Disabled spaces are not OAP spaces!

A passionate guest post from one of our Facebook Community Group members, Erin Pritchard

elderly

Disabled spaces are not OAP spaces!

That may sound harsh at first, but I am not here to suggest OAPs should not be allowed to park in disabled bays. What I want to get across is that anyone who has a valid blue badge should be able to park in these bays without confrontation from others, including younger people who have possibly been born with an impairment.

So many disabled people (mostly those who are young and non-wheelchair users) are getting abuse for parking in disabled bays, despite having a valid blue badge. From my experience this confrontation is coming predominantly from older people – who should know better!

I have dwarfism, as well as spinal stenonsis (a common side effect of dwarfism) which causes mobility difficulties and can lead to paralysis. Obviously spinal stenonsis is invisble whereas my actual dwarfism remains visible. Yet, I consider dwarfism to be an invisible disability as people do not recognise the disabling effects; including spinal problems, and the difficulty of carrying shopping bags or pushing a large trolley (which comes up to my nose) across a car park. I also require a wider bay as I have to open my door fully to be able to climb in and out of my car, a vehicle which has been designed for someone a lot taller than me.

Yet many people do not appreciate these difficulties; all they see is a small person walking to her car seemingly without any difficulty! They cannot see that my back is causing me great pain, and that the numbness in my legs is increasing due to my nerves being trapped by my spine.

Over the past 30 years disabled people’s living arrangements have been progressively changing for the better. Fewer are being kept in institutions and thus it is becoming more common to encounter disabled people in public. Perhaps this is why older people seem to think that younger people who park in these disabled bays are fakers? Maybe they are listening and believing the media, who at the moment are trying to convince people that most disabled people are ‘spongers’ or ‘cheats’.

Just for the record, I am not faking my dwarfism!

You may think I am having a go at older people, yet from personal experience, and from talking to other disabled people, most confrontations really do come from older people who simply do not believe that younger people have a right to park in disabled bays. I do not begrudge older people parking in disabled bays, as I am well aware that people become more prone to mobility difficulties in later life.

What I do begrudge is older people thinking that these bays are only for them and who then proceed to hound anyone else who dares park in them! Of course not all older people do this, so my message to the ones that do is this:

‘Not all disabilities are visible and so unless the person is not displaying a valid blue badge, please, keep your opinions to yourself! You cannot tell if someone is disabled or not, as most disabilities are invisible and do not require the use of a mobility aid. Less than 10% of disabled people use a wheelchair, and a lot of people are born with an impairment so don’t be surprised if you see a young person parking in a disabled bay’.

As an example, when I go shopping in one particular supermarket, the disabled bays are adjacent to the store’s cafe. As soon as I park up and get out, after clearly displaying my blue badge, I am guaranteed to get the obligatory stares and head shaking from the older people sitting by the windows at the cafe! If I am getting into my car and I see them do this I make sure they can clearly see me removing my blue badge from the dashboard.

I should not have to do this, I should not have to explain myself to these self proclaimed experts. Sometimes I want to shout; “You should count yourselves lucky you weren’t born with your disability!”

That is not to suggest that some older people were not born with their impairment, but judging from their attitude they seem to think that being disabled only comes with old age. I get enough unwanted attention when I am out in public, due to my appearance, and so the last thing I need are people shaking their heads at me because they think I am abusing disabled facilities. It seems that having a blue badge is not enough and thus perhaps I should get a MRI copy of my spine and place it next to my blue badge so that I can show people how messed up it is. It is easy to judge someone when you cannot feel their pain.

Don’t get me wrong, I get mad when I see someone parking in a disabled bay WITHOUT a blue badge. I also know that some people use a family members badge when they want to go shopping, so there is a problem where you cannot be sure who is genuine and who is not.

So my advice is that unless you are a traffic warden with the ability to find out who is genuinely using a blue badge then you should leave well alone. Disabled people have enough to contend with when out in public without having to justify their right to use disabled spaces and facilities.

Erin Pritchard

blueline

Thank you Erin for a well written and excellently conveyed argument. As ever we welcome your comments too dear reader, so please leave your thoughts in the space below:

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3 thoughts on “Disabled spaces are not OAP spaces!

  1. I couldn’t agree more, I have a blue badge due to severe spinal problems following an accident at 19 initially I was in a chair, then crutches but now I’m walking unaided, I can’t walk far or for long but I try because I want to be ok, I want to walk but the amount of times I get abuse. Accused of stealing my badge! I even had an elderly man demand to see the photo on the back or he’d phone the police because he didn’t believe it was mine, it makes me avoid going anywhere or consider mobility aids just to avoid the confrontation

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  2. You make very good points, particularly about invisible disabilities. In ABI week it is good to remind the world that not all disabilities come with a visible sign, particularly Acquired Brain Injury. Unfortunately the logo on the Blue Badge does emphasise wheelchair users rather than the whole range of disabilities. We also lack a realisation that impaired mobility is not the only disability that needs extra support or consideration or a parking space nearer to where you need to get to, so you don’t get lost getting back to your vehicle for example. I agree with you about not challenging anyone with a Blue Badge unless you are legally authorised to do so. However, anyone without a Blue Badge in or blocking a Blue Badge space is asking to be challenged. On the other hand those of us with Blue Badges have to set the highest standards ourselves, so not using the Blue Badge to sit outside the school gates while picking up the perfectly healthy grandchildren (which endangers other children).

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  3. I do sympathize with anyone who has a disability and as a wheelchair user myself fully understand all issues around the Blue Badge which to me is fundamentally flawed and too open for abuse. We pay to have our photo embedded into our badges but no one ever checks them to see if the correct user is in the car, which could save a lot of abuse, sadly not all badges are returned when the disabled person dies and I have seen these used by relatives. I guess there will be some situations if the disabled person is in Hospital and someone else picks the person up they presumably would use the disabled person’s badge to park.

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