A photograph was doing the rounds on social media yesterday of a campaign van for Lorraine Higgins, who is the Labour candidate in the European elections for the Midlands-North West constituency, which is the one I live in. I’m including it here for anyone who hasn’t seen it
Now, as the mother of a person with disabilities who has a parking permit (which by the way costs us €35, they don’t come free despite what many people think!) this annoyed me big style. I don’t know where this photograph was taken and it really doesn’t matter. What is obvious is that there were other spaces the driver could have used. This kind of thing happens all the time. I have lost count of the times I have had to drive round our small town in the hope that one of the disabled spaces might come free – on one memorable occasion I nearly blew a gasket when I saw a works van parked in one of them. While I was sitting in the car seething I saw the driver come back to the van. So I turned off my engine, dashed over and gave him a piece of my mind. To be fair he did apologise but also used that classic line “it was only a few minutes”. That is not acceptable.
Anyway once the photograph above hit social media, Lorraine Higgins issued a comment on Facebook and Twitter last night which I have copied verbatim:
“Thanks for bringing this to my attention. A driver putting up posters at 8am this morning made an honest mistake. It won’t happen again.”
And that really made me see red. No pun intended. My problems with her comment – I can’t call it an apology – are these:
1. She did not apologise – imagine how that makes the disabled community feel. Once again a politician rams home the message that they don’t matter
2. An honest mistake? How could s/he not see the big white disabled parking symbol painted in the space? If s/he couldn’t see it s/he shouldn’t be driving.
3. So it was 8am – so what? People with disabilities are out and about before 8am you know! Or are people with disabilities (like my daughter) and those who care for them (like me) supposed to be hidden away in our houses/care homes while the rest of the world goes about its business?
I sincerely hope Senator Higgins did not mean any of the things I took from her comment. But her words were ill-chosen and the whole comment ill-thought out. I know she is horrendously busy at the moment with her campaign. But that is no excuse. I have seen innumerable reactions to this on social media this morning and members of the disabled and special needs community are disgusted by her response. She has certainly lost herself a good few votes over this. That might seem like an overreaction to some people – you are all entitled to your opinion of course – but just try and think for a minute about what kind of a message this has sent to those of us who live with the reality of disability.