A few days ago, while looking for parking just outside the restricted traffic zone (ZTL) in a city center, we realized that Italian disabled individuals have a significant number of reserved parking spaces and, above all, own SUVs in a proportion higher than the average population.
So, we wondered: isn't it time to stop these privileges? As we continued our tour, we noticed that from those SUVs, shiny and expensive sedans, people with disabilities or motor problems did not get in or out. Instead, it was middle-aged couples with a following of branded bags and packages. Instead of paying for parking or walking a few hundred meters, they had simply chosen to occupy a reserved space. To others. I imagine that in their minds, they truly thought: "these disabled people, they want all the parking spaces for themselves".
In the face of the audacity and arrogance with which perfectly healthy individuals believe they can with impunity occupy spaces reserved for vulnerable or weak subjects, such as pregnant women or families with young children, one truly wonders why those spaces should continue to exist.
What was supposed to be a gesture of respect and facilitation for people with reduced or difficult mobility has become an act of contempt for the same categories, who consistently find those spaces occupied, gaining frustration instead of mobility assistance. Usually, the abusers get away with the "5-minute" slogan: they are always there for 5 minutes, a time too short to search for a parking space not reserved for others. And if this lack of respect for civilized living is challenged, there is usually a reaction of anger and threats, as it is easy to act splendid with those who are obviously at a disadvantage.
And so, in the face of the negligence of those who should enforce and fine, we should really ask ourselves: if we cannot ensure their proper use, do we want to abolish these reserved parking spaces? This is a question that sometimes becomes such a glaring example of Darwinism and social contempt that it immediately inclines towards an affirmative answer. Like when, for instance, in the Ikea parking lot, a couple in their twenties occupies the space reserved for families. Isn't the sign clear, or would walking an extra 10 meters ruin their sneakers? Are you perhaps going to Ikea for just 5 minutes? Or when in the parking lot of the shopping center with an attached gym, you witness a poorly 40-year-old who decides that he cannot walk 50 steps, and therefore it is necessary to prey on the disabled parking space to go in and spend two hours on the treadmill. Apparently, he doesn't want to walk too much before walking a hundred times as much on a rubber belt.
This is not a crusade against the young, SUV owners, or those in their forties who go to the gym. Not yet. It's about understanding the anthropological reasons why it seems impossible to respect that minimum of additional rights sought to be granted to categories that life, fate, or health have decided to penalize. It's also about understanding why there isn't a system to relentlessly fine overbearing and cynical motorists who decide to exercise this form of arrogant road power.
In Italy, according to Istat, there are almost 13 million disabled people. Over 3 million of them are in a condition of severe disability, and about 50% of them are over 75 years old. Since funds for their support and social benefits are always scarce, perhaps it would be appropriate to establish a national fund funded by fines imposed on the impulsive, the clever parkers, the philosophers of the 5 minutes. A positively punitive innovation that could be facilitated by the new system, currently being implemented, of the Unified European Disabled Parking Permit, which simplifies mobility between different municipalities for disabled people and certifies their condition without bureaucratic doubts.
With a fine of 100 euros for each violation, thousands of euros would flow into the fund every day from every city in Italy. It would be an eye-opening lesson for those who can't read parking signs well and a system of targeted and punitive civic taxation for those who can read them but choose to ignore them with arrogance.
Photos by Marco Squadroni