Deputy Sorca Clarke wants the council to introduce Sunflower Parking Spaces in Blackhall and other public car parks in the county.

Sunflower parking spaces 'make life easier' for people with hidden disabilities - Clarke

Longford Westmeath Sinn Féin TD Sorca Clarke has called on Westmeath County Council to introduce Sunflower Parking Spaces in all major towns and villages.

The purpose of Sunflower Spaces, explained Deputy Clarke, are “to make life a little easier for those living with a hidden disability and having them available in car parks for people who are not blue badge holders makes local facilities and amenities more accessible”.

“Hidden disabilities can include learning difficulties, mental health disorders as well as mobility, speech, visual or hearing impairments. They can also include conditions such as asthma, COPD, and other debilitating lung conditions as well as chronic illnesses such as renal failure, diabetes, and sleep disorders all of which can greatly impact an individual's quality of life

“Living with these types of conditions can make daily life more demanding for many people. They affect each person in different ways and can be painful, exhausting, and isolating. Without visible evidence of a hidden disability, it is frequently difficult for others to acknowledge the challenges people face meaning sympathy and understanding can often be in short supply.

“Similar pilot schemes are being run in other local authorities across the country and there is no reason why, for very little cost, it cannot be implemented in Westmeath,” concluded Deputy Clarke.

Sinn Féin local area representative for Mullingar Town, Hazel Behan, echoed the calls of Deputy Clarke for the council to introduce Sunflower Spaces across the county.

“I feel it imperative that Westmeath acknowledges those living in our community with hidden disabilities and follow the progressive lead of other local authorities that have successfully implemented this system in public car parking facilities.

“Having Sunflower Spaces raises awareness and greatly assists people with hidden disabilities who can face significant challenges in their daily lives. By making sure everyone knows what the sunflower signifies shows that someone who has chosen to park in this type of designated space may need some additional support and lead to additional understanding and tolerance.

“I look forward to Westmeath County Council taking the necessary steps in order to make our communities more inclusive and the lives of people with hidden disabilities more tolerable by implementing this relatively cheap and sensible measure," Ms Behan said.