DUBAI // Disability campaigners have hit out at motorists who illegally park in their spaces, after Dubai Police revealed that more than 1,200 offenders have been caught since the start of this year.
Wheelchair users criticised the selfish and said careless drivers are making their lives more challenging.
One disabled driver said it can take an hour to find a space if motorists who are not entitled to reserved spaces park in them.
Police this week warned that hundreds are being caught per week and hit with Dh1,000 and four black points on their licence.
In total, 1,277 were caught parking in disabled bays in January and February. Altogether, 8,705 offences were recorded last year.
Dubai disability campaigner Shobhika Kalra, 26, who has worked with the Roads and Transport Authority to install more ramps at metro stations, said she has seen drivers without disabled badges parked in bays countless times.
“What these people have to understand is that we are one society, one community, that must help each other and cater to one another,” said Ms Kalra, who has been using a wheelchair since the age of 15 because she suffers a degenerative disease.
“It is not even about the distance and wanting to be close to the entrance to a mall or supermarket, but that extra space for our larger vehicles and to take out our wheelchairs.”
Although Ms Kalra does not drive, it often takes her family some time to find a parking spot.
Ms Kalra is the founder of the group WingsOfAngelz, an advocacy group that helped in building more than 650 ramps in Dubai for people in wheelchairs, the elderly and parents with strollers.
“It’s wonderful what we have been able to accomplish in just two years,” she said, adding: “If people notice there is no proper access for those with disabilities, we encourage them to politely approach the manager and voice their concern.”
For Shaikh Mohammed Bavazeer, 35, a business consultant who uses a wheelchair, parking in a disabled zone without a disability should be considered an “inhuman” act.
“I often see people without permits parking their cars in slots for the disabled – they have their hazards on, but that doesn’t make it OK,” he said. “I am completely independent and I drive my own car, but I also use a wheelchair. It makes me angry … because no one really knows how it feels to use a wheelchair unless they use one themselves.”
He urged Dubai Police to patrol indoor parking areas, suggesting that most violators can be found in parking lots underground.
“People take advantage of that because there is no one to monitor them underground,” he said. “It can take me anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes to find a parking spot sometimes.”
Dubai Police has also warned motorists against parking in front of fire hydrants and emergency vehicle slots.
Brig Saif Muhair Al Mazrouei, director of the General Department of Traffic, said offenders will be fined Dh1,000 and incur four black points on their licence.
Permits for disabled drivers are placed on the windscreen of vehicles and are also granted to vehicles and buses that transport disabled people.