Have you ever wondered why so many of the handicapped parking spots at many malls go unused?
In the United States there is a saying that something "takes an act of Congress", meaning that the bureaucratic hurdles involved are needlessly high. My recent effort to obtain a handicapped parking permit in Abu Dhabi fell into that category.
In a mad dash to catch a train in London, I had broken my right leg. Back home in Abu Dhabi, in a cast and struggling with crutches, I knew that I needed a temporary handicapped permit. Friends were driving me around, and once inside buildings I could use a wheelchair. But parking close in would shorten the difficult walks from parking lots to entrances.
Temporary permits are available in the United States, but I didn't know if I was eligible for one here. After numerous phone calls, I finally determined that the Health Authority was the agency I needed to approach.
Wednesday, October 11 The Health Authority parking lot was full. We asked the guard if we could use a handicapped spot, since we were going to apply for that kind of permit. He agreed, and summoned a porter with a wheelchair to take us up the ramp and to the right room. There I met a gentleman who would describe the application process in detail - and quite an unbelievable process it was.
Thursday, October 13 The permissions office of the police department is not an easy place to find in the engineering building of the complex.
I explained that I needed permission to apply for a permit. The gentleman at the counter took my name and phone number and asked me to wait while a letter was prepared. After about 20 minutes he came back; the letter could not be prepared just then; he would call us when it was ready, on Sunday he believed.
Sunday, October 16 I received the call and picked up the letter. It said my doctor's report would not satisfy the application requirements. I had to obtain a physician's report from the orthopaedic department at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.
Tuesday, October 18 To say that the orthopaedic department there is busy is an understatement. I was offered an appointment in December. I explained that the cast would be off by then and asked for special consideration. To their credit, they were able to fit me into their schedule.
Saturday, October 26 Armed with my X-rays, I met with a Sheikh Khalifa centre physician.
Wednesday, November 2 Upon payment of Dh176, I received the required medical report, confirming that my leg was broken.
Thursday, November 3 Now to the last leg, so to speak, of the process. By this time I had gathered all the paperwork needed: copies of my identification, the driver's licences of the three friends who would be driving me and their vehicle registrations. All this was to go to the Health Authority along with the Police permission letter and the two doctors' reports. But this was the beginning of Eid Al Adha; the Authority would be closed until November 9.
Sunday, November 13 The documents were taken to the Health Authority. After a three-hour wait and arguments with one attendant, another person at the counter accepted the documents and said everything appeared to be in order.
Now, I understood from my initial briefing, the application would go to a Health Authority Approvals Committee. I was told to return three weeks later to collect the committee's answer.
Wednesday, November 30 I had my cast removed. My application was still pending.
Tuesday, December 6 Since I was still walking with a cane, I went to collect the permit. Instead I was given a letter of rejection: since my disability was for only two to three months, apparently I did not qualify as a special-needs or handicapped person.
Obviously this system needs serious attention in order to provide residents the service they need.
In the United States, you take your medical report to the motor vehicle authority and the permit, temporary or permanent, is issued in 20 minutes.
I was very disappointed in the Municipality's lack of accommodation for disabled residents.
Cora Yanacek is a lawyer working in Abu Dhabi