After finishing Part 1 — on handicap parking in the US — I was a little concerned about what I might find in other corners of the world. But I think Europe has embarrassingly out-shined the US on this issue.
In my humble and online-research-based opinion, the US makes it far more difficult to travel between 50 “united” states than Europe does for it’s near 50 countries. Let’s ponder this for a moment…
USA: 1 national language
European Union: 23 official languages
(Not to mention there is an entire extra tier of beaurocrats to every decision-making process.)
Let’s figure this out.
In 1978, the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) agreed to grant the same parking privileges to people with disabilities (from any ECMT member country) as they offer their own national citizens. To put that into perspective, the US signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), requiring handicap parking, in 1990.
In 1997, the ECMT expanded it’s scope to include “Associated Countries”: Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and the USA. This move was likely responsible for the ECMT’s name change to International Transport Forum (ITC) in 2007.
Today, there are over 50 “member countries” in the ITC–see the complete list here.
The only requirement to get these special privileges is to have an official badge displaying the international wheelchair symbol. The trick is, you still have to familiarize yourself with the specific privileges for each country. For example, Denmark and the UK require a parking disc (aka “clock”), in addition to the badge, to indicate parking time so that time limits can be enforced.
If you will be road-tripping in Europe, this concise pamphlet will give you a brief overview of handicap parking rules in each country.
And if all else fails and you get ticketed, just start yelling at them in a language they don’t speak — you are after all traveling. And, if you don’t know a different language, make one up! 🙂
The coolest person I know did that in a different but effectively similar situation, so it has my stamp of approval.