Could new rules issued by the Department for Transport make it easier for people suffering hidden disabilities to obtain a Blue Badge parking permit?
Not all chronic health conditions are readily visible from the outside, which can prove problematic when seeking any form of assistance. If such a hidden disability results in limited mobility, then a Blue Badge could be hugely beneficial. However, obtaining a Blue Badge is not always straightforward. Particular problems have been encountered by people suffering conditions such as fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, chronic pain and other autoimmune conditions.
The crux of the problem is that Blue Badge permits are not issued centrally, but rather by the applicant’s local authority. Whilst the current rules are meant to embrace all conditions, visible or otherwise, it has long been apparent that local authorities do not always interpret the rules in the same way. The Department for Transport is therefore seeking to establish greater clarity in the application process. Whilst it is clear that these rule changes are particularly aimed at benefiting people with mental health conditions, it is hoped that people with other hidden disabilities may also benefit.
Transport minister Jesse Norman said: “Blue badges are a lifeline for disabled people, giving them the freedom and confidence to get to work and visit friends independently.
“The changes we have announced today 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.”
Eligibility under the current scheme is stated to be aimed at those who have “a permanent and substantial disability which causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking”. The proposed change will see the criteria redrafted along the following lines:
“a person who has an enduring and substantial disability the effect of which is that that person is unable to –
- undertake any journey without it causing very considerable difficulty when walking;
- undertake any journey without there being a risk of very considerable harm to the health or safety of that person or any other person;
- follow the route of any journey without another person, assistance animal or orientation aid.”
Of course, whatever the nature of the disability, those who believe they may qualify for a Blue Badge are strongly recommended to submit with their application, evidence of their condition from a medical practitioner. Despite the proposed clarification of the rules, this will continue to be particularly important for those with hidden disabilities. If possible, the medical practitioner should explain exactly how the medical condition serves to restrict the person’s mobility.
Our client, Rob, who suffers Fibromyalgia, saw his application for a Blue Badge succeed recently after we assisted him with his appeal. “The main difference was the detailed letter from the rheumatologist” he said. “They couldn’t really argue with that. It was all there in black and white.” And like most people issued a Blue Badge, it has had an immediate, positive impact on his life. “It’s made a huge difference. I was rarely going out, but I’ve now got some of my independence back.”