EU Disability Parking Card: more cooperation needed

1 April 2019

On the 26 March, the Disability Intergroup held a meeting on the EU Disability Parking Card which brought together policymakers, persons with disabilities and authorities responsible for implementing it.

The Disability Parking Card is one of the most visible EU initiatives for persons with disabilities, and it is also one of the oldest ones. It was created in 1998. Taking the form of a recommendation, it is not binding and provides only for minimal harmonisation, mostly concerning the design.

The conference focused on three main points:

  • The different ways in which the Card is issued

  • Who is eligible for the Card

  • Fraudulent use and blocking of parking spaces reserved for persons with disabilities

The conference included showcase of good practices:

“Operation Enable” is an initiative that has been running in Dublin since 2007. It is run by the police and the contracted parking enforcement body but also in collaboration with the local authority, the Irish Disabled Drivers’ Association and an organisation representing wheelchair users. It is focusing on the misuse of the Card and the blocking of disabled parking spaces.

Concretely, the police used plain clothed officers to check the validity and also the name of the Card holder. By lunchtime of the first day of the campaign they had already seized 11 Cards that were used fraudulently. Over the first year they seized a total of 80 Cards, including from a lady who used the Card of a deceased relative (who passed away over 10 years ago). The most frequent misuse were family members using the Card of relatives - however, the police did not find any fake permits that had been forged or copied.

Since the beginning of “Operation Enable”, there was an increase in the number of parking tickets issued: from 2589 tickets in 2017, in 2018 it was 4138, a 60 % increase. As a result, the penalty has also risen from 80 € to 150 €.

The initiative got a lot of media coverage which also led to more hints on misuse. It has also achieved an impressive social media presence, with their twitter account having over 500 000 followers. This has helped to gain traction nationally and EU-wide, leading to a European initiative led by TISPOL (European Traffic Police Network) which will be launched on 3 December 2019.

The “handi2park” system which is a free mobile application that has been developed by the government. The main reason for launching this system was the fact that 1/3 of cards that are checked in Brussels are not valid anymore.

According to Brussels law, there should be 2 PRM spaces for every 50 parking spaces but at the moment there are only 1 in 62. 6957 tickets for blocking a disabled parking spaces have been issued in 2018, on average 19 fines per day. The police can give a maximum fine of 174 € and can have the card towed; parking attendants can only charge 25 € and then report the case to police.

“Handi2park” has been used since January 2019 and already caught 259 cases of fraud in the zone of Brussels-West only. A database will support the Brussels municipalities to enforce their rules because each of the 19 municipalities has their own parking plan. There will also be a map viewer where you can see the parking spaces in the application and persons with disabilities will also be able to search for free parking spaces in real time. This can already be done via “Parking Brussels, the “on wheels” application, and soon also via the on-board computer of cars.

As a result of the meeting, EDF issues the following recommendations:

  • Further harmonize the rules on eligibility and the issuing procedure, in a form which is binding for Member States. In particular, look at the issues of the validity of the Card, penalties in case of fraud, and the criteria for receiving a Card in the first place

  • Facilitate the exchange of good practices between the national authorities, by starting a Commission working group on the subject, allowing ideas to develop on an EU level

  • Support other EU initiatives such as the EU Disability Card which cannot replace the Parking Card and but they are connected.

  • Since there seems to be a difficulty for the Card users to understand the applicable rules for using the disabled parking spaces in different Member States or even just municipalities, EDF recommends establishing a comprehensive database which gives an overview of the rules as long as they are not harmonized.

  • Even though there is a standardised model of the Card in the original Council Recommendation the design of the Card varies significantly in practice, which makes enforcement difficult. Especially in a cross-border context or in places with many tourists.

You can read the meeting report below

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