On 29th July 2018 the government announced a huge change to Blue Badges, extending the criteria of who will be entitled to one from 2019. The scheme will now see people with invisible disabilities and those with mental illnesses being eligible for the blue badge. This is a change I welcome with open arms. I was diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome when I was 21. It’s classed as an invisible disability, it’s very difficult to prove you have due to the fact you can’t see the disability. Some days I am wheelchair bound but a lot of the times I can walk. I always find it difficult to get in and out of a car due to my restricted mobility in my hips, but to look me at me, most of the time you wouldn’t know I was disabled. I first applied for a Blue badge when I lived in Essex and I was not successful. However in Suffolk, I was able to have a blue badge which honestly changed my life. For me the badge doesn’t mean yay I can park right next to a supermarket entrance. It means the spaces are wide enough for me to climb out comfortably. I would park in one if they were on the other side of the car park if it meant I can just get out of the car. Though I already have a blue badge the changes will make me feel more at ease when I renew my badge and I won’t feel like maybe I was just lucky that one time as the criteria will be made clearer.
This announcement will also raise very much needed awareness of what disability actually is. I have had a couple of occasions where someone has seen my blue badge and they have shouted at me. The common assumption is I’m cheating the system somewhere and live off tax payers’ money adding no real benefit to society. It’s a horrible feeling to be shouted at by a stranger and told you are an awful human being because you have a disability they can’t see. I hope with these changes, more discussion will take place about what disability actually looks like.
As well as making the lives of people like me who have a physical disability which fluctuates and cant be seen, this is also extended to those with disabilities such as Autism or mental health issues. The National Autism society have spoken out about the positive impact this will have, and I truly believe it will. Since my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the world of Autism has been opened up to me and I have interactions and friendships with fellow parents with children with Autism. Some dread leaving the house and even when we are at the stage where leaving the house isn’t the issue, it’s the fear of the unknown. Change of routines and everywhere being a lot busier on weekends and holidays especially makes for a difficult life for a person with Autism. With all the preparation in the world a family day out can be almost impossible. But with a Blue badge for some this will make their lives easier. Imagine opening a door to a child who has shut down emotionally because they are fearing the unknown. You may not even be able to touch that child and somehow you have to unbuckle their belt, allow them to get out of the car and make sure they are safe when they are climbing out of the car and into a car park. It’s a no brainer that a parking space with extra room either side will make this task easier.
As we develop as a society and we have further understanding of various illnesses our laws and schemes such as this must also develop and change to be fit for purpose. Life can be impacted by a disability even if you aren’t a wheel chair users. Mental health issues can cause physical limitations on a body. Anxiety for example can be debilitating for some. If there is a scheme which makes lives easier for people to get out of their home and live their lives it can only be a good thing and should be encouraged.
The Conservative government’s announcement of these changes is proof that they truly are acting on their promises. They promised they will look into mental health and disability and this is another example of how they are delivering on that promise. To some this is a small change, I mean we are talking about parking here, but to those whose lives this will effect, it will have a huge impact on making a difficult life that little bit easier and for that I am encouraged that this is a small step in the right direction. I also wait with hope of the future changes this government will make to better the lives of those with disabilities.