People with hidden disabilities, including autism and mental health conditions will soon have access to Blue Badges, removing the barriers many face to travel.
The Blue Badge scheme already means those 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.
In the biggest overhaul to the scheme since the 1970s, this will now be extended to those with less visible conditions early next year.
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)
Although people with non-physical disabilities are not excluded from receiving a Blue Badge, the current rules are open to interpretation. The new criteria will give clear and consistent guidelines on Blue Badge eligibility for the whole of England.
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.”
Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton said, “It’s absolutely right that disabled people are able to go about their daily life without worrying about how they will get from one place to another. We’re taking an important step forward in ensuring people with hidden disabilities get the support they need to live independently.”
Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society said, “Just leaving the house is a challenge for many autistic people, involving detailed preparation – and sometimes overwhelming anxiety about plans going wrong. The possibility of not being able to find a parking space near where you’re going can mean you can’t contemplate leaving the house at all. We’re thrilled that the government have listened to the concerns of autistic people and their families, taking into account their needs for certainty and safety.”