchair parking and so leave less opportunity for abusers," she said.
Mall of Africa general manager Johann Fourie said: "We are constantly managing the situation."
If motorists had already parked in a bay meant for disabled people, an "illegal parking" sticker was placed on the windscreen and the registration number was recorded to keep track of repeat offenders.