Parking spaces – Daily Mail Fail

The Daily Fail has a little maths problem. OK, they have a little everything problem, but in this particular case, well, you be the judge: Revealed: Why all those disabled bays stay empty

Hundreds of thousands of prime parking spaces in shopping centres are unused because of a legal obligation to provide four times as many disabled bays than are actually needed.

Supermarkets, shopping centres and leisure centres must allocate up to 6 per cent of their parking bays for disabled badge holders – even though just 1.4 per cent of the population is registered disabled*. […]

Campaigners are furious at the number of vacant disabled bays and believe more should be done to tilt the balance in favour of drivers with young children.

OK, so let’s do the math. On a small scale, anyhow. My family is 33.3% disabled. When we go out together, we need accessible parking 100% of the time. Oh, and we’re one of those mythical families, Daily Mail writers, that includes both a PWD and a young child. I know you think we don’t exist. But we’re right here.

Extrapolate up through the population, and suddenly those 6% figures (which only apply to small lots in the UK – large lots only need 4%) don’t look so excessive, do they?

Here’s another thing: When nondisabled people can’t find a space close by, they park further away and walk. When a disabled person can’t find an accessible space, she turns around and goes home. If the math doesn’t convince you, the social justice should.

In Australia? Only 1-2% – ONE to TWO PERCENT – of spaces are required to be accessible. 4% of Australians require accessible parking (do the math – this means that more than 4% of vehicles may contain a PWD who needs the accessibility), and that number is rising. AFDO recommends that a ratio of 10% may be more appropriate.

Many small businesses, including medical clinics, have no accessible parking at all. Many designated marked spaces do not meet standards and may not be accessible for all PWD – not wide enough, heavily sloping, blocked or non-existent access lanes and kerb cuts, further away from entrances than the “non-accessible” spots (I’m looking at you, IKEA), and so on.

“Cracking down” on parking permit abuse makes currently-nondisabled folks feel righteous, but it doesn’t do the job. We need more spaces, and we need compliant spaces.

*I’m assuming the 1.4% applies to those with blue badges in the UK, since around 20% of the population actually has a disability.

19 thoughts on “Parking spaces – Daily Mail Fail

  1. Another thing they’re forgetting (or possibly, this being the Mail, deliberately ignoring) is that since the “not actually very accessible in practice” continues around the shop in many cases, the accessible parking places may well be occupied for longer on average than the non-accessible places.

  2. The whole basis for the article seems to be a cognitive bias; a TAB driver will remember the times that they were trying to find a parking space, saw what looked to be a free one and then discovered it was reserved for disabled patrons. They will not remember the times when all the spaces reserved for disabled patrons are actually occupied. The picture from the article (a supermarket parking lot; two empty accessible spaces in the foreground, a mostly but not completely full lot in the background) underscores this; it’s shot such that those two empty spaces take up half the picture, while even the most visible less-accessible space takes some effort to spot. (I also notice that the accessible spaces seem to be farther away from the supermarket than the less-accessible ones; is this a common practice in the UK?)

    Comments on the article (warning – lots of ablism, fatphobia, and general asshattery) suggest that lots of folks actually have trouble finding an available accessible space.

    It also fails in that it pits PWD against parents (never mind that plenty of folks are both), as if it’s the fault of PWD that there aren’t enough “parent and child” spaces.

  3. The Daily Fail is playing unfair with statistics. Sure, 6% is a higher percentage than 1.4% — but that’s 6% of the total number of spaces (let’s call this x) and 1.4% of the total population that is going to shop at the store (let’s call this y). So in raw numbers, not percentages, there are .06x spaces available and .014y people who require the use of those spaces.

    The 6% applies for when there is up to 200 spaces. It’s 4% after that. Thus, at a maximum, the 6% of spaces means that there will be 12 spaces available.

    Let’s say that there are 1000 people who are going to shop at the store with 200 spaces. For transparency, let it be know that I just made that number up for the sake of this post. If someone has a better estimate – if they think the number should be higher or lower – let me know.

    Okay, so 1.4% of 1000 is 14 people who require accessible parking.

    So 12 spaces for 14 people who need it.

    I made the 1000 people up off the top of my head, so feel free to repeat the experiment at home for yourselves. y is the number of people who shop at the store with 200 spaces. Multiple y by .014 and you’ll have the number of those people who require accessible parking. There are 12 spaces available. See what you get.

    But, you know, 6% is a bigger percentage than 1.4%, so that totally means that there are too many accessible parking spaces. Right.

  4. Furious? Really?

    And why is it either or? Why can’t there be 4-6% accessible parking for people with disabilities, and 4-6% accessible parking for families with small children?

  5. Today was probably the first time in over a MONTH that my mother managed to get a disabled parking bay whilst we were out. Most of the time, she either has to park in the middle of two somewhere right out of the way, park in a regular space and struggle to get me out of the car and round to the back of it and into my wheelchair, or park in an empty Parent / Child space – something abundant in many car parks around my area of the world.

    The issue here shouldn’t be PWD vs. Parents with Young Children. Parents should take up their issues with businesses, not moan that the disabled have too many spaces – from my experience, most of the time there are not nearly enough disabled parking bays to accommodate the amount of people who require one.

  6. Also, what is this “registered disabled” thing that I keep hearing about in the media? To what body does one go to “register” one’s disability? I always find that such a disturbing idea…

  7. When a disabled person can’t find an accessible space, she turns around and goes home.


    I do not use any type of mobility device, so on the outside my “need” for a disabled space may seem less than someone who has to get a wheelchair in and out of their vehicle, etc. But I do have conditions that cause me a lot of fatigue and eventually pain, and the fact of the matter is — especially on longer shopping trips like to the grocery store or Target (where you always buy way more than you planned!!!) — after an hour of dealing with the lights and the people and the walking and whatnot, making it back to the car is a struggle of huge proportions. (By that point I am often using my shopping cart as a type of mobility device.)

