x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Disabled face parking frustration in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, August 25, 2014:     Sulaiman Al Ameri, 40, an Emirati disabled driver, in his modified vehicle, parked outside his apartment building in the Al Zahiya area area of Abu Dhabi on August 25, 2014. Christopher Pike / The NationalReporter: Ramona RuizSection: News
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, August 25, 2014: Sulaiman Al Ameri, 40, an Emirati disabled driver, in his modified vehicle, parked outside his apartment building in the Al Zahiya area area of Abu Dhabi on August 25, 2014. Christopher Pike / The NationalReporter: Ramona RuizSection: News

ABU DHABI // Disabled drivers are increasingly frustrated at being unable to park because other people have taken their designated spaces.

One man described having to struggle for 200 metres in his wheelchair to reach his home near Salam Street in Abu Dhabi.

“The streets are not handicapped-friendly,” said Sulaiman Al Ameri, 40.

Abu Dhabi Police provide permits for people with special needs to park in designated slots in residential and public parking areas. Holders are exempt from Mawaqif fees.

Mr Al Ameri, a father-of-six who has had polio since he was 3, holds a blue-coloured parking permit. There are about five handicapped parking bays in his area.

“There are two types of permits — permanent and temporary — but I’m the only handicapped person with a permanent disability here,” he said. “At least 25 have disabled parking permits, meaning they should only park for one to two hours.”

Owners of temporary disabled parking permits are misusing the spots and Mr Al Ameri can do nothing about it.

He describes the case of one of his neighbours who has a child with special needs and was granted a temporary disabled parking permit.

“He’s not even handicapped,” Mr Al Ameri said. “I’ve been here for 12 years and he happens to live in the same building. He parks here on my spot and does not remove his car until the next day.

“He’s normal, he could drop his kid off, go upstairs for about an hour and then move his car to another spot.”

When he moved to the building, it did not have any disabled parking spots. He asked the municipality to create one next to the entrance.

“I need a wheelchair to get around,” he said. “I need to call the building’s watchman or my maid to assist me in getting out of the car and into my wheelchair.

“If I end up getting a spot 200 metres or about two blocks away from my building, I need to return on a wheelchair.”

Drivers without disabled parking permits are also using spots reserved for the handicapped, Mr Al Ameri said.

“When police call them and they do not pick up the phone, they will be issued a ticket and his car will be removed,” he said.

A customer service representative at Mawaqif said inspectors would fine drivers who parked in handicapped parking spots.

The penalty can be a fine of up to Dh1,000 and four black points on the offender’s licence, and the car will be towed away, she said.

Mr Al Ameri also said the small number of disabled parking spots at shopping centres were often misused.

For example, there were only two to three handicapped parking spots behind the Madinat Zayed shopping mall.

“It’s a very busy area and we have limited spaces to park,” he said. “They should provide additional handicapped parking spots.”

He faces the same parking problems at the basement parking facilities at Abu Dhabi Mall, Mushrif Mall and Al Wahda Mall.

“No one is sticking to the rule,” he said. “Normal drivers are using our spots. It would help if mall owners authorised their security staff to note down the licence plate numbers of these drivers and hand them to the police.”

Another disabled driver, Omar Al Miskini, said: “I usually don’t get a handicapped parking space at Mushrif Mall. I drive around for up to 20 minutes and end up parking at a regular space.

“They ask me why I don’t call the police to complain. But I don’t want to create problems for other people. They would have to pay a Dh1,000 fine.”

Mr Al Miskini 40, a swimming coach from Morocco who has had polio since he was 2, appealed to drivers without disabled parking permits not to misuse spaces designated for special-needs drivers.

“It’s all about respect,” he said.

The Department of Transport had no comment.

rruiz@thenational.ae