My daughter is not deemed ‘disabled enough’ to get free parking
When my daughter Emily was three years old, she was diagnosed with learning disabilities and autism. At 10, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. This year, she will be 20.
When Emily starting receiving disability living allowance, she got a blue parking badge, which helped her in many ways. Her lack of complete cognitive understanding can cause her to become overwhelmed when we’re out in public. Yet as with all 19-year-olds she loves to go shopping, to the cinema and for day trips. The close proximity of a disabled parking space made these trips much easier for her and for us.
In the old days of blue badge eligibility, I would be able to take proof of benefits, a passport photo of Emily and other forms of ID to my local mobility centre and would receive the badge there and then.
When Emily went to a residential school, she lost all benefit allocations.
When she moved into her own home last year, with a round-the-clock care package, she began to enjoy her independence again, back in the heart of the community. As she bonded with her care workers she grew in confidence and asked to go on a day trip to Thomas Land. Emily loves Thomas the Tank Engine.
I tried to call the mobility centre to make an appointment to pick up a blue badge. Emily had transferred over to personal independent payments (PIP), as she was no longer eligible for disability living allowance, but her disability remained unchanged. She was just taller.
I learned, however, that although the mobility centre was still there, it no longer allocated blue badges. This was done by a third party provider, once the council agreed that applicants met the eligibility criteria.
I eventually spoke to a very nice man at the council who asked me what Emily’s points were on the mobility component of PIP. I said she received the higher rate. He said “No, how many points does Emily score for moving around?”
This is where it all started to go wrong. Emily scores zero points for moving around because she can walk more than the required number of metres. She has to have someone with her all the time, and will do for the rest of her life, but because Emily can physically walk for a short distance she scores no points.
Emily can walk. She can run. She can run straight in front of a bus if she’s frightened, angry or upset. But although Emily is profoundly learning disabled, it would seem that she is not “disabled enough” when it comes to getting a blue badge.
A blue badge is crucial for learning disabled people, for carers and for those with other invisible conditions, such as dementia, or those who are partially sighted.
Yet the decision is that blue badges, which are gateways to nothing more than a parking space, are to be issued so sparingly that many disabled people are not allowed to have one.
There is at the heart of this a staggering inequality; a return to a time when disability was only deemed real if there was a physical inability to walk. In issuing eligibility criteria based only on the capacity to walk – and with no right of appeal – this government is literally rewriting the definition of disability.
My Parking Points campaign is calling on the government to reinstate blue badges to those recently deemed ineligible. To recognise that disability comes in many different forms. To assist councils in giving the citizens they work for the dignity of a full life and to stop this divisive practice of redefining who is and who isn’t disabled.
In conjunction with the campaign I have launched a petition and written to every council chief executive in England, asking them to put it on their websites. Brent council supports my campaign and is calling on all councils to do the same.
So much work has been done to educate people that not all disability is visible. It would be a sad indictment of our society if we turned back the clock on attitudes to disabled people.