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TX: 04.02.04 – SURVEY INTO ABUSE OF DISABLED PARKING BAYS

PRESENTER: JOHN WAITE

THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.

WAITE
A few weeks ago, not very inspiring, in the car park of our local supermarket I saw a young man screech to a halt and calmly park in a disabled bay. But when in my best Mr Awkward mode I challenged him he simply developed a limp, almost as pronounced as his grin, and walked away. In future, however, at some stores parking cheats like him will face a more public prick to their conscience.

PARKINGBAY
Hello, I'm a special parking space for disabled customers, do you really need to use me? If not then please park elsewhere. If you need any extra help all you need do is ask.

WAITE
The latest technology there attempting to put off rogue parkers. Well the disabled drivers campaign group Baywatch has been conducting a survey into the abuse of disabled bays to find out whether the problem lies with the system of monitoring these spaces or whether too many of us are just plain selfish and thoughtless. Mother of two-year-old Carys, Tanni Grey-Thompson, is a four times gold medal winning Olympic athlete, she uses a wheelchair of course and shops in her local Morrisons in Redcar.

GREY-THOMPSON
By the time I get my frame out and get my wheels out and get my cushion that's me done. If I'm coming shopping with Carys then - she's a very lively little two-year-old - I need a wide space to get her in and out of the car but I also need somewhere that's a bit more convenient and is near the front door because trying to negotiate a shopping trolley, my wheelchair and a two-year-old is interesting.

VAHL
Supermarkets have a legal obligation to provide four disabled parking spaces for every 100 ordinary ones plus four extra. And under disability discrimination legislation stores have to monitor them as well. Phil Davis, from Asda, says they take it very seriously.

DAVIS
We're the only retailer that I know that employs, what we call, specialist space hosts and their job is literally to stand in the bays at busy periods to make sure that the spaces are being used by people who need them. They're a deterrent to make sure that people who park there actually have a blue badge displayed in the car and they're not being used by anybody else.

VOX POP
Loads of times I've parked in a space and you see someone get out of their car and walk away and there is an issue with hidden disabilities because not everyone who's disabled or has a blue badge is old or is a wheelchair user but when they've maybe seen me getting out of my car and my chair they'll suddenly start limping - that's someone feeling guilty.

VAHL
But the disabled drivers' campaign Baywatch says the supermarket's best efforts are being ignored. Douglas Campbell says the survey was conducted across the country.

CAMPBELL
Simple task - they went along to their local supermarket, counted the number of spaces for disabled people, the number of vehicles there that had got a disabled badge on, the number of spaces that were empty and most importantly the number of vehicles parked there that did not have a disabled badge on.

VAHL
I'm in Asda's car park in Liverpool, in SeftonPark, and I'm struggling to find any car with a disabled badge. That doesn't, that Renault doesn't, that Vauxhall doesn't. Excuse me - excuse me I've just noticed that you've parked in a disabled parking space, you haven't got a sticker have you?

CAR PARKER
No.

VAHL
Are you disabled?

CAR PARKER
No, not at all.

VAHL
And why have you parked in a disabled parking space?

CAR PARKER
At this Asda there's millions of them so there always seem to be spare ones, so it seems a bit ridiculous not to, I never park in disabled parking bays other than here, there's so many of them there's never that many disabled people needing them.

VAHL
What happens if it became full of people like you?

CAR PARKER
I see everyone else doing it and so I do it too.

VAHL
Do you have a disabled badge?

CAR PARKER WITH DISABLED BADGE
Yes. I mean it's annoying when you can't get in space, especially if I've got mum with me, but the rest of the time you just got to - there's plenty of spaces nearby so it's normally okay.

VAHL
But you've got a disabled badge - you're not disabled yourself.

CAR PARKER WITH DISABLED BADGE
No.

VAHL
And your mother is disabled?

CAR PARKER WITH DISABLED BADGE
My mum is.

VAHL
And so why are you parking here?

CAR PARKER WITH DISABLED BADGE
Just for totally for convenience.

VAHL
But you're exploiting the badge.

CAR PARKER WITH DISABLED BADGE
Well no I'm not exploiting the badge because I wasn't actually going to use it, I was just showing the fact that I had one.

VAHL
Yeah but you're parked in a disabled space.

CAR PARKER WITH DISABLED BADGE
Yeah but I'm only coming here to do my shopping, I'm going in and out - I'm only getting cigarettes - I'm coming straight out, so I'm not going to be here all night.

DAVIS
There's a perception amongst the public where disabled people don't come out after dark. In fact there's a perception I'm afraid that many - for many people that disabled people are not working during the day time and having to do their shopping also in the early evening. And of course in the early evening you get people who are in a tearing hurry on their way home from work, there's an almost attitude of I'm in a hurry, my need is greatest.

VAHL
Despite Asda's promise of specialist space hosts I saw no one at Liverpool monitoring the abuse. Right next to the disabled spaces in most supermarket car parks are the parent and child spaces. Something the shops have no legal obligation to provide. Back at Morrisons in Redcar these are very popular.

VOX POP
It makes life easier. Certainly I have three children, I have twins and trying to get out with twins when you've got cars to the side of you and so you've got exactly the same problem trying to get out with them and get them organised and get them into the shop would actually be horrific at times. So to have these specialised parking spaces I think is absolutely brilliant and why not.

VAHL
But Tanni Grey-Thompson says like the disabled spaces these child spaces are abused too.

GREY-THOMPSON
I've seen someone park in a parent and child spot and it was fair enough they did have their two children with them but one was 19 and one was 22 and that's not quite the way that you should be using the parent and child spots.

VAHL
But Phil Davis from Asda says that comes with its own problems.

DAVIS
We do monitor them but it's very difficult to effectively monitor them because with the disabled spaces there'll be somebody displaying a blue badge, there's no such badge system in operation to check whether people have got a child with them or not.

VAHL
But many of the people I spoke to claimed parent and child and disabled spaces are the only ones available to them. Douglas Campbell from Baywatch wonders if perhaps the supermarkets aren't trying too hard.

CAMPBELL
I almost suspect that some stores provide more than enough disabled parking spaces because they actually find that's the only way to overcome the abuse of the spaces and it's certainly a very fine balance. People have suggested that the number of disabled spaces should be changeable during the day depending on levels of demand.

VAHL
Ah but where do you park if you're both disabled and a parent? Tanni Grey-Thompson had just such a dilemma.

GREY-THOMPSON
I'd taken the last parent and child spot, someone came and like banged on my window and said - Well you can't park there, oh no you've got a blue badge you can't park there. So I said - Well you know I've got sort of her in the back and pointed to Carys. And they were really shocked and was like - You've had a baby, have you had a baby! Well just because I'm disabled doesn't mean to say I can't be a mother as well and they were really shocked that I was a mother and I was disabled and it was almost like how dare you, how dare you have the right to park in two spots.

WAITE
Tanni Grey-Thompson ending that report from Shari Vahl and you can hear the results of that Baywatch survey here on You and Yours in a couple weeks, so watch this space.

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