Anyone who lives with limited mobility will know that many tasks which most people take for granted can become extremely difficult when our ability to walk is impaired. Essential chores like shopping, however, are made somewhat easier by the provisions that exist for users of disability scooters and other mobility aids, such as wheelchair accessible cars.
Parking is one aspect of travel where there is plenty of help available to those who require it, wherever you may need to leave your vehicle. There is still some confusion, however, about the exact rules and regulations surrounding disabled parking, which can vary from place to place. In this article, we will aim to demystify the information around this topic and hopefully give you more confidence when you next need to head into town and drive home afterwards.
Am I eligible for a Blue Badge?
Most readers will already be familiar with the Blue Badge scheme, which allows disabled drivers and passengers to park in certain convenient locations (more on this later). Nevertheless, some people remain unsure as to whether they would even qualify for a badge; if you fall under this category, we will try to clarify things for you.
If you already require the use of a mobility scooter or similar transport aid, the chances are that you will be eligible for a Blue Badge. Firstly, let’s list the people who would be automatically entitled to join the scheme:
- Registered blind
- Receives the higher rate of Disability Living Allowance
- Receives the War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement
Don’t be discouraged if you do not currently meet any of the above criteria, though, as you may still be able to successfully apply for a Blue Badge if you can provide evidence that you have reduced mobility.
You can apply for a Blue Badge online via the GOV.UK website (the application itself will be handled by your local council). Just click here to get started.
Where will a Blue Badge let me park?
If you are successful in your application and are sent a Blue Badge, you can start using it straight away. Before you do, though, it is important that you familiarise yourself with where and for how long you can leave your vehicle.
You will now be allowed to park in any council-run car park or use any on-street parking meter for as long as you require without having to buy a ticket, provided you display your Blue Badge clearly. It is also worth noting that, whilst every council car park should offer several marked disabled spaces, you do not have to use these and can park in any space if, for example, the disabled bays are full.
Your badge will also entitle you to park on single or double yellow lines where there are no loading restrictions for up to three hours at a time (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; there is no time limit in Scotland).
One important note to be aware of: whilst many privately-run car parks – from supermarkets to town centre NCP facilities – do offer free parking for Blue Badge holders, they are not obliged to do so. Therefore, you should check nearby signage carefully to ensure you do not get caught out and end up with a ticket.
Can I use my Blue Badge abroad?
If you are lucky enough to be heading on holiday to foreign shores soon, you will no doubt be keen to find out if it would be worth taking your Blue Badge with you. It may surprise you to learn that, in many countries, the answer is ‘yes’.
Throughout the European Union, parking rules for disabled people are starting to become standardised, and Blue Badge holders are now able to park for free in government-administered car parks in most EU nations. There has, so far, been no official word on what Brexit may mean for this arrangement, but an Independent Living article on the subject was optimistic: “It is not likely that Brexit would lead to the UK changing the format of the Blue Badge, so there is no obvious reason why it would not continue to be recognised across Europe, in the same way as those issued in Switzerland and Norway.”
Several non-European countries (including the U.S.) also recognise UK travellers’ Blue Badges. For more information on the specific rules of your intended destination, just ask your travel agent.
Can I arrange a disabled parking space near my home?
Of course, whilst knowing that we will usually have somewhere to park when out and about is reassuring, we all spend most of our time at home, so it is vital to know that we will have a convenient and easily accessible space awaiting us when we get back at the end of the day. If this is something that is currently causing you problems, read on for some advice on how to get the situation sorted.
If you do not have a private space (or, due to your disability, are no longer able to get in and out of it) and rely on on-street parking instead, you may not have known that your local council might be able to help you out by creating a disabled bay close to your home.
There is also help at hand if you have mobility difficulties and are having trouble accessing your private space due to the inconsiderate parking of others. If this is becoming a real issue, the council may agree to mark your street or the opening to your land as an ‘access route’, which will make the importance of keeping this area free from vehicles clear to other road users.
For more information on whether you could take advantage of any of the above measures, contact your local authority.
Does my local town have its own scheme?
As well as the universal Blue Badge scheme details described above, certain large towns and cities across the UK also choose to offer additional free, on-street disabled parking spaces to residents.
You will need to get in touch with your local council to find out if they run their own scheme of this kind, but these extra parking bays can be a godsend in densely populated and traffic-heavy areas.