Loss of free parking creates problems for disabled drivers


Some disabled drivers are finding it harder to use council-run carparks because local authorities are removing their free parking concessions.

The warning has come from Mobilise, the disabled motorists’ charity, which said councils are also installing new ticket machines that are described as “compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)”, even though many disabled drivers cannot use them.

Helen Smith, director of policy and campaigns for Mobilise, said it was meaningless to describe a machine as “DDA compliant”.

She lives in Norwich, which has removed the free parking concession for blue badge-holders and installed new, more accessible ticket machines in five of its 14 surface carparks, and plans to do so in the others in the future.

She said she and many other people with upper-limb impairments are unable to use the machines.

Smith asked Norwich City Council how she and other disabled people who cannot manage the machines could pay, but received no reply.

She added: “I have now been forced to park on the street, which is much more dangerous when I’m trying to unload my assistance dog and my wheelchair.”

The council apologised for the delay in replying to her complaint, but said notices by the machines display a number for drivers to call if they cannot buy a ticket, so they can be sent a bill by post.

Blue badge-holders can also book a space in advance and be invoiced monthly.

Peterborough City Council is also planning to abolish free parking for blue badge-holders.

Robert Saunders, the council’s parking team manager, said: “We have machines that are identified by the manufacturer as being DDA-compliant.”

He said the council had yet to introduce charges for blue badge-holders and added: “I would welcome any advice from disability groups before proceeding with any plans to introduce a charge to this sector of the community as it is clear there are many aspects to this issue.”

The City of Lincoln Council said it introduced charges for blue badge-holders in April, but provided alternative ways of paying, for example by telephone or text message or buying a book of scratch cards.

The council has also improved signage and lighting in some carparks and is installing more accessible ticket machines.

John Bibby, the council’s director of housing and community services, said: “The literature from some companies supplying such machines does state that they are ‘DDA compliant’, which we agree could be misleading.”

15 September 2009