Platform: Blue-badge spaces are not for the able-bodied

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Last year, I was one of 18 transition year students in Cashel Community School who opted to take part in the Young Social Innovators (YSI) of the Year Awards. We ended up being the overall winners, out of 411 projects nationwide, in the 2020 awards.

e thought of disability as an issue, how accessibility is huge, and how people abuse the designated car-parking spaces.

We went into town to see if accessible parking was a problem locally. We took note of how many people without a blue badge parked in disability spaces; how long they stayed. One person stayed an hour and 10 minutes in a space, with no blue badge. Two people with blue badges turned up in that time.

Our big idea was that every designated disability parking space would have a detector on the ground to let it know that a car had parked in the space. An alarm, maybe a light, would go off, and it would be a visual deterrent to parking there. Maybe even a message would tell you that this is a disability space and you need to produce your badge to park in it. Then, there would be a device to scan your badge on the wall by the space, and it would disable the alarm.

With our engineering teacher in school, we built a physical prototype for this. It was made out of perspex and had wires coming out of it all over – it wasn’t slick, but it did the job.

Once we had a prototype, we worked with the HSE and our local disability officer, Anne Bradshaw. She was on-board from day one and guided us with the idea for development.

The idea ties in with the Cashel Gold Star initiative, which works on accessibility in the community. They do things like putting a wheelchair in a non-disability space, so people drive up thinking there’s a space for them, and then there’s not. Our prototype isn’t just about being an alarm, it’s a deterrent, too. Like, people will think, “I don’t want to be embarrassed, I won’t bother parking there”. Without a deterrent, there are loads of excuses that people come up with. When we were doing our research, we couldn’t believe how many excuses people had: “I’ll be back in five”; “I had to dash into the bank”; “I’d only gone for coffee.” One person even said, “I thought these were only used by day”, as if people with disabilities aren’t allowed out at night.

We were delighted to win. The awards ceremony was virtual this year because of Covid-19. Our teacher, Miss Ryan (pictured above with Colin and student Heather Barnett) organised treats for while we watched the ceremony livestream. There was a photographer outside and I did think to myself that they’d hardly send a photographer to every school, so I had a sneaking feeling, but still, to be the overall winner was unbelievable. The prize is €2,000 to develop the project further.

One thing we didn’t have time to do, because Covid-19 was against us, was contact the Department of Justice about the current deterrent to parking in a designated disability space. The penalty is a €150 fine. We think it should be penalty points instead. A fine, you just pay off, but penalty points stick with you.

We all had a great time with it and we really want to see it grow.However, €2,000 isn’t going to finish it. I’d love a development company or engineering company to come on board, and I know Anne Bradshaw would love to stay involved, too.

I don’t like the word anger, but we’re using our anger in a positive way.

Sunday Indo Life Magazine

Source: Irish News