Back in 5 Campaign 2018

I recently had the pleasure of taking part in a Back in 5 Campaign which I have often seen on social media from different parts of the world.

Frank Larkin Accessible LetterkennyThe Irish wheelchair association contacted me and asked if I would like to be involved in their back in 5 campaign. I hadn’t heard it called that before so it didn’t immediately click with me as to what it was. When I read further through the correspondence I discovered I had seen this campaign many times and greatly admired the idea behind it.

Accessible Parking on Main Street

When the campaign day finally arrived I drove down to the Main Street here in Letterkenny, parked my car and headed to where the meeting point was. I was very impressed when I arrived to at last see in reality the aforementioned campaign having been set up. How it works is that there are a number of wheelchairs strategically placed in parking spaces which are not accessible. The wheelchairs had messages on the back of them portraying all the excuses that drivers with disabilities have heard all too often. “I was only posting a letter”, “sure nobody ever parks there”, “I was only 5 minutes” and so on.

It was fascinating to see the reactions of both pedestrians walking up and down the street and also the drivers going down the Main Street. Just by seeing their faces I observed every emotion that I and many experience on a daily basis. These emotions include frustration, anger, bewilderment to name but a few. It is obvious to me that the event certainly made people think and if it only changes the mindset of a few it will have been worth it.

Accessible ParkingIt was also both useful and interesting to be able to educate people in authority who manage this very issue on a daily basis, namely the traffic wardens. This happened quite by accident when one of the aforementioned traffic wardens stopped to talk to us and give us his own thoughts on what we were doing. One thing however that he mentioned was a misconception that he had and we were able to put him right.

He believed wrongly that blue badge holders were still supposed to pay for parking just like everyone else but said that they the parking wardens always overlooked this because the pay and display machines were not accessible. In reality blue badge holders do not have to pay & display as we already pay biannually for the blue parking badge. He was both happy & interested to be corrected in this.

Finally I hope that this is an initiative that will happen at least on an annual basis and that we can continue to make inroads on changing the way people think that it is ok to illegally park in accessible parking spaces and there’s no harm in it because “I’ll be back in 5”.