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Sarah Dullea said she is fighting a losing battle against those abusing accessible city parking Picture: John Delea.
Sarah Dullea said she is fighting a losing battle against those abusing accessible city parking Picture: John Delea.
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

Cursed at and told to ‘get over it’: Wheelchair user speaks of experiences of confronting motorists abusing accessible spaces

ONLY two out of 100 people, confronted by a Cork wheelchair user for wrongly parking in disabled spots, agreed to move their cars.

Beauty salon owner Sarah Dullea revealed that she is fighting a losing battle against those abusing accessible city parking and believes that the issue should be emphasised when people are learning to drive.

Since learning to drive she has confronted scores of motorists who claimed they had a right to disabled parking spaces.

Some, the 23-year-old said, have even feigned disabilities to avoid confrontation.

Sarah made the decision to approach every motorist occupying a space without a disabled badge after negative experiences with parking in Cork city.

 Sarah Dullea at her beauty salon, Sarah's Art of Beauty, in The Crann Centre, Ovens, Co. Cork.Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Sarah Dullea at her beauty salon, Sarah's Art of Beauty, in The Crann Centre, Ovens, Co. Cork.
Picture: Jim Coughlan.

However, she confessed that the results so far have been disappointing.

Sarah recalled being cursed at and dismissed following polite requests for motorists to park elsewhere.

Only two have admitted wrongdoing and sought out an alternative parking space.

“People have told me to ‘get over it’, she said.

“You get others who accuse you of just being cranky.

“A few people have cursed and come right up into my face.

“In these situations I just let it go. Sometimes I’ll come away upset and shaking. I’ll often ask myself why I bother.

“However, I know there are people out there who need these spaces even more than I do “

The Dunmanway woman said that some drivers have developed mysterious limps when asked for a disabled badge.

“One woman had a normal walk back from the chemist that suddenly turned into a limp when she saw me waiting at her space,” she said.

““She tried to tell me she had a disability even though I had seen her walking without difficulty just minutes before.”

And that’s not the only excuse Sarah has come up against.

“One woman told me that she needed to use the space because she had a baby,” she said.

“There are some people who feel that it’s okay to say something to a person with a disability because they can’t get out of the car to approach them.”

She also recalled being obstructed by a motorist while already in an accessible parking space.

“She parked behind me so I couldn’t reverse out. When I pointed out that I was blocked in she said she was going to the bank and ‘would only be two minutes’.

“Usually when people say this it turns into 10 or 20 minutes.”

 Client Noreen gets the finishing polish on her nails by Sarah at her studio in her home in West Cork. Picture: John Delea.

Client Noreen gets the finishing polish on her nails by Sarah at her studio in her home in West Cork. Picture: John Delea.

Sarah is calling for more education around the issue adding: “My boyfriend is currently learning to drive and is reading the Rules of the Road book,” she said.

“One of the things that stood out for me was that disabled parking wasn’t mentioned. People need to be made more aware of the importance of leaving parking spaces for people with disabilities.”

She added that reporting the unauthorised use of accessible parking spaces is often not enough.

“Sometimes it might take Gardaí 45 minutes to get out. By the time they arrive that person is gone.”

Sarah has become a well-known disability rights advocate in Cork, appearing on shows such as Midday on Virgin Media and RTÉ News.

She owns and runs a beauty salon, Sarah’s Art of Beauty, at the Crann Centre in Ovens.