On 30 August 2019, Blue Badges will become eligible for people with hidden disabilities. The changes were made by the Blue Badge scheme and the Department for Transport.
The new guidance, which represents the biggest change to the scheme since the 1970s, will offer a lifeline to people who often find road travel difficult by providing better access to work and other amenities.
It will also help combat loneliness by enabling them to stay connected to family and friends.
Who will be eligible for a Blue Badge?
People who will be eligible for a Blue Badge include those with autism, dementia, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said:
“The changes will make a huge difference to thousands of autistic people and their families across England – helping them to go out in the way many others take for granted.
Just leaving the house is incredibly difficult for many autistic people – and involves detailed preparation. Some autistic people have no concept of the dangers of the road while others are so anxious about plans going wrong, like not being able to find a parking space, that they don’t go out at all. Having a Blue Badge will be life-changing and help many to reduce loneliness and isolation.”
Catherine Renton, who has anxiety, shared her joy over the new changes. Writing in the Metro, she said:
“I’ve suffered from anxiety since my teens. When I am symptomatic just getting out of the house is a monumental task.
When I heard the news that the Department for Transport had issued new guidance – which means those with hidden disabilities like anxiety and autism can have blue badges – I was overjoyed.”
However, not everyone with non-physical disabilities will qualify for a badge. It will be up to the relevant local authority to decide if an applicant meets the eligibility criteria, as is currently the case.
Public awareness about the Blue Badge scheme
Another factor the Blue Badge scheme and Department for Transport need to consider is making the general public aware that people with hidden disabilities are now eligible for a badge.
According to Business Disability Forum; “The announcement of a public awareness campaign about the Blue Badge Scheme is also important. When we asked disabled people about any difficulties they experience when using the scheme, abuse and harassment from members of the public was a key factor. Many people who contacted us were carers for adults or children with conditions which the extended guidance now more explicitly covers.”
Concerns over the number of disabled parking spaces
One concern many current Blue Badge holders have is that with the number of holders increasing, will there be enough disabled spaces to meet demand?
Disabled Motoring UK (DMUK) raised concerns over the possible effect the expansion would have on already limited disabled parking. DMUK urged the Department for Transport to be realistic in its thinking. Just extending the criteria will not necessarily mean that more disabled people will benefit.
Actually, this change may have disastrous consequences for all Blue Badge holders, especially wheelchair users, as there is simply not enough parking to meet demand and concessions could soon disappear because of increased numbers.
If you’re eligible, apply for or renew a Blue Badge online.
By Emma Purcell – check out her blog post Should Blue Badges be given to people with hidden disabilities?
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