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Accessible parking space at a premium

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.

Read The Cabrini Report

Comments (3)

When I was the Disability Equality and Access Officer for Kingston Council (SW London), I insisted that a great many accessible spaces were included in existing car parks, especially multi-storey car parks in the town centre; I didn't quite manage to get to the British Standard recommendation but we came pretty close in some. I even asked for disabled spaces to be included on the roof of two of the car parks on the basis that it was only on the roof level where people with roof-top wheelchair storage boxes could open them. However, I notice when I visit other towns that most similar car parks have very few accessible spaces and the accessibility of their car parks is generally very poor.

A few years ago I went to Richmond, the neighbouring borough, for an event, and ended up in a town centre car park which was unusable by an unaccompanied wheelchair user; it was fortunate that I unload my chair from the rear of my vehicle as there were no wider spaces, and I had to rely on passers-by to help me get through the doors and out onto the pavement outside. Interestingly, Richmond had no Access Officer - and still doesn't. To me, that said it all.

The plain and honest fact is until we have a proper minster of disability who is genuine disabled then it will change that I am so sure of but until then we will only be at the starting post. I cannot understand why those who really do need bay wide enough can take a unloaded manual or power chair in safety cannot get one, everyone assume disabled are all the same errr wrong ask spinal injury people spinal injury is as different as fingerprints no two spine injuries are the same

I cannot see why it is so difficult to sort i think most disabled people are tax exempt so why not go on that and do away with this whole farce of blue badges i have seen so much abuse of the system and since most councils started charging for car parking nearly every one in my Town is now disabled and holds a blue badge so much so wheelchair users cannot park in the wider bays and have to shop else-were or later in the day all very frustrating

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