With the number of Blue Badge holders at 2.6 million and abuse of the scheme increasing a new report exposes the extent of the difficulties faced by disabled motorists, says Helen Dolphin.
A report by the charity Disabled Motoring UK on 20 car parks in city centre locations in England, Scotland and Wales has found that many are failing to make themselves accessible to disabled motorists. Dubbed The Cabrini Report after the patron saint of finding a parking space, it looked at access for disabled drivers and pedestrians and the general provisions and management of car parks.
All randomly chosen, the car parks were both private and local authority run. None of them met the recommended British Standard for headroom clearance which is 2.6 metres, which means that disabled people driving WAVs or carrying rooftop hoists are unable to park. What is shocking is that one of the car parks which didn't meet this standard was the car park attached to Westfield, which is one of the largest shopping centres in Europe, and which opened in 2011 next to the Olympic Park.
A number of the car parks were old, but the access auditors made various recommendations such as installing a different entrance which would have given access to motorists with higher vehicles.
I was also surprised by the number of disabled bays provided. Only one of the car parks achieved The Department for Transport’s recommended six per cent designated accessible spaces. The majority had less than two per cent and less than one per cent of the spaces in five car parks were accessible.
The fact that a car park is old is not even an excuse as a pot of paint stripper and some new paint can easily rectify the situation. In some car parks there were a lot of pillars but it would still be possible in the majority of cases to work around these.
In some cases, Blue Badge holders were able to park free of charge. But in car parks where no concessions were provided, all but one of the car parks failed to meet the British Standard in relation to ticket payment machine height. This meant that they were often too high for wheelchair users.
Commenting on the report's findings, Chris Fry, a solicitor at Unity Law said: “The Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 before that made it possible for an individual service user to take action when their access is restricted whether directly or indirectly as a result of their disability. I would be happy to speak to any disabled person who feels they have received a lesser service as a result of their disability."
This report has highlighted how difficult it can be for disabled motorists to park and I hope more operators will make changes to ensure that their car parks are more accessible. It makes good business sense and it could help them avoid a costly legal action.
·How big an issue is finding accessible parking for you? What action needs to be taken? Leave your comments below.