One of the hidden disabilities parking spaces in Dungarvan. Photo: Waterford City and County Council/Facebook

Support at council meeting for autism friendly parking

Cork County Council has backed calls for the rollout of autism friendly parking spaces across the county.

The spaces, as set out in a motion by Fine Gael Cllr Sinéad Sheppard, would work in a similar way to the those introduced through the Age Friendly programme.

At Mondy’s meeting of Cork County Council, Cllr Sheppard said her motion had come in response to a number of parents contacting her. She said simple everyday tasks like shopping, attending appointments, going to parks with kids or public amenities can be very challenging for people with hidden disabilities such as autism.

“Often, because we can’t see physical evidence of the disability, it can be difficult for people to understand or recognise the challenges of others and to respond with empathy and patience,” added Cllr Sheppard.

In 2021, Waterford City and County Council became the first local authority in the country to provide hidden disability parking spaces. The spaces, which are in Dungarvan, are marked with yellow sunflowers.

Cllr Sheppard continued: “In Cobh we are trying to aim to be an autism friendly town and this would go a long way.”

Ms Sheppard added that a pilot scheme in her own area of Cobh may be a good starting point for the scheme.

Responding to Cllr Sheppard’s motion, Cork County Council Chief Executive, Valerie O'Sullivan, said the council would gladly pilot autism friendly spaces but would need to do so in partnership with Autism Supporting Diversity Ireland.

“They would be the drivers and they would have to have the approval and partnership of ourselves. We’d be more than willing to look at it with them,” said Ms O'Sullivan.

Cllr Sheppard’s motion will now go to a Roads and Transportation Special Policy Committee meeting for further discussion.