It’s Time for the UK to Expand Blue Badge Access for Hidden Disabilities

The UK is considering changing the way its “Blue Badge” parking access scheme works so that people with hidden disabilities are more likely to be included. This is a critical step toward ensuring equal access for people who have to battle the stigma of not having an “obvious” need.

Blue Badge access is a great idea. People in the UK with mobility issues can apply to have a blue parking badge, which allows them to park in spaces that are closer to key destinations. This can include places like hospitals, train stations, shopping outlets, and more.

Blue badge holders are also permitted to park (safely) on roadways where they would otherwise be given a penalty and also to have parking fees waived.

It’s estimated that there are about 2.4 million people who currently qualify for a Blue Badge in England, and there is strong evidence that this scheme really does change lives. According to government figures, about 75 percent of that group say they wouldn’t go out as often if they didn’t have this access.

In essence, these badges can greatly improve a person’s quality of life and help them to find and keep employment, financial stability and more.

But what about people with hidden disabilities? For example, people with autism or people living with sometimes debilitating conditions like crohn’s disease are technically eligible for the Blue Badge, but local councils do not apply the eligibility criteria in a uniform way. That means that people living in one area may be able to access the scheme, while those just a few cities over with the same condition may not be granted a Blue Badge.

The UK government wants to change that and embarked on a consultation on the issue.

“People with hidden disabilities may be finding it difficult to access badges, even though their condition causes them very significant difficulties when undertaking a journey,” Transport Minister Jesse Norman said in a press release, ”The department has accordingly committed to look again at how the scheme works for people with hidden disabilities, to ensure that the rules and guidance are clear and that those with the greatest needs have access to a Blue Badge. This accords with the government’s manifesto commitment to give parity of esteem to mental and physical health conditions.”

A major change proposed in this consultation is how people with hidden disabilities are assessed for Blue Badge eligibility. Currently, a person is assessed by an independent mobility assessor. They are supposed to give proper consideration to mobility issues that are not immediately obvious, but these assessors are not forced to have a background in medicine. That leads to people being denied badges despite needing them.

Under the proposed rules, the responsibility for assessing applicants would be given to healthcare professionals like an applicant’s doctor, someone who is better placed to understand the mental and physical health needs of their patients.

The assessment criteria would also change. The current emphasis is on how well someone can walk a judged distance. However, this current standard fails to acknowledge the nature of some disabilities. For example, people with multiple sclerosis may find they have little difficulty walking when they are in remission. However, when they are experiencing a flare-up, they may be unable to walk far. Similarly, people who have had a stroke may be able to walk on some days but not others.

“The National Autistic Society welcomes this Government proposal,” Sarah Lambert, Head of Policy at the National Autistic Society, said in a press release earlier this year,  “It could mean that many more autistic people will qualify for a Blue Badge, which can be a lifeline.”

“There are an estimated 700,000 autistic people in the UK and whilst every person on the autism spectrum is different, for some, not being able to park in a predictable place close to a destination can cause a great deal of anxiety and put their safety at risk,” Lambert explains,  “Some autistic people can experience too much information from the environment around them on public transport, while other autistic people might not be aware of dangers on the road. … We hope the Government will make this important change and we look forward to working with them to make sure that autistic people and their families benefit.”

The consultation is now closed to official comments, but it is critical that the public be aware of the possible changes and push the government to follow through on these common sense proposals.

TAKE ACTION!

Sign the petition today to tell the government that opening up the Blue Badge parking scheme isn’t just a good idea, it’s a basic right every person living with mobility issues deserves.

Related at Care2

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

33 comments

KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssues1 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssues1 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssues1 months ago

already signed

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Winn A
Winn A2 months ago

Noted

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Joanna M
Joanna M2 months ago

As a disabled person, I think it's great...but as some commented below, there will definitely be abuse. That said, there is always abuse with these kinds of things. We can't let that stop us from doing all we can to help legitimately disabled people.

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Roberto M
Roberto MARINI2 months ago

thank you Steva for this artcile

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Shirley S
Shirley S2 months ago

Good move

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Anne M
Anne M2 months ago

I agree,, it's time...

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Loredana V
Loredana V2 months ago

Signed, thanks for posting

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Cathy B
Cathy B2 months ago

Agreed. Thank you.

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