Blue Badge Blues

I’d like to show you some tweets. I’ve provided a screenshot as they have now been deleted.

Tweets boasting about stealing disabled parking bays

The text of these tweets reads

“The dirty looks you get for parking in a disabled bay 😀 :D”

“Like there’s not 1000 empty disabled bats and only 1 normal space the other end of the car park “

After a few people noticed these tweets and tweeted their objections (Six replies) she then tweeted

“The spam I just got in my feed about parking in a disabled bay is too jokes 😀 😀 😀 :D”

“These people are protective over their bays loool”

The tweets were then deleted an hour later.

This isn’t a rare occurrence. An awful lot of people think that they should have the right to park in parking bays reserved for disabled people. People like George Osborne, Nigel Farage and Worcester police. Often people think it’s OK to park in a disabled parking bay late at night as though disabled people aren’t allowed out at night, or they think it’s OK because they’re “only going to be a minute” or because “they’ll move if anyone needs it”. Some people just don’t care, and in fact feel so entitled to park where they like that they issue death threats.

It’s not OK though. Those bays exist for very good reasons. They are for people who struggle to walk and need to park close to the shop because otherwise they may be in pain as a result of walking, or maybe they can’t get that far at all. They are for people with chronic illnesses who will be exhausted after that short walk. They are for people who use wheelchairs and need the marked space around the bay to open their doors enough to get the wheelchair out. They are for people whose joints don’t bend much and who can’t contort themselves to fit through a door that only opens as far as the next car in a standard space. And don’t think that someone in a wheelchair will have no problem with going further – plenty of people cannot self-propel in a wheelchair any further than they can walk because of pain or being prone to dislocations or fractures.

Disabled people need those reserved parking spaces to help them overcome the barriers between them and a normal, equal life. You may be able to walk from the other end of the car park, even if it’s a bit far, a bit tiring, and maybe your legs hurt because you’re not used to exercise. For people who qualify for a blue badge, walking from the other end of the car park is a distant dream. If the choice is between park at the other end or not go into the shop, they probably can’t go into the shop.

“I’ll only be a minute”

This is probably the most common excuse. It’s not an excuse though. Don’t do it. In that “minute” which will probably actually be five or ten minutes, a disabled person may have arrived, been unable to park, had no idea how long you would be and then turned around and gone home. They might not have been able to stop and wait because of traffic. They may well not have the energy or be in too much pain to return very quickly.  Or maybe they parked in a standard space much further away, then hurt themselves by trying to walk that much further.

“I’ll move if someone needs it”

This seems like a reasonable excuse, especially if waiting in the car. Again, it’s not an excuse for a number of reasons. First of all, the person that needs the space might not see you waiting in the car to ask. If the driver is not with the car then the disabled person won’t know that they would move it, and they probably can’t park to go and find the driver to ask them. Sometimes they could send a bystander to ask them, but that has variable results.

There’s also the strong possibility of getting verbally or physically attacked just for asking someone to move. This happens, and it happens a lot. How is someone to know whether you will turn out to be nasty or nice?

“There’s loads of spaces”

This excuse tends to happen most at night and it’s possibly the least-bad. It is often true that there are lots of spaces at supermarkets. But take a look at how far those spaces are from the door. The distance from shop to space might be twenty metres for the closes one, but it could be a hundred metres or more for the farthest space. Unfortunately the people who use this excuse tend to park in the closest space to the shop and at my local Tesco it’s not uncommon for the first ten spaces to be filled with cars with no blue badge on display if I go there at 10pm. (Which I do a lot because my illness messes up my sleeping pattern.) The person using this excuse also has no idea how many people might need to park before they return. If lots turn up, they’ll be parking much further away.

Then there’s the unthinking shops that leave stuff in the disabled parking bays.

Or even put more permanent things in those bays.

This video explains why people need disabled parking bays.

Parking bay badge blues

The following is a guest post by Christine Sumpter. (Yes, she is my mum!)

My husband has a blue badge and a Motability car. He has a badly damaged spine and scar tissue on his nerves. Yes, sometimes he can walk without the aid of his stick, with a pronounced limp and the ever-present danger of stumbling or his leg giving way completely. He is stubborn and often walks more than he should, choosing to ignore the pain. He gets ‘looks’ from other disabled parkers, particularly older people, mainly because he doesn’t look very disabled and he looks like the proverbial ‘plumber with a bad back.’ Actually he is an ex-plumber with a severely damaged back. And how can anyone tell from looking how much pain he is suffering?

There seems to be a common misunderstanding of the nature of mobility problems. Our local supermarket has located the blue badge parking spaces on both sides of a central walkway extending nearly to the far edge of the car park. It seems that they are under the misapprehension that all disabled parkers are wheelchair users and can manage the distance. Disabled people who can walk (after a fashion) also need to be able to open car doors fully and, more importantly, need to park near the building. The supermarket put a metal bollard in the centre of the crossing place from the car park, and it had to be pointed out to them by a friend of mine that her blind (and lame) husband kept falling over it. In icy conditions the path is gritted but those vital areas between the bays are not, neither is snow cleared from them.
There does not seem to be any policing of disabled parking bays so that on rainy days most of the spaces near the building are occupied by anyone who doesn’t want to get wet, leaving the people entitled to parking there to make the long, soggy trek from the other end of the walkway. And the disabled parking bays are used as an unofficial staff car park for the night shift, presumably because they think that disabled people don’t go out after dark.