The Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland has called on the Government to change existing legislation so gardaí and traffic wardens can impose fines on drivers who illegally park in accessible parking bays in private car parks.
The organisation has today launched its 'Bay Watch' campaign, aimed at highlighting the ongoing abuse of disabled parking bays in general.
Communications manager with the DDAI Richard Ryder said people with disabilities plan their journeys and if they arrive at their destination and find that they cannot park there, “they just go home" as there is nothing more they can do.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said: “Their working life may be ruined as well. People need to realise it's very stressful for people."
He said legislation needs to be introduced that would enable gardaí or traffic warders to issue fines in private car parks.
He said mindsets need to change and people need to realise that they “just can't park in wheelchair accessible parking spots….ever….never".
Mr Ryder said he has already raised the matter with owners of private car parks and has told them that change is needed.
He said he is contacted on a regular basis by people who tell him they can never get a disabled parking space at their local shopping centre and they want to know what they can do to change this.
“The amount of people who email me on a weekly basis to say that they go to the local shopping centre to try and get a space and they can never get one," he said.
“They ask 'what can they do', I say 'is it a private space?', they say 'yeah' and I say 'well there is nothing you can do only get on to the management of that centre and ask them to help out'."
Mr Ryder said today is about tackling the gap in the legislation and to identify and tell people not to park in disabled parking spaces.
A survey by Coyne Research, carried out alongside the DDAI's own member research, underscored the lack of knowledge about the existing legislation around private carparks not only among the public, but also among disabled drivers themselves.
It showed that 42% of those surveyed believed a traffic warden or garda could issue a fine to someone parked in a disabled space in a private carpark.
Seven in 10 of those survey said those who illegally park in disabled bays should face prosecution, not just fines.
A separate survey of 800 DDAI members revealed that one third (33%) were unaware that gardaí do not have the powers to impose fines on illegal parking in private bays, while 95% said those who illegally parked in accessible bays should face prosecution.