Golden Island Shopping Centre was a hive of activity on Friday morning last as the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA ) rolled out their 'Back in 5' campaign. Aimed at bringing awareness to those who pay scant regard to wheelchair parking bays on a daily basis, the event was attended by Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran TD, Town Mayor, Cllr. Frankie Keena, Westmeath County Council Cathaoirleach, Cllr. John Dolan, Athlone access awareness and NCBI personnel, along with staff and service Users from IWA and IWA Sunshine Club.
Presently, there are almost 75,000 disabled drivers parking permits in circulation in Ireland. The availability of wheelchair accessible parking spaces is an essential lifeline for motorists with disabilities. Unfortunately, far too often these spaces are occupied by able bodied drivers and this issue has become an increasing problem.
With the increased volume of traffic throughout Athlone, an unfortunate consequence has been an upsurge in motorists illegally parking in disabled parking bays. Accessible parking spots are very important to people with disabilities due to their size and access to amenities and facilities.
IWA Service Coordinator Monica Hughes explained how the 'Back in 5' campaign came to be.
"The name of IWA’s campaign originates from the throw away statement that people with disabilities hear on an all too regular basis when they confront a driver who has inadvertently parked in an accessible parking bay - 'only running to the bankshop, will be back in five minutes'.
"Accessible parking bays are located near amenities in order for people with disabilities to access - work, education, post office, shops, bank and social events. There is no excuse for using an accessible parking bay without a disability parking permit. IWA members have heard many different excuses and today we want to highlight to all drivers throughout the Midlands that this is not acceptable," Ms. Hughes commented.
The organisations involved in the ‘Back in 5’ campaign are also reminding motorists that it is an offence to park in a disabled parking space without an official disabled drivers parking permit. The offence is dealt with by way of a fixed charge notice for €80, rising to €120, if not paid in the first 28 days. Alongside this, the misuse of an accessible parking bay can have a significant impact on a driver with a disability who genuinely needs to access the space.
Supporting 'Back in 5', Deputy Kevin Moran said, "I am delighted to be involved with this worthy campaign and to support IWA and people with disabilities in my local constituency. This is an important initiative which aims to highlight the challenges experienced by motorists and passengers with disabilities. It is an issue that is often raised by people with disabilities and their families during my weekly clinics. And as such, it is essential that motorist understand the vital importance of respecting accessible parking bays.”
For further information about the range of services and supports IWA provides to people with physical disabilities in their own homes and communities please call Monica Hughes at 0906471165 or email [email protected]