See If Program at Destination Honors Your Special Placard
Here in the UK, as I write this, we’re now in the midst of spring, and it’s finally starting to get a little bit warmer. With the warmer weather, lots of people start thinking about their annual summer holiday and whether they’re going to take it at home or abroad.
If you’re a disabled person traveling abroad, one thing you tend to pack in your suitcase, along with your swimwear and sun cream, is your disabled person’s parking badge, or placard. That’s because most countries around the world have some kind of parking program for disabled people, and if you have your disabled parking badge with you, you can take advantage of the accessible parking.
However, before you decide to pack your parking badge, it’s worth checking to see if it will be valid in the country you are visiting. And, if so, what the terms and conditions of use are. From my experience, it seems that whichever country you travel to, the parking concessions will be completely different.
I had hoped that when the style and color of disabled parking badges were standardized across Europe in 2000, it would mean the concessions would also become standardized, but this was not the case.
Parking concessions differ throughout the European Union, in spite of the fact we all have the same “Blue Badge” disabled permit. Whether it concerns parking in residents bays, restricted areas or even on the road, it seems the rules are totally different, and there is also no consistency as to whether badge holders have to pay to park or not. Even in the same country, you will find that the rules differ from place to place.
Take the UK, for example. In England and Wales, disabled people can park only on double and single yellow lines (“no parking” zones) for up to three hours, and so our parking badge must also be displayed with a specially issued time clock. However, in Scotland, there is no such time limit, so Scottish disabled drivers visiting England or Wales need to acquire a regulation time clock to avoid a penalty charge.
But the differences don’t stop here. In London, you can’t park on double and single yellow lines with your Blue Badge, although you can everywhere else in the UK. It’s confusing for people who live here, let alone tourists visiting the country.
But the UK is not alone in its regional differences. In Paris and a number of other cities in France, disabled people with Blue Badges may park without payment at a parking meter and exceed the maximum time allowed.
However, in the majority of cities in France, you must pay to park and not exceed the paid-for time. It is hard to find in which cities you have to pay and those where you don’t. The only thing it seems that was standardized in 2000, apart from the design, was the fact that all countries in the EU recognize one another’s badges. I only hope this continues after “Brexit,” when we leave the EU.
But Europe is not alone in its different rules and regulations. The last time I was traveling to the U.S., I tried to find out if my Blue Badge would be recognized, and the information I was given was it would depend on which state I was visiting — but it was almost impossible to find out which.
It seems there is a bit more consistency in the U.S., as in most states the parking rules are that you may park in a space marked with the international wheelchair symbol. However, don’t get caught parking in New York City without a NYC parking permit! There’s also an interesting way in California of marking out where you can park with different colored curbs, with blue being for disabled people.
I think most disabled people would expect to find disabled parking provisions in Europe and the U.S., but I’ve been surprised to find them in countries where I didn’t expect to. On a trip to India a few years ago, I found that not only were most tourist sites ramped for wheelchair access, but there also was good disabled parking provision. This was also true of Jordan, which had a small number of disabled parking places particularly at tourist hot spots.
It’s great that so many countries have considered the needs of disabled people. However, it would be so much easier if there were a bit more consistency with where disabled parking badges or placards can be used and which countries will recognize those from other countries.
In the meantime, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has published a worldwide guide to parking abroad with a disabled badge, which takes some of the guesswork out of parking. Access “The FIA Guide for the Disabled Traveller” – subtitled “Using Parking Permits, Cards and Placards Around the World” – at the FIA website