2019 Blue Badge scheme: Everything you need to know about the hidden disability changes
The blue badge disabled parking scheme is supposedly undergoing its biggest shake-up since it was introduced in 1970, but what exactly will change, and when?
Last year it was revealed that, from 2019, people with hidden disabilities will be granted access to the scheme too. The idea is that people with less obvious health conditions, such as autism, will have the same right to park in disabled bays as those with physical disabilities.
The change follows a consultation that concluded that many people with mental health problems struggle with the same travel issues as those with physical disabilities.
However, since last year’s announcement, it’s all gone a little quiet. As yet, no exact date has been given by the Department for Transport (DfT), and it’s already 2019. Beyond that lack of information (can we blame Brexit?), what exactly constitutes a ‘hidden disability’, and how will the changes help people?
What are hidden disabilities?
While the catch-all phrase encompasses many health issues, here’s some of the most common:
- Coeliac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
What’s the new criteria?
The new criteria will extend eligibility to people who:
- cannot undertake a journey without there being a risk of serious harm to their health or safety or that of any other person (such as young children with autism);
- cannot undertake a journey without it causing them very considerable psychological distress;
- have very considerable difficulty when walking (both the physical act and experience of walking).
What are the benefits?
Previously, local authorities could not exclude those with hidden disabilities, but granting permission was very much open to interpretation. The changes now gives councils clearer guidelines.
According to the DfT, three out of four blue badge holders say they’d go out less often without having a badge, and it is hoped the changes will help deliver greater clarity for those that could potentially need one.
Transport minister Jesse Normal said: “The changes […] will ensure that this scheme is extended equally to people with hidden disabilities so that they can enjoy the freedoms that many of us take for granted.”
The changes have been welcomed by a number of UK charities, with Isabella Goldie, director of Mental Health Foundation commenting: “We welcome the news that the Blue Badge initiative is being extended to people with mental health issues.
“For many people, having the ability to be assured a parking space can help encourage them to go out and engage with people and avoid becoming isolated and cut off at home.”
Although the scope for those that can apply has been clarified, the entitlements have not; badge holders can park in spaces designated for blue badge holders and will still be able to park on single or double yellow lines for up to three hours (unless in a “no loading” zone).