Parking by Card

By A.C.

Do any of you remember Angus Og, a comic strip in the Daily record, by Ewen Bain? I loved the deep cutting insight and gentle, wry humour of the genius that was Ewen Bain. One comic strip I remember was that of Angus’ mother in the Hebridean croft house using a broom handle to switch on the electric light. Few words were needed to show the distrust of electricity, even when it was decades after its arrival on the fictional island.

Recent articles  have been emerging about credit or debit card only payments for parking in car parks.

This is clearly, a move toward saving money, as Councils do not have to collect the cash, repair any damage caused by thieves trying to open the cash box, employ cashiers, and they save money in the whole process.

Fair enough, but what if you have poor eyesight, limited mobility in your fingers, or one is balancing on a stick, or the technology is just confusing and the phone one carries is used simply for talking to people?

I have always been resigned to technological progress and the inevitable clash between my ability to use that technology, understand it and hope that the Bureaucrats in the Councils do not use cost-cutting exercises to save money which cause exclusion to the elderly, disabled and those who just eschew smartphones.

According to Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, while talking to the Telegraph, “pay by phone parking and other automated services present “huge difficulties” for many older people, more than half of whom are deaf or have hearing problems, with large numbers suffering from arthritis, making it hard for them to use mobile technology”

Paul Green, spokesman for the over-50s company Saga, also speaking to the Telegraph, said: “Car parks should be designed around the users, not just for the convenience of those that run them. Whilst older age groups are the fastest growing users of technology, there are some who do not use mobile phones on a regular basis, and others who simply prefer using cash. Technology should be used to help liberate people and offer more choices, not to find ways to exclude them.”

I also saw further coverage on this subject on the BBC News, which had other aspects of this technology explained.

Apparently one has to Text from the phone to a number, giving, location, car registration number, and insert the card.

This, in my opinion, appears to be being a jobs-worth’s paradise, to get revenue by issuing penalties, or removing vehicles and charging storage on a daily basis. Those who can pay, have cash, but find the technology intimidating, or difficult to use because of disability, would be excluded because they cannot or choose not to use the technology demanded.
Thieves might even view these car parks as honeypots, where vulnerable people produce smartphones and bank cards, and take a longer time to pay the required charge. I would speculate that a queue would form as someone tries to pay, and frustration at age and disability boils over from those waiting.

Aberdeen City Council Officials, in a recent report to the Council, stated that upgrading the parking machines to accept credit/debit cards would cost £230.000 and was not recommended. The Press and Journal reported this story here.

The inevitable march of technology should be designed to be inclusive to all sections of society.

Progress in technology is inevitable, but unless a close eye is kept on councils then they will adopt money-saving schemes such as using smartphones to pay charges, and that could mean exclusion to a growing and ageing part of the population.

We should not fear the technology, but rather try to learn and embrace it. Many of us though, for all kinds of reasons will not, or cannot cope with this “Smart technology”.

Many would rather just put a coin into a slot.

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