Travelling into Dublin is nerve-wracking, says Shelly Gaynor, a peer mentor for Independent Living Movement Ireland.
Especially, when the weather is bad and she has to hunt down a disabled parking space. “Sometimes you’re driving around and around just to get a spot, you know,” she says.
Gaynor has cerebral palsy so her personal assistant drives her in from Swords, and usually they head for reliable disabled parking spaces in the Jervis Centre or at Connolly Station.
“We tend not to go to on-street parking,” she says.
On-street spots might be too far from where they’re going, she says. “You can rock up to the area that you are going to, you try to search there, and you’re turned away.”
Or they might not be usable. “For someone like me, they might park right behind my vehicle, which means that I can’t get my ramp in, to drive my chair out of the car,” she says.
Declan Meenagh, a Labour councillor who is visually impaired, says the council needs to review where the accessible spots are around the city and consult openly on where they should go.
That includes looking at the basics, he says. “Does this have a ramp up to the footpath? Is there enough room? All that just needs to be checked.”
Where They Are
Council data, updated on 25 August, shows at least 406 accessible parking spaces across the city. (The map above doesn’t include 25 of the spaces, as they were difficult to locate.)
Also, the council data comes with a caveat. A small number of locations may be inaccurate, said a council spokesperson, as the council has made changes to on-street parking as part of its Covid mobility measures.
The council’s rule of thumb is that there be one disabled parking bay to every 20 parking spaces, said the spokesperson.
But to work out what demand there is, the council liaises with councillors, reviews requests from the public, consults with disability groups and assesses sites, they said.
Many who use them, though, say they can struggle to hunt them down, or that they’re not designed appropriately.
“I’d say out of every 10 bays, for a wheelchair user, there are four that would really suit,” says Michael Hennessy, who uses a wheelchair.
Parking bays beside curbs without a drop might be okay for those with limited mobility, he says. “But wheelchair users, there’s very poor thinking that way.”
Others may have other barriers. “Don’t have poles in the way, don’t have bins,” he says.
“Even sometimes you’d park up, and there’s a big pole that says it’s a wheelchair bay on parallel parking, and you can’t open your door fully,” he says.
One accessible parking space on Lombard Street is between lanes of traffic and a cycle lane, says Bernard Mulvany, a disability activist with Access for All and a local rep for People Before Profit.
“It’s quite close to Trinity College, it’s close to lots of amenities,” he says, but no one with a disability or a wheelchair user would go near it. “It’s literally off-limits completely.”
Those in wheelchairs need space to get out of the car, and can’t always park blocks away from where they need to go and walk over, he says. “If they’re not in the right place, they may as well not be there,” says Mulvany.
As part of its Covid mobility measures to open up streets to sustainable transport and outdoor dining, the council took out 19 disabled parking bays, and put in 66 new ones, its website says.
Those who relied on them say they weren’t given enough information on what was going on.
“We’ve lost spots, and we don’t know where the new ones are,” says Saoirse Smith, who uses a wheelchair. “Trying to find a parking spot has gotten worse.”
Hennessy’s wife, Leona Tuck, says that a parking bay on South Anne Street had been moved to Molesworth Street. “It is a considerable distance away.”
Two parking spaces they used before at Merrion Square are now on the outside of a cycle lane, she says. “Which are quite dangerous as well, because you’re playing piggy in the middle.”
When the council were improving streets, they moved parking spaces, she says. “And it wasn’t like they were shifted in any way to be better designed.”
Tuck says she would see the council posting online about new outdoor dining spaces. “But they won’t take the time to go, Oh and for anyone who’s shopping who can’t walk and needs the car, these are the new disability bays.”
A council spokesperson said it aims to ensure that its temporary Covid mobility interventions “are inclusive and benefit everybody in the city”.
One aim of the Covid mobility plan is to make Dublin an accessible city, they said. “Largely through reducing car usage and promoting greater sustainable transport provision.”
“For people with mobility difficulties who depend on travelling by private car, we are continuing to actively monitor the demand for disabled parking bays throughout the city to ensure an adequate and proportionate disabled parking provision,” they said.
“This helps us to inform whether we need to retain or change the design of any interventions,” said the spokesperson.
[CORRECTION: This article was updated on 8 September at 8pm, to correct that Shelly Gaynor has a personal assistant, not a teaching assistant. Apologies for the error.]