    Even though I usually feel relatively ok when arriving at whatever store (or at college), I know that by the time I leave, I may be literally unable to walk to the end of the parking lot. So, yes, I leave. The same would be true for school, except my SO is my interpreter so we ride together; he can walk to the car himself and pick me up at the door if there are no spaces. Which there often are not, at a campus where I see lots of folks using mobility devices, not to mention all the people with invisible disabilities.

    And maybe I’m dumb but I don’t understand why people with children need closer parking??

  8. It’s very frustrating going to our local Walmart and seeing all the disabled parking spots taken. When my friend was in a wheelchair with her broken leg, this meant we had to find a place with an empty space next to it so I could get her wheelchair out.

    But what infuriates me more is like last week when I took my Mom to Walmart, and all the disabled parking spots were filled with shopping carts. It was snowing hard and the cart pushers hadn’t gotten around to moving them yet, but all these people couldn’t be bothered to walk an extra 10 feet to the cart return spots. I had to leave the car (really an SUV) in the aisle and go move carts so that I could park.

  9. Mina – keep in mind some of those carts don’t get pushed 10 feet to the return stalls because the person is disabled and can’t walk that 10 feet.

    Yes, I know some of them can do it, and some TABs leave them there too, but let’s not forget there’s a reason these folks are using a disabled spot in the first place.

  10. I don’t understand why people with children need closer parking??

    I’m guessing you’ve never herded toddlers through a car park. Small children are completely invisible to reversing cars, can move quickly and unexpectedly just as reversing cars do, and (covered) carparks tend to be dark places. Fine on the way in, if you have two hands and no more than two children. Not so fine on the way out when you have bags and carts to cope with.

    I’m guessing you’ve also never been trapped by a close-parker, unable to get your child out or back in to a carseat or capsule. Designated parent spots are wider for this reason (in well-designed carparks).

    Doing all this while disabled, but not disabled “enough” to qualify for an accessible parking permit, becomes much, much harder, sometimes to the point of impossibility. There are no qualifications on parking permits taking into account ability to herd your children through a carpark or ability to worm your way through a small gap to buckle a child in and out; accessible parking regulations assume a PWD is alone or with a carer, never a carer oneself.

  11. Wait…are there reserved parking spaces for parents of small children in Australia? Because there is no nonsense like that here (where “nonsense” is read as “the best idea I have ever heard of and how’s come no one in the U.S. has come to the conclusion that this is a much needed thing, not just for expectant mums?”) or in the U.S. (b/c I just realized that “here” is a military base overseas, but it still applies).

    Not to veer off topic, but very much yes. These are much needed. There are never enough of these spaces. Also irritating me is the fact that on bases there are sooper speshul spaces reserved for all the Really! Important! peeps, like Base Commanders and the highest ranking enlisted persons (which is not to begrudge them their privileges), but they tend to be closer at some facilities than the disabled parking, and they are always open.

  12. I live in PA, and I have seen the parent/pregnant spots here. They aren’t legally enforceable in my state.

  13. OYD: The spaces aren’t legally protected, but most of the large venues around here have them. It’s an honour system, which works reasonably in some places/times and much less well in others.

  14. I wish there were parking spots for people with small children where I live. Or that they would at least enforce the “compact cars” spaces they have – how many times do I pull into one of these compact cars spots only to find myself wedged in between a pickup and a minivan? I can barely get out, never mind remove my child from their car seat.

    I actually breathe a sigh of relief when I get to a parking lot that has ALL spots designed to fit a minivan. Even though I don’t have one.

    Also, the handicap spaces at the grocery stores where I live are almost always all taken during the day. Night time is the only time I see vacant spots. I have a hard time believing what they have is enough. We have an aging population, for one thing. Also, I wonder if this article takes into account people who are temporarily disabled getting parking passes? I could have had my chiropractor and primary care physician sign off on me getting a sticker, but I chose not to. (Something I regret now.)

  15. And also, another bit of figure tweaking by the Mail.
    It may be that 1.4% of the population are disabled, but surely the important number should be what percentage of car users are disabled? 6% perhaps? Or quite possibly more.

  16. I’ve seen spots for pregnant women here, but only in one place — at our Giant Eagle, the frou-frou grocery store around here. Haven’t ever seen them anywhere else. (I’m in western PA, grew up in CA and never saw them there either)

    When I worked at the mall, I had a lot of trouble getting to work on time. The reason was that there weren’t nearly enough disabled spaces. There was never a space open. Ever. I would have to run around waiting for someone to come out and free up a space close to the door. I already had to park a long walk down the mall to my actual workplace (nearest parking was still a considerable distance) and couldn’t afford to park a mile away in the parking lot too. Especially for nighttime, when I had to make a longer walk to the deposit box after I closed the store.

    I don’t believe I have ever encountered a time when a parking lot was busy and full (or close to full), and there were multiple handicapped spaces open. Ever. And I actually look, every time, because once the parking lot is full enough that I’m not likely to luck into a close spot, it means I have to use the disabled spaces or none at all. I have a reason to pay attention.

  17. There are ‘family’ parking spaces at the Ikea in Emeryville, Calif. They’re right behind the blue zones. Come to think of it, that Ikea is the only place I’ve seen a child care area in a big store since the 1970s, too.

  18. Could we please not make this a global poll on where there is and isn’t family parking, unless there’s relevant disability content in the comment? Thanks.

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