Fighting for a Blue Badge
Since 30th August 2019, People with hidden disabilities, including anxiety disorders or a brain injury, can apply for a Blue Badge.
At the time, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
"We know that for some people, the possibility of not being able to find a parking space can make even leaving the house a challenge, which is why the Blue Badge is so important.
The scheme, which is already a lifeline for so many disabled people, will make a huge difference to those with non-visible conditions such as autism, dementia, Parkinson’s and arthritis. It is my sincere wish that these changes will improve even more people’s lives."
Why then is it still so difficult to get a Blue Badge in England?
I have recently had an application refused and have submitted an appeal. I hope it will be successful, but I have little faith in the objectivity of the Blue Badge assessors.
Why have I applied?
Well, here's my story...
I drive. I enjoy driving. I renew my license every 12 months and still feel confident and capable. I would surrender my license IMMEDIATELY if this were not the case.
I ALWAYS use a satnav. That's the secret to success for me. I can never get lost. Even if I miss a turning or am forced to take a diversion, my trusty satnav will ensure that I reach my destination and will also keep an eye on speed limits and inform me when and where to turn. My satnav is my friend, without which I could not continue to drive.
Well, that's the good part. What about the drawbacks?
The drawbacks relate to my inability to remember where I have parked my vehicle - and this is a serious problem which prevents me from using my vehicle for trips that involve places with large car parks and especially in places where I am exposed to environments that may cause sensory overload and severe anxiety (panic attacks).
As my dementia progresses I am finding it increasingly difficult to cope with noisy, busy and unfamiliar environments. I become confused, disorientated and overwhelmed and I need to escape and find a safe, quiet place. And where better than my car?
And, when I cannot find it? Well, I panic. I do not think about my surroundings. I walk in front of vehicles, unaware of their presence because I am obsessed by the tunnel vision brought about by the need to flee to a place of safety. It is the most awful feeling imaginable and I have nightmares about it.
And that, is the reason that I applied for a Blue Badge. If I knew that I had parked in a designated, marked area I would be able to locate my vehicle quickly and easily, averting the agony and physical danger of searching wildly and randomly for a vehicle whose location has vanished from my short term memory and whose environment I need to retreat to in order to recover my senses and my dignity.
Sadly, the Blue Badge assessors seem unable to understand this. Perhaps I did not explain myself well enough in my initial application (the guidance for people with hidden disabilities is almost non-existent), or perhaps they themselves are unaware of how people living with dementia can be affected by panic attacks and anxiety while still being perfectly capable drivers.
Anyway. At the moment, my driving is limited to social and well planned and predictable journeys. I cannot go shopping on my own and I cannot visit large places like hospitals without a guide or carer in close attendance.
My independence is limited by my condition, and I thought that the Blue Badge scheme was created to address just that.
I am awaiting a reply to my appeal.
I'll let you know the verdict when it arrives, but it's a hard thing to bare one's soul and admit one's frailty and flaws only to have them dismissed and I'm not sure if I have the strength to take a failed appeal to the ombudsman. Let's hope I don't have to. I just want to be safe and secure when I am in a large, scary environment. and that's not too much to ask. Is it? Are you living with dementia? and have you made an application for a Blue Badge? Please let me know if you have applied and whether or not you were successful.
*** STOP PRESS ***
My appeal has been accepted.
Thank goodness. This means that I will now have the ability to visit places on my own, secure in the knowledge that I will be able to locate my vehicle quickly and safely. I cannot overstate what a difference this will make to my anxiety levels.