By Jorain Ng
A man leaving a market walks towards the parking lot, when he spotted a car without the SG Enable-issued label parked in a disabled parking lot. He approached the car owner and advised her to move her car, but was rebuffed by the car owner who replied that she did not mind getting fined as she was wealthy.
This is a very disheartening scenario, and one that happens frequently in Singapore. It seems like once every few months a member of the public writes in to Singapore’s newspaper forum citing another abuse of disabled parking lots. All these acts of violation could be prevented if we pass stricter laws on disabled parking.
Although accessibility for persons with mobility impairments is my biggest concern, there are other arguments that point to this solution as well.
The law regulating the use of disabled parking lots lacks bite. Rule 29(1) of the Parking Places Act states that no person shall park in any reserved parking lot unless he is authorised by the Superintendent and unless such authorisation is displayed on the vehicle. Offenders only pay a small price ranging from $25 to $80, depending on the type of vehicle. It is hardly surprising that drivers without the SG Enable-issued labels continue to abuse these disabled parking spaces .
The opposition would argue that imposing stricter laws does not tackle the root cause – the cause being apathy or a general lack of awareness and sensitivity towards the needs of persons with disabilities. Indeed, real kindness cannot be legislated, given the spontaneity of this natural human sentiment that prompts us, at the level of our souls and spirits, to have a care toward each other.
But this rebuttal neglects the symbolic significance of having stricter laws. Stricter laws will give a certain gravitas to the long-standing issue of abuse and send a strong message to the public that continued abuse is a serious matter that will not be tolerated by the Government. It will also signify the Government’s commitment to protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.
Opponents might also argue in favour of the soft approach. Using public awareness and moral appeals to influence public opinion and behaviour, in their opinion, should be the way to go. They inform, educate, and encourage individuals to “do the right thing” which, in this case, is respecting the use of disabled parking lots.
But moral suasion alone will not stop the abuse of disabled parking lots. Ensuring public compliance most often requires the use of both the carrot and the stick. The Singapore government acknowledges this fact and, in their approach to litter prevention for example, continues to enforce strict laws on littering despite conducting “Clean and Green” campaigns.
Enforcing stricter laws will also ensure greater accessibility for persons with physical disabilities. For most wheelchair users traveling to places with no wheelchair-accessible bus services and sheltered linkway from MRT stations, hiring a wheelchair accessible bus or taxi is the preferred mode of transport. The only potential drawback is that the drivers cannot find an available disabled parking spot which will enable them to assist their passenger in boarding and disembarking the vehicle smoothly. Enforcing stricter laws will ensure that these drivers and the passengers they ferry are ensured access to the disabled parking lots.
Another argument opponents might make is that it is not easy to ensure public compliance simply by enforcing stricter laws because of jurisdiction issues. SG Enable may be the agency responsible for issuing the disabled parking labels but they have no legal authority to punish drivers who park at disabled parking lots without authorisation. Currently the Housing Development Board (HDB) have the jurisdiction to fine and give demerit points to illegal parkers at HDB flats. But at other places like shopping malls and private estates, there is no legal authority that can oversee and enforce the law.
Admittedly, there is currently no solution for this issue of jurisdiction. Yet, there are areas where enforcement is possible, like the HDB flats mentioned above. It is at these places where drivers ferrying persons with disabilities or drivers with physical disabilities themselves can benefit from stricter enforcement.
For those of us who are not physically disabled, like the lady mentioned at the start of this paper, it is easy to overlook or even disregard the needs of persons with disabilities. This is where the law, backed in teeth and bite, in conjunction with public education must come into the picture. The outcome will be a Singapore society that is barrier-free and inclusive for persons with disabilities.
 In Singapore, the SG Enable-issued labels authorises the use of disabled parking lot for a certain amount of time depending on who the driver is. Drivers with physical disabilities can park in the designated lot for any duration, while drivers ferrying people with physical disabilities can temporarily park in the lot for up to 60 minutes only, when ferrying passengers who require the use of bulky mobility aids and must shift their vehicles after bringing their passenger to a safe place. SG Enable, “Car Park Label Scheme for Persons with Physical Disabilities,” https://www.sgenable.sg/schemes/accessibility/car-park-label-scheme-for-persons-with-physical-disabilities/ (accessed 5 Dec 2014).
 This is an actual case that occurred in December 29, 2014. Ong Soon Kiat, “Enforce law on handicap parking more strictly,” The Straits Times, 29 Dec 2014, http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/forum-letters/story/enforce-law-handicap-parking-more-strictly-20141229 (accessed 10 January 2015).
 ‘Parking Places Act,’ No. 5 of 1974, in Chapter 214, Section 8, Republic of Singapore Government Gazette Acts Supplement, http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;page=0;query=DocId%3A%22777ad723-96ca-4c53-bd25-37190b6f1576%22%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0#pr29-he-. (accessed 5 Dec. 2014).
 A Motor Cycle pays a $25 fine, Motor Car pays $50 fine, and Heavy Vehicles pays $80 fine. For more information, please see Housing & Development Board, “Parking Rules and Fine Amount,” HDB InfoWEB, “Parking Rules and Fine Amount,” https://www.hdb.gov.sg/fi10/fi10327p.nsf/w/CarPark1RulesNFine?OpenDocument#ActiveTabContent (accessed 5 Dec. 2014).
 Goh Chin Lian, “Nicholas Aw: ‘We need laws to protect rights of the disabled’,” Singapolitics, 16 Nov. 2013, http://www.singapolitics.sg/supperclub/nicholas-aw-we-need-laws-protect-rights-disabled (accessed 5 Dec. 2014).
Goh Chin Lian. “Nicholas Aw: ‘We need laws to protect rights of the disabled’.” Singapolitics, 16 Nov. 2013, http://www.singapolitics.sg/supperclub/nicholas-aw-we-need-laws-protect-rights-disabled (accessed 5 Dec. 2014).
HDB InfoWEB. “Parking Rules and Fine Amount.” https://www.hdb.gov.sg/fi10/fi10327p.nsf/w/CarPark1RulesNFine?OpenDocument#ActiveTabContent (accessed 5 Dec. 2014).
Ong Soon Kiat. “Enforce law on handicap parking more strictly.” The Straits Times, 29 Dec 2014, http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/forum-letters/story/enforce-law-handicap-parking-more-strictly-20141229 (accessed 10 January 2015).
‘Parking Places Act.’ No. 5 of 1974, in Chapter 214, Section 8, Republic of Singapore Government Gazette Acts Supplement, http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;page=0;query=DocId%3A%22777ad723-96ca-4c53-bd25-37190b6f1576%22%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0#pr29-he-. (accessed 5 Dec. 2014)
SG Enable. “Car Park Label Scheme for Persons with Physical Disabilities.” https://www.sgenable.sg/schemes/accessibility/car-park-label-scheme-for-persons-with-physical-disabilities/ (accessed 5 Dec 2014).