Tag Archives: blue badge

With Friends Like These …

A BBC journalist has himself been in the news recently.

He is disabled, and quite rightly needs to use a disabled parking space.

So far, so good and I read his article in a weekend newspaper with a keen interest.

Until, that is, he stated that he had never yet seen a disabled person park in them; they all looked non-disabled. To him.

I’ve done some research and his complaint is not new – Boris Johnson even wrote an article citing him and his parking issues back in 2011.

I’m interested in how he can ‘spot’ a disabled person and whether in fact they do, ‘bound(s) out, whistling, remote-locking (their cars) with a backwards squirt of electrons.’

I wonder if, in the interest of his being a journalist, he has ever used his unique position to question these blue badge ‘frauds’. Perhaps strike up a conversation with one of those ‘bounders’?

Apparently not. Which renders his views utterly subjective and not based in reality or fact.

I have every sympathy for this journalist. Of course, he needs the extra space for his wheelchair that a disabled space affords. And, of course, there are many people looking to park in the same spaces as they too are disabled.

Essentially, there are not enough disabled spaces, and therein lies the problem.

So to broadly sweep a dismissive brush over every person he has ever seen park in a disabled space as ‘not disabled’ is breathtakingly insulting.

The Invisible Disabilities Association defines invisible disability as:

‘… symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injuries, learning differences and mental health disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments. These are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities, range from mild challenges to severe limitations, and vary from person to person.’

Can this journalist see pain? Feel fatigue? Heat intolerance? All of which are valid MS symptoms, to mention just one illness that has invisible symptoms.

It’s hard enough being attacked by the Government through punishing benefits ‘reforms’ and not being at all represented in the last parliamentary election, even though 1 in 6 of us is disabled.

So to be attacked by ‘one of us’ (even though he clearly places himself above that) seems particularly harsh.

Aligning himself with the Blue Badge Disbelievers may gain him Brownie points and a few headlines, yet he does us all irreparable damage.

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If You Can’t See It …

invisibleOne point amongst many brought up during the Taxi Driver Case, is that invisible illnesses can be tricky.

That’s not to say a more visible form of MS than mine is any easier – far from it according to the large amount of emails I’ve received, in which people have told me taxis simply drive past them when they see a wheelchair or walking sticks.

It just seems harder to ‘prove’ you have a disability if, at first glance, there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with you. However, some place the number of people with chronic conditions which could be deemed invisible as high as 96%. Whether or not that is true, it is indicative that there is more understanding needed.

This can take a tragic turn, as in the case of Brian Holmes, who was killed with a single punch in 2013 after another man took exception to him looking ‘like he could walk’ when parked in a disabled space at a supermarket. Little did he know, he was the driver for his wife – who was disabled, and had a blue badge – and who was shopping at the time. What he also didn’t know was that Brian was days away from an all-clear from cancer.

Cases like this show just how difficult it can be to judge who is disabled or not. On the flip side, I live near a busy shopping area; on weekdays, parents park in disabled spaces as they are one or two metres closer to the school than the plentiful other spaces, and ‘what’s the harm?’. On weekends, car after car parks in the supermarket disabled spaces, as they are ‘just popping in, what’s the problem?’ In the morning, builders vans park there, as ‘disabled people are lazy and don’t have to get up early like we do’.

These quotes are real; I’ve spoken to these people. They become aggressive, threatening and abusive. Such are the feelings disabled parking can arouse. Last year I called the school where the majority of parents took their children to. I spoke to the headmaster, who told me in no uncertain terms, ‘it’s not my problem’. I have also raised the point with my MP, who said he would look in to it.

Disabled parking spaces are there for more than convenience. If you are ill and finding it difficult to get out, it can be a smidgen of hope that after the palaver of getting ready to go out, you can just about be guaranteed to find a space. Granted, this is not always the case, but the hope is there. It’s psychological, apart from anything else health-wise.

It’s all too easy to languish at home, constricted by health, lack of parking and society’s attitude towards you.

You make people uncomfortable. And that’s all the more reason to be seen.

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MS On Board

seatI was living in London when I was pregnant with The Baby and took the bus to work every day.

I was fine standing when the bus was crammed, but as my bump grew larger, and then even larger, I still wasn’t offered a seat.

Unlike today, where it could reasonably be assumed that I’m ‘just fat’, back then I was skinny with a, well, huge bump in front of me. Still no offers, despite my sad eyes and forlorn glances at people comfortably sitting down.

So perhaps I am a little sceptical about Transport for London’s new scheme, to aid travellers like me, with hidden health conditions – read the story here. It’s a bit like a blue badge for the Tube.

First, how are you supposed to flag up the fact you’re wearing a little badge on a busy, packed tube on a Monday morning when commuters are doing their London-best to ignore everyone else? Thrust yourself in people’s faces? Sidle up to a nice-looking person and eyeball your badge, hoping they’ll notice? (note to self – this could prove to be a most excellent dating tip – I could make a badge proclaiming, ‘I’ve got MS – Date Me!’).

Second, could I really imagine myself wearing one? I’m British! Will it mark me out as somehow different? Well, yes.

Third, we’re all sceptical people; blue badges for cars are notoriously misused and I doubt these badges will be any different. Plus, as with car badges, there will be the eternal refrain, ‘but you don’t look ill’. Even though it’s all about hidden disabilities, I fear the wider public still has a long way to go before accepting this notion.

And when do you fish out your badge and pin it on? With my dodgy MS hands it could take a while. Do you then unpin it on leaving the Tube station?

Believe me, I love the sentiment and I admire Transport for London tremendously for trialling this.

However, by marking us out as different, I fear we could lurch in to uncharted territory – must we broadcast to an entire Tube carriage that we have a hidden disability? I would far rather ask someone sitting near the exit if I could possibly have their seat and quietly explain why. In my experience with MS, people are really rather nice and understanding.

Except taxi drivers in Carmarthen …

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Put Yourself In My Place, Why Don’t You…?

I’ve been working from home for the builder most of this week and drive to the shops each morning. A new primary school has opened across from the car park and every day, a procession of parents blithely park in disabled spaces and walk their children round the corner, the disabled parking saving little Rosie and Johnnie a couple of metres of walking, even though at that time in the morning, there are plenty of other spaces.

I have a blue badge. MS is a variable condition for most people, myself included. I don’t always use the badge, but when I need to, it’s a lifeline. The days when foot-drop, nerve pain or muscle spasms make walking difficult and painful, or my balance is shot to pieces, knowing I have a few more parking options makes it worth leaving the safety of my house, even for a short time.

The flip-side to this is that when I do park in a disabled space, I am met with tuts, hostility and anger from others, whether they have a blue badge or not. They closely examine me getting out my car, whisper to each other, glare at me and sigh loudly, shaking their heads.

So far, I haven’t been openly confronted, and I’m relishing the opportunity, building up the courage to go over to them and challenge their attitude and press a leaflet about MS into their hands before I stumble off.

Disabled spaces are treated with as much scorn and disregard as parent and baby spaces – how many of us have seen a car drive up to designated parent parking and a couple of teenagers jump out? Or worse, no kids at all. So rather than silently fume, I am going to take action.

The point is not that these parents only use the spaces for ten minutes, it is that they use them at all. Disabled people are generally treated as second class people at the best of times, so perhaps it is understandable that people wilfully abuse one of our few concessions without a thought.

Is this the only time they put themselves in our place?

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