There are Some Issues
The Blue Badge in the UK is a parking permit issued to disabled people with mobility problems to enable them to park close to where they need to go. The Badge enables holders to park on double and single yellow lines as well as in bays reserved for disabled people. I am a Blue Badge holder and it certainly makes my life easier when I’m out and about.
Unlike some parking permits which are issued to a specified vehicle, a Blue Badge is issued to a person. This means a Blue Badge can be used in any vehicle as long as the person the badge was issued to is traveling in it. To prove you have the right to park in an accessible parking space, the badge must be displayed prominently in the front of the windscreen. This is so traffic officers patrolling the area know you have a right to be in that space. Vehicles that park in accessible spaces without a Blue Badge are liable to be issued with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN).
This all works completely fine unless you wish to park in an accessible space and take your badge with you on your onward journey. These situations arise most commonly in airport car parks and train station car parks. The problem is that if you take your badge with you there is nothing on display in your vehicle to show that you have a legitimate right to be in that space and you may end up with an unwanted PCN.
If you are a wheelchair user who relies on the extra space provided by an accessible space to get out of your car, then parking in a standard sized bay is not an option, even if it is close by. Therefore, if I wished to park in my local train station car park and travel with my badge so I could use it at my onward destination this would not be possible without risking a PCN for failure to display a Blue Badge. Terms and Conditions of car parks nearly always state that a Blue Badge must be displayed by vehicles parked in accessible bays.
Unlike some parking permits, which are issued to a specified vehicle, a Blue Badge is issued to a person.
Therefore, if a PCN was issued, appealing the charge would not be as simple as just proving that the person who parked there had a Blue Badge but failed to display it. Therefore, many people have no option but to leave their badge in their car at the station and make do at their destination without a badge.
Unlike rail, many airports do seem to have made a provision for this situation. This may have been helped by a code of practice issued to airports by the Department for Transport in 2008. This code called “Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility,” which is now archived, states that: “It is important that some administrative arrangements are in place at the departure airport to ensure that the disabled person can park in the spaces reserved for badge holders but take the badge with them.”
Airports have made their own arrangements to facilitate this. At Heathrow airport, a form has to be filled in and displayed in the vehicle instead of the Blue Badge, whereas at Stansted airport, Badge holders are instructed to leave a photocopy of their badge in the window. I was quite surprised to hear this was their suggestion as in the booklet issued to badge holders on the rights and responsibilities of having a badge it clearly states; “You must never use a copied badge to park”. I would therefore be quite wary of doing so.
The Department for Transport is currently looking into this problem, as ideally it would be good to have a solution that worked at whatever transport interchange you were parking. As the Blue Badge scheme already suffers from a great deal of misuse, there are concerns that anything that enabled someone to have effectively two badges at the same time could open the scheme up to even more abuse. I believe the answer to this problem is probably going to be solved by technology, which would avoid someone having duplicate badges. I look forward to a solution to this problem being found soon.
Helen Dolphin MBE LLB BSc, is an Independent Mobility Consultant in the UK. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org