Adapted Driving

Bearing Disability: Blue Badge & Invisible Disabilities

Blue Badge

Recently, the Blue Badge Scheme has announced that people who were not originally entitled to a blue badge may be able to get one; this has been in affect since August 2019. The new disabilities include epilepsy, autism, and various mental health disorders, such as anxiety along with other hidden or invisible disabilities.

A blue badge is a card that entitles the holder to park on certain lines or in certain bays. The bays usually, but unfortunately not always, are bigger than normal bays, allowing those who need space to get out with more ease.

I personally think this is great but I know many disagree. Disability Horizons has recently published an article on this subject and although they personally stayed neutral, there were followers and commenters who didn’t. One follower said it should only be for wheelchair users—which would rule me out and others commented on lack of space… I’ll comment on both of these later in this post.

It is important to note that Disability Horizons are not responsible for what people comment and I do not blame them for the reaction of others. There is free speech.

Eligible Criteria

According to the Gov website, this is the latest eligibility criteria.

  • unable to walk
  • walk short distances or with difficulty
  • likely harm yourself when walking
  • harm others when walking
  • registered blind or getting certain benefits
  • Get high rate Personal Independent Plan or Disability Living Allowance in the Mobility component

In the last decade, Disability in the UK has taken a turmoil of hits. People in wheelchairs, people with invisible disabilities, with physical difficulties but can walk, with autism, mental health, learning difficulties… anything you can name… has been viciously attacked by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). These people, myself included, have been called liars, told they were not disabled enough and had any benefit they had stripped. Many have gone to tribunal to get these benefits back and this is why I feel the blue badge is a win for the many.

Not to mention, if the local council decide to make sure that these invisible disabilities match the criteria as well as the mentioned disabilities, (which is likely), then there will still be some poor soul who will have to fight the DWP for the high rate on PIP.

And that is an almost impossible task!

Additionally, the government gives local councils this document to determine if someone is entitled to a blue badge. It is the same impossible descriptors that the DWP use to determine if people are entitled to PIP.

Blue Badge & invisible disabilities

invisible disability next to obvious disability

Many people on the Disability Horizon’s facebook comment thread were commenting how people with autism or epilepsy or anxiety did not need blue badges, did not need the extra room and were not in danger of harm.

Some even suggested different colour bays, which is an issue in itself. They, like wheelchair users, are already labeled as disabled. Why categorise these disabilities into coloured bays and cause even more anxiety and fear of being called out for something others cannot see?

It just makes another outcast or minority… and it will be a minority in a minority.

Plus, I strongly disagree that these disabilities are not at risk or harm in the small space

Let’s take epilepsy…

I have had friends with epilepsy, all of which it affected differently.

One person I knew got no warning that she was about to go into a seizure. One minute she would be walking, the next she was on the ground in a fit that she could not get out of.

Imagine the small bays of a British carpark… these bays are so small that they are actually discussing redesigning car parks and charing more as many cars no longer fit in them. So, yes, let’s imagine these small car parks.

Your feet has just touched the floor. You have only just got out of your car. There is half a door’s width… maybe less, between you, someone with epilepsy, your car and the car of another person.

You have a seizure in that small, confined space. You fall forward onto the car in front. And you fall backwards, onto the car behind. You fall to the floor. But the space is not wide enough for someone to get you into the recovery position.

Epileptics need the extra space in the disabled spaces just as much as people in wheelchairs.

How about people with autism?

You are probably thinking to yourself that people with autism will not have seizures. They won’t fall. They won’t need the extra space.

People with autism can have meltdowns. They may find it hard to transition from being in a car to being outside and so movement is hard. The person may need to be supervised for their own safety and so someone needs to get them out the car, but they do not want to be touched. They are in a small, confined space.

Car so close to another that the wrong movement might smack the other car’s door. All because the bay is too small. But this person cannot help it. They’ve gone into sensory overload and they cannot come out of it.

And yes, this person may be an adult!

And if they are having a meltdown they may need to lie on the floor where they stand but they have no room. They cannot move. No one can get to them and they cannot get out.

While this would be the case of people with severe autism it is important not to overlook.

But anxiety doesn’t need the space, surely? Its not physical…

Another one I would like to tackle is anxiety and other mental health disorders.

