Still a long way to go for disabled drivers

Disabled drivers need mobility vehicles, adapted to their individual needs. They need to be able to park close to shops, theatres and restaurants, and for many, the Blue Badge offers the chance to enjoy the active social life that most of us take for granted. But there is so much more to be done in order for those who need to use mobility vehicles to access daily life conveniently.

Without thinking of the needs of drivers of disabled cars, able-bodied people often park in disabled bays, or abuse the system by using someone else's card when they are not themselves disabled.

Although wheelchair vehicles are increasingly available, the restrictions of public car parks mean that wheelchair users often can't travel alone. Problems include lack of suitable headroom clearance for wheelchair access, ticket machines set too high, lack of attendants and, in some cases, less than the legal minimum of disabled bays. The solution is to provide more on-street parking, but progress on that is slow.

Blue Badge holders used to be able to park free of charge in local authority car parks. But as austerity measures have kicked in, disabled drivers are starting to find they have to pay. Shopping can be a slow process when you're disabled, pushing up your parking charge unfairly.

Filling up at a petrol station might seem like a straightforward process, but filling stations often have no attendant to help and the introduction of chip and PIN machines to pay at the pump has made filling up virtually impossible for wheelchair users.

So, although mobility cars are keeping pace with automotive technology, and disabled drivers can live independent lives, there is still a long way to go both in social attitudes and practical solutions to the everyday problems that being disabled throws up. There is much more to being disabled than just the availability of a suitable vehicle.

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