I plan on visiting the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Can I use my accessible parking permit while there? – Carmen, Ottawa
Your blue Ontario parking permit should work fine on the Emerald Isle. But you might not be so lucky in Britain, or the rest of Europe.
“I know that in Ireland the holder of a permit from another country would have the same entitlements as our own permit holders,” Niall McDonnell, with the Irish Wheelchair Association’s National Mobility Centre, said in an e-mail.
Canada is included, along with Australia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and the United States, in a 1997 resolution by the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) to allow disabled motorists to use their parking passes in all the member countries.
But that resolution isn’t actually a formal agreement between countries. And local parking authorities might not know about it. So it doesn’t actually guarantee that you won’t get a ticket if you use your Ontario parking pass in Europe.
“That resolution does set out some very good principles, but we do not have the enforcement mechanism to ensure these are applied in our members,” said Mary Crass, head of institutional relations with the International Transport Forum (ITF, formerly the ECMT). “In terms of implementation, often it is relegated to local parking authorities with insufficient knowledge regarding international agreements – so it’s hard to tell what actual problems are found when hanging up one’s parking badge.”
Accessibility may vary
Countries in the European Union generally recognize each other’s permits. But with passes from other countries, it varies.
For example, a staffer with the Blue Badge program in Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, said disabled parking passes from Canadian provinces should be accepted by local authorities there. But a spokesman with the Blue Badge program in England said they might not be.
“There are currently no formal reciprocal arrangements in place for disabled parking badges issued outside the UK,” said a spokesman for the U.K. Department for Transport in an e-mail.
“Our advice to people visiting England from non-EU countries is to bring their disabled parking badges with them and check with the local authority in the areas they intend to visit to see if their badge would be recognized.”
That’s the same advice the ITF gives when asked if overseas permits will be accepted – which it gets asked a lot, Crass said.
“If someone wants to travel to Germany, this is a state issue and very often a municipal issue,” she said. “So it’s best to call the cities they will be travelling in and ensure their badges will be recognized.”
As people are now driving at older ages, the ability to use parking permits while travelling will become increasingly important, Crass said.
“It makes sense to ensure that older people can travel and disabled people can travel – and use private vehicles if they so wish,” Crass said.
Check before you go
In Canada, each province and territory handles its own disabled parking permits.
When we asked ServiceOntario where Ontarians can travel with their accessible parking permits, it pointed us to the ECMT resolution.
“Before travelling, the permit holder should confirm that their Ontario accessible parking permit will be accepted when travelling outside of Ontario,” Harry Malhi, ServiceOntario spokesman, said in an e-mail.
Since disabled passes in Canada and the United States use the international blue wheelchair symbol, your pass will probably be recognized in most states.
But, wherever you’re travelling, double check on the local rules to see where you’re allowed to park with a disabled permit. In some places, you’re limited to stalls with the disabled symbol.
And if you do get a parking ticket while travelling with your permit?
“[You] can explain that you have a blue badge and, if you’re lucky, the fine will be waived,” said Sue Bott, deputy chief executive with Disability Rights UK. “No guarantees of course.”
Have a driving question? Send it to email@example.com. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.