Monday 1 July 2019

Blue Badge Parking

Disabled parking spaces, with white wheelchair symbols and yellow markings
around the parking spaces. There are also blue and yellow bollards
in front of the spaces.

Disabled parking and Blue Badges are currently a hot topic in the disabled community at the moment what with the government bring in new changes next month.

Currently Blue Badges are available to people with disabilities that affect their mobility, these people include wheelchair users and those only able to walk very short distances due to a physical impairment or something like a respiratory condition.
"In my opinion, I've alway's seen disabled parking as a lifeline for people who have physical mobility issues."  - Ross
Disabled parking spaces are located nearer to venues making the short walking distance easier.  They also have extra space around the car to allow people to get out the car more easily, such as to open the car door fully open to make it easier to get out the car, have assistance getting out the car or to get into their wheelchair or for ramps or larger Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAV).
People who are visually impaired are also currently eligible for Blue Badges. It's also safe as you are close to dropped kerbs so you don't have to walk/wheel where there are moving cars.

However, from August 30th 2019, people with hidden disabilities such as dementia, autism and mental health conditions may also be eligible for a blue badge. This is the biggest change to the Blue Badge scheme since the 1970's.

Whist I'm not against people with mental health conditions and autism; having autism and mental health problems myself, I don't see why everyone in this category would need a Blue Badge. 
I can understand say for a parent with a child with autism who isn't aware of dangers would be helpful, but why does someone with depression or anxiety need a Blue Badge?
The new criteria will extend to people who:
  • Cannot undertake a journey without there being a risk of serious harm to their health or safety or that of any other person (such as young children with autism)
  • Cannot undertake a journey without it causing them very considerable psychological distress
  • Have very considerable difficulty when walking (the the physical act and experience of walking
A person who is in extreme psychological distress does not need the extra space around their car and though they are distressed, this may not affect there ability to walk across a car park, and there are still plenty of spaces nearby to shops, retail parks, shopping centres, cinemas, high streets extra that don't have the excess space a Blue Badge space has. 

Blue Badge spaces are already seriously misused. My local cinema has 6 disabled parking bays; last time we visited none of these spaces where available making it very difficult for myself who needed to be close the the cinema entrance and have a dropped kerb. 4 out of those 6 spaces where misused which no Blue Badge being displayed. Bringing this to the attention of the duty manager I was told they only provide disabled parking spaces as a courtesy! These spaces are not a courtesy, or a luxury or a perk of being disabled as many non-disabled people see them as; they are an essential. 

Without a disabled parking space I my Dad or my carers would have great difficulty getting my wheelchair out of the boot; I would have difficulty getting out the car, and if it's a very short journey, like nipping into the pharmacy where I would just use my crutches and I can sit inside I would very much struggle to walk from the car into the store as I can only walk short distance without increasing my levels of pain, fatigue and breathlessness and should I say have a seizure I need to be close by to the car. We also keep things in that car that we need easy access to such as a change of clothes and keeping them in the car means we don't have to carry them around with us.

I can understand giving Blue Badges to people in the last point in the quote about from GOV.UK as that still in my opinion would be classed as a mobility impairment as conditions like M.E. and FND (I'll use these two conditions as an example having them myself so I can't make a mistake speaking about them from my experience of having them) as my M.E. causes severe levels of fatigue and pain so walking even short distances is very difficult for me so I use a wheelchair or crutches and therefore need to park close by to shops and with my FND again I struggle with my mobility as my brain-leg connection's don't work so working takes a great deal of effort, and results in fatigue and my legs turning to jelly so again I use crutches or my wheelchair to get around to alleviate my symptoms and walking difficulties. 

But even those with invisible disabilities who don't use mobility aids may have difficulty with walking longer distances and so they would benefit from a Blue Badge and their mobility difficulties would be reflected in their DLA*/PIP* (or other benefit such as Attendance Allowance) which is what most local councils use to determine whether a person is eligible for a Blue Badge. 

However, people with conditions like mental health issues would most likely have little or no points on their mobility component on their DLA/PIP award. If I took my mental health problems or my autism on their own I would get no points on my PIP as they don't affect my ability to walk and probably parking further away would probably benefit my anxiety rather than parking close by and dashing in and out the store and when I'm unwell or struggling with my mental health/autism I would have someone with me to ensure I'm safe walking in the car park incase I run off, become overwhelmed or had a meltdown. Now, this is just my experience; it could be different for others. I also feel in the cases of individuals with anxiety it would be counterproductive for them the park nearby to venues, as walking across the car park is challenging their anxiety, as long as they are safe to do so.

*DLA - Disability Living Allowance      *PIP - Personal Independence Payments

My two biggest concerns are
  1. How will eligibility be policed, like for example currently it is usually assessed by the points you have on the mobility component of you DLA/PIP award
  2. People taking advantage and exaggerating say their mental illness to get a Blue Badge
  3. Currently there is a lack of Blue Badge spaces and gross misuse of them (from my experience) and with the roll out of an increase in those becoming eligible for Blue Badges it's going to make it even harder for those who need the wider spaces around cars to find a parking space. If the government gave out more funding for extra spaces to shops, hospitals, town centres etc then great - alternatively, an Idea I had could be to turn existing normal spaces into Blue Badge spaces so those with Blue Badges who don't need the extra space e.g. those with mental health problems that would be a good idea too.