People with hidden disabilities can access Blue Badges from today
- Extension to Blue Badge scheme comes into force in England today for people who have non-visible disabilities.
- New online eligibility check launched to make it simpler for people applying for the badges.
In the biggest change to the Blue Badge scheme in nearly 50 years, people with hidden disabilities, including anxiety disorders or a brain injury, can apply for a Blue Badge for the first time from today (30 August 2019), according to the Department for Transport (DfT).
The DfT has issued new guidance to councils in England on Blue Badge parking permit eligibility, along with a new online eligibility checker to make the scheme clearer for people before they apply.
The expanded eligibility criteria for the badges now includes people who cannot walk as part of a journey without considerable psychological distress or the risk of serious harm.
Tim Nicholls Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the National Autistic Society said:
“We are delighted to see the new Blue Badge rules come into force. This will be a huge relief for thousands of autistic people and their families in England, many of whom are so anxious about things going wrong that they find it hard to leave the house at all.
“A Blue Badge can be life changing. To live up to this promise, it’s absolutely essential that council officials making decisions about Blue Badges understand autism and the challenges autistic people can face getting out and about.”
The Blue Badge scheme already means people with physical disabilities can park closer to their destination than other drivers, as they are less able to take public transport or walk longer distances.
Plans to extend the scheme to those with non-visible conditions were announced last summer following an eight-week consultation.
While the new criteria will give clear and consistent guidelines on Blue Badge eligibility for the whole of England, not everyone with non-visible 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.
The DfT says that Councils may need to review parking provision to increase the number of spaces, both in terms of the availability of disabled parking, and the overall number of parking spaces if disabled spaces take up other existing parking spaces.