This research, conducted on behalf of the Scottish Government, investigated measures used to combat the abuse of parking bays reserved for use by disabled people, through both desk-based research and consultation with car park providers and users (involving in-depth interviews and group discussions) on the most effective measures that can be used in off-street car parks in Scotland. The research also examined the reasons underlying the abuse of such facilities in different contexts and identified the behavioural characteristics and attitudes of different types of abusers. The purpose of this research was to provide advice and assistance for those responsible for the provision of off-street parking in Scotland in adhering to the guidelines as set out in the Disability Discrimination Act 2005.
The objectives of this research were to:
- outline the policy and legislative context;
- identify the factors that lead people to abuse off-street parking facilities for disabled people;
- develop a profile of people who abuse such facilities;
- review enforcement measures;
- offer recommendations for car park providers.
The study involved a range of research methodologies including:
- A desk-top literature review of existing evidence, focusing on the effectiveness of different intervention methods
- Case studies of six car parks, covering a range of interventions, contexts and locations
- Six in-depth interviews with car park providers and 33 in-depth interviews with 'bay abusers'
- Two stakeholder workshops comprising service providers and organisations representing the interests of disabled people.
- Four focus group discussions with disabled and non-disabled people.
The research identified five different types of abusers based on their attitudes to reserved parking facilities and the factors motivating them to misuse such facilities:
- Group 1 'In denial' - people who have misused reserved bays for people with disabilities but deny their actions.
- Group 2 'Reluctant' abusers - people who might have misused reserved bays once or twice, and are reluctant to re-offend.
- Group 3 People who believe their actions are 'justified' because (a) they had parked in a reserved bay unknowingly, (b) they are entitled to use other reserved parking facilities such as parent and child, or staff parking or (c) they have a temporary disability or reduced mobility or care for someone with specific needs, but are not entitled to use a Blue Badge.
- Group 4 'Persistent' abusers - this group admit to using disabled people’s parking bays on a regular basis, and therefore pose a real threat to disabled people’s access to services.
- Group 5 Misusers and fraudulent users of the Blue Badge.
This research reviewed the effectiveness and appropriateness of a range of possible intervention measures:
Patrolled car park - the opportunity for direct, face-to-face involvement with a parking attendant, together with signs adjacent to parking bays warning of the imposition of a fine, does seem to reduce abuse. This is most effective when the site is integrated and where there is one single entry point to the reserved bays that are segregated from the rest of the car park.
Barrier systems - in sites where regular monitoring by staff is not possible, barrier systems could offer the best solution. Alternatively, in smaller car parks, a provider might consider installing a remote controlled mini-barrier system in individual bays, but this is shown to be only practical for sites that have a 'closed' membership. Barrier systems can offer the clearest and fairest approach to intervention, and the only means of preventing all types of abuse.
Automatic Number Plate Recognition - supermarket providers have realised that the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera technology works well in monitoring the use of segregated parking areas for registered disabled customers and in dealing with the problem on the spot. This relies on 'live' monitoring, otherwise the action caught on camera would need to be followed up with a warning or penalty.
Imposition of fines – the effectiveness might depend on whether the fine is enforced by a parking attendant or a local authority parking attendant. For example, where parking has been decriminalised (e.g. Edinburgh) there are lower compliance rates than in cities where parking is still dealt with by the city’s traffic wardens (e.g. Inverness).
'Charging for all' - the introduction of a 'charging for all policy' for parking at Ninewells hospital in Dundee has resulted in a significant reduction in the occurrence of parking abuse. However, consideration should be given to offering concessions to disabled users if they have regular medical appointments.
Advisory measures - measures such as automated electronic announcements and bay design (i.e. surface markings and signage), although essential in preventing 'accidental' abuse, were shown to have little impact on preventing other types of abuse when used on their own.
The research findings point to the need for car park providers to consider the following key points:
- Undertaking regular monitoring of the car park, and consulting users on their parking requirements to help determine which measures will be most practical and effective
- Raising awareness among service users on the correct use of the Blue Badge
- Charging for facilities/services - in principle, access to services was considered to be more important to research participants with a disability than free parking
- 'Designing out abuse' and reducing the need to travel by private car - there are benefits of 'designing out' abuse through thoughtful car park design, as opposed to penalising or confronting abusers
- The need for education - the research highlighted a general perception that there is, among some people, a lack of respect for disabled people and of the impacts that parking abuse can have on a disabled person
- Circumstances in which abuse might be tolerated e.g. people with reduced mobility who do not fall within the eligibility criteria of the Blue Badge scheme.