My anxiety isn’t something I often talk about because I don’t fully understand it; I also have cerebral palsy… this disability I understand and cope with. It makes total sense and I know how to control it to a certain extent.

But my anxiety?

If I could control it, I would be happy. I have gone to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) to get help with some of my triggers, which has helped to a degree… the problem is:

  • I do not know all triggers that cause my anxiety
  • Those I do know are external. I cannot control them or avoid them. They are not predictable.

If I didn’t have my cerebral palsy, I might need the extra because of my anxiety.

My panic attacks cripple me. They cripple me. I have cerebral palsy and it is the anxiety that cripples me.

Have I said that enough? Good.

Because I freeze on the spot. I can usually only move an inch at a time. My body bends forwards, ready to be sick. Five years ago, that sick would never come, but I would still retch as if it would come. Now, I never know ifI am going to throw up or retch… and that adds to the panic attack. I can be gone for ten minutes, motionless. I might need a gentle nudge or guidance. But space is limited and my hunched figure is taking up more than usual.

This is just my anxiety. It is unlikely that I’d have one whilst getting out of the car, but it is possible because of the external factors that trigger it. Others may have triggers that cause their panic attacks more often and make it more common.

Those that don’t need the space

Those that don’t need the extra space on particular days may opt to use a normal bay. Most of the time I use a disabled space as it is hard to get out without hitting the car next to my car. But if the bays are wide, or the carpark is near empty and spaces are limited, I have and will opt for normal bays. I’m sure some others do and will too.

Enough Spaces or Abused Spaces

Another concern is the lack of spaces and abused spaces.

I have travelled to different countries and one of the things that stood out to me was how disability was seen in other cultures. In Amsterdam, no one sat on a priority seat unless they needed to. If the tram seats were full and the priority was left, those that boarded would stand.

In New York, many things are accessible. The subways have lifts at certain stations, always near popular spots and easy walking distance to attractions if the stop was not accessible.

Italy has tiny cafes in the middle of nowhere… tourists are sparse. The toilets are downstairs… so what do they do? They build a lift. Despite being a small cafe with only three or four tables.

UK does not do this. The attitude shows. People abuse spaces. People use the disabled toilets or sit on the priority seats.

We need to encourage a change of attitude to change the abuse.

But how?

Currently, anyone who parks on private land does not need to pay fines by law. Someone can go to the supermarket, park in the disabled spot without the blue badge, get a fine of £90 and put the fine in the bin.

This means that private car parks no longer fine for parking offences. What would the point be? The ticket will end in the bin and the person will do the same the next day, the next week, the next month.

A council owned car park, which are rare, however, will have four, five, six disabled spaces free. If someone is fined in a council owned car park, they MUST pay the fine. So people are less likely to abuse the space. They don’t want to spend more on parking than they have to.

Changing private car parks so the fines HAVE to be paid is the first step to fighting this abuse. It would also free up some of that lack of space people are worried about… apart from in those places where only one or two disabled spaces are available.

My thoughts

I think blue badges extended to disabilities, invisible or otherwise is good and a long time coming. I feel that as a nation, it is not the lack of space we need to fight, but the attitude towards disability.

We need to change this self-entitled attitude we have. It is not the people with anxiety or autism that are taking the disabled bays. It is the self-entitled people who think to themselves “I do not want a normal sized bay because my car is pristine…” or “I’ll only be five minutes, no one will come.”

To change the attitude, we need to give people incentive. It pains me to say that a lot of Britain is self-entitled… I mean half the nation did believe that we could leave the EU and still have all the EU benefits…

So what is this incentive?

A fine they MUST pay. Give someone £200 for parking offences in private car parks and watch the shops give out the tickets… watch as people stop using the blue badges spaces without a blue badge.

Alright, it might not change how they view disability… but from what I’ve seen, some disabled people are no better. Some disabled people do not realise how crippling non-mobility disabilities can actually be. And it’s enough to make them temporarily mobility disabilities.

In terms of changing peoples negative thoughts about disability? Education mostly, like many things. But other than that, I have no idea how other cultures tacked this.

What are your thoughts on the new Blue Badge Criteria? Do you agree with me or do you think that there should be a bay colour code for other disabilities?

Interested to know your opinions

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