DUBAI // It can take Muhammed Malik as long as an hour to find parking.
The 46-year-old Pakistani, who is 60 per cent paralysed in one leg because of polio and drives a specially modified car, blames the wait on motorists who park illegally in spaces reserved for people like him.
“The biggest problem are the motorists who switch on their indicators and park for a couple of minutes in the handicapped parking in congested areas,” said Mr Malik, the general manager of a property management company.
“Most people park for a short time. But in busy areas it is impossible to wait and, by the time I take a U-turn and come back, another motorist would have done the same thing.
“People park temporarily in handicapped parking spots because they are in a hurry and do not want to look for parking. Whenever I try to explain to motorists, they do not even have the patience to listen. They are always in an urgency mode.”
To combat the problem, Dubai Police announced last month that it would install radars called The Sergeant to monitor offenders.
The police recorded 4,793 instances of people parking in front of fire hydrants and in disabled and ambulance spaces in the first five months of the year.
Motorists who do not have a disabled badge or the proper parking permits are fined Dh1,000 and given four black points.
“Parking vehicles in front of fire hydrants and in places reserved for disabled persons is not only a violation of others’ rights but also uncivilised and unacceptable behaviour,” said Col Saif Al Mazrouei, acting director of Dubai Traffic Police.
Mr Malik, who often faces difficulty parking outside his office on Sheikh Zayed Road, agreed.
“Handicapped people don’t have a choice. I can walk with the help of crutches but many are completely immobile and find it difficult to park far away and get to their destination. We can’t give our cars to someone else to park, as it is modified,” he said.
Kaltham Obaid Al Matrooshi, a paraplegic who drives to work, agreed that people lacked sensitivity towards disabled drivers.
“There are people who respect that parking but many others simply ignore it,” said Mrs Al Matrooshi, the administrative manager of an Ajman primary healthcare centre.
“Sometimes they will say they will leave in a few minutes but do not always go. I get upset and tell them to put themselves in our place.”
She said authorities should plan more parking areas for disabled motorists across the UAE.
“We need more parking near clinics, hospitals, ministries. Two to three parking spots is not enough. Sometimes old people also use them. Officials need to add more than six parking spots in each of these places and it should not be just near the main entrance, but near different building entrances so people can use them easily,” Mrs Al Matrooshi said.
The Roads and Transport Authority said about 5,000 disabled permits are currently in use. However, the authority did not say how many parking bays there were in Dubai and if it had plans to increase the number.
Sultan Al Marzouqi, director of drivers licensing at RTA, said the permits were valid for up to five years and were issued to cars driven by wheelchair users, the mentally challenged, autistic people and amputees.
He said the RTA also issued temporary permits, which are valid from a month up to a year and cover those who have a temporary disability.
People also said more disabled parking bays were needed in busy areas such as Bur Dubai and Deira.