A new accreditation scheme should make it easier for disabled people to find a car park that meets their access needs.
The People’s Parking scheme already has about 150 car parks signed up across the UK and hopes to reach 200 by the end of the year, with support from major car park operators NCP, Excel and Q-Park.
The scheme has a searchable map and database on its website, and has been launched this month by disabled campaigner Helen Dolphin.
Her own research previously found “shocking” access failures in city centre car parks.
Dolphin (pictured) was first prompted to start campaigning on accessible car parks when she worked for the disability charity Disabled Motoring UK (DM UK).
The survey she carried out in 2012 of 20 car parks across England, Wales and Scotland found only one of them achieved the government’s recommended minimum proportion of accessible parking spaces (six per cent of the total number of spaces), while five had less than one per cent, and two did not have a single accessible space.
The survey also found that two of the car parks were completely inaccessible to wheelchair-users.
Under Dolphin’s new scheme, car parks that secure general accreditation will have proved they are well managed; have good signage; are clean and bright; offer good pedestrian access; and that parking rules, including blue badge bays, are enforced.
But they can also go further and receive accreditation in specific areas, such as facilities for disabled people if they have larger accessible parking spaces, accessible payment machines, and offer alternative payment methods.
And they can be accredited for being family friendly, if they have parent and child bays; for having no height restrictions; for providing parking for cyclists; or featuring charging-points for electric vehicles.
Other potential accreditations include convenience for commuters; closeness to shops, or airports; and whether parking can be pre-booked, or paid for by phone.
This means, says Dolphin, that a disabled person with an electric vehicle who needs a car park with no height restrictions will be able to find one which meets all these requirements.
She said: “When I carried out the car park survey in 2012 I was shocked by the results, and this has led to my ongoing campaign to improve car parking for disabled people.
“People’s Parking is my way of doing this in an inclusive way, as it also addresses parking issues that other motorists have, such as finding somewhere to charge an electric car, or a wider bay for parents.”
Dolphin, a member of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, which advises the government on accessible transport, said: “As a disabled person, I have often struggled to get in and out of car parks.
“This is because I find it incredibly difficult to take tickets out of machines and put coins in slots.
“However, by making a few simple changes many car parks can make themselves accessible to disabled people.”
She added: “I think many operators have now grasped the fact that there is more to disabled parking provision then just painting a disabled sign on a few bays, and I hope my accreditation will help the parking industry strive to improve disabled provision further.
“Although access to some car parks is still not great, I’ve received a very positive response from a large number of operators, which shows many are willing to do what they can to improve the situation.
“Unfortunately, some older car parks can struggle to have good access but as my scheme grows I hope there will be enough choice for disabled people to be able to avoid those which do not have the correct provision.”