A couple of days ago the papers, the TV news, chat shows and social media were up in arms about a couple of celebrities who had decided that it was all right to park in accessible parking spaces on the street when neither of them had the blue badges issued to disabled people who need priority parking due to their impairment.
Arguments raged back and forth about whether or not this was acceptable and, as it was just for a short time whilst they celebrity nipped into a shop, would anyone actually be inconvenienced.
Well, the answer is a resounding NO, it is not acceptable. If you do not have an impairment which means you have been issued with a blue badge, do not park in an accessible parking space. It is perfectly possible that you will be inconveniencing someone who does need that space, even if you are only going to be parked there for a couple of minutes.
Much of the argument about the celebrities centred on people talking about, firstly, the number of times someone had seen a car with a blue badge parking and then someone getting out of that car who did not have a wheelchair, crutches, a guide dog or any other visible ‘badge’ indicating that they were, indeed, a disabled person, and secondly that the person who had been issued with the badge might not have been present but that an errand was being run on their behalf.
In response to the people propounding the first of those arguments, well it’s funny, but contrary to popular belief, the majority of impairments are not visible. And, just because you cannot see what the impairment is, it does not mean it does not exist.
For example, a person with MS or ME who has not yet got to a point with their illness where the need a walking aid or a wheelchair may still have limitations on how far they can walk before they collapse. A person with an anxiety disorder may be able to manage to go out briefly if they do not have to deal with stress and crowds but would need to be able to park close to where they need to go to avoid things that could trigger their condition. Someone with incontinence problems may need to be able to park close to a public toilet so they can use it urgently in order to avoid having an ‘accident’. There are a myriad of different impairments which mean that a disabled person may need to be able to park as close as possible to their destination and the majority of these people may not have a visible piece of equipment which gives a clue as to their impairment.
The second argument that was being used and discussed were the people who were saying that they used a blue badge and parked in an accessible parking space, even though they weren’t disabled themselves, because they were doing something for a disabled friend or relative and had, therefore, borrowed that person’s blue badge.
Well. in that instance, NO it is not acceptable.
Its very simple really. Blue badges should only be used when the disabled person who was issued with that badge is present. If the disabled person is being dropped off for an appointment or is being collected from somewhere then sure, park in an accessible parking space nearby and use the blue badge. The disabled person, who was issued with the badge, needs the vehicle they are using to be in close proximity. What may not be OK, however, is to park in an accessible parking place to nip into a shop or some other establishment whilst leaving the disabled person, whose badge it is, in the vehicle. I say may not because there may be instances when a non disabled carer is with a disabled person, who does not need to get out of the vehicle during a short errand, but who the carer needs to be able to see to make sure they are safe or who needs the reassurance of being able to see their companion at all times. What is not OK is to use the blue badge when the disabled person is not present just because the friend or family member is running an errand on behalf of that disabled person. For example, using the blue badge to park near to the pharmacy so the friend, or family member, can pick up a prescription, on behalf of the disabled badge holder, who is safe at work or at home.
The whole situation is a minefield. but, essentially, my message is, do not park in an accessible parking space unless you are entitled to do so. Do not use a blue badge unless you entitled to do so. Do not use someone else’s blue badge if you are not dropping them off, picking them up or they are not with you. But, also, do not question why someone is entitled to use that accessible parking space just because the reason their blue badge was issued is not visible. The person who is parking there may well be disabled. They may just be one of the plethora of disabled people who has an invisible impairment.
Parking in an accessible parking space If you are not entitled to is not acceptable. Questioning someone’s right to park in accessible parking space is not acceptable. Using someone else’s blue badge to park in an accessible parking space when they are not present is not acceptable. Misusing blue badges and accessible parking spaces is not acceptable. Misuse could result in those badges and accessible spaces being withdrawn and no-one will benefit from that at all.