A new app is set to help disabled drivers find parking spaces across Limerick - sparking calls for it to be rolled out nationwide.
Limerick City and County Council is the first local authority in Ireland to begin using the SpaceFinder service, which has been developed by local firm ParkMagic, supported by the Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland (DDAI).
The app can pinpoint vacant accessible spaces and for those with Apple CarPlay.
The council's traffic department installed small sensors at accessible parking bays in its city centre business district, information from which provides real-time updates on the SpaceFinder and Limerick eParking apps about whether or not it is available.
For the first time ever, the system will enable local authorities to collect real time information on accessible bay usage and turnover.
Such data is key in planning the provision and location of accessible spaces in the future.
Steven Casey (pictured above) is a wheelchair user and driver. He uses the app, which allows him to find one of the 40 accessible disabled parking spaces in Limerick city centre.
"This is a game changer for me. Disabled drivers have to do a lot of planning ahead and I usually go to spaces I'm familiar with only to find them occupied, and not always by a disabled drivers car," he said.
The Mayor of the City and County of Limerick, Cllr Daniel Butler, said: "Limerick City and County Council is delighted to be leading the way again in supporting disabled drivers and visitors to the city with convenient on-street parking.
"We are embracing the use of innovative technology to give them real-time information on where free spaces are located. We can also use the information to analyse usage levels to allow us to plan for the future."
Paul Fitzgerald, the chief executive of ParkMagic, said: "We were delighted to spearhead the development of this service and its launch in Limerick City with the assistance of Limerick City and County Council.
"We believe it demonstrates the real-world benefits for both drivers and the environment of using the very latest technologies to shorten the search time for available spaces, saving time, fuel, traffic and stress."
The Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland (DDAI) is now asking every local authority to consider using the SpaceFinder service.
Richard Ryder, its communications manager, said: "For many of our members and others in the disabled driver community, finding an available accessible parking bay can be an incredibly difficult, time-consuming and frustrating experience.
"Often, it can mean a lot of searching and in some cases, a wasted journey as the driver is forced to return home and try again later.
"A service like SpaceFinder that gives real-time information on accessible parking bays in cities and towns across Ireland would be a huge boost, and we would ask local authorities to give serious consideration to this excellent initiative."
SpaceFinder App for disabled drivers has its Irish launch in Limerick.
The app is available on Apple and Android devices.