Disabled Parking – Myths, Guidance, Laws and Legends

The subject of disabled parking is a thorny one at best, and is made more confusing by considerable misunderstand in the part of badge holders, local authorities, car park operators and members of the public.

On Street Parking

The first level of confusion comes from there being two differing types of ‘on-street’ disabled spaces, enforced or courtesy.  The former type of space will, generally, be painted on the road surface in yellow, and more importantly will be accompanied by a legally-required sign which informs motorists of the fact that the space is reserved for blue badge users.  This sign will look like the one to the right, and will be affixed to a post, or nearby wall.  In these bays, a blue badge or in some authorities a special type of permit, must be displayed at all times, otherwise you can and will find yourself the recipient of a ticket.  This type of space, however requires the local council to publish a TRO (Traffic Regulation Order) to make it legal.  While this might seem onerous, Portsmouth undertook a project to convert EVERY space, including residents’ bays, and issued orders with hundreds of addresses in each.

The second form of space is more frustrating to a degree, and these are termed ‘courtesy spaces’.  These can be found in Council owned car parks of certain types, and on the road.  In the Havant Borough, every personal bay, and the majority of road-side parking bays are all of this type.  In fairness, however, Havant are including the notifications to legalise the bays in many road or pavement improvement projects, where a TRO is already being drawn up.

Private Car Parks

From experience, I can state that parking in private car parks with a blue badge, can be a hazardous experience, and all drivers MUST take the time to read the terms and conditions before entering the car park, or parking their car.  However, many underhanded companies will make these terms and conditions difficult to find or difficult to read based either on size of print, or location of the relevant sign carrying the information.

There is one excellent example of this, at the time of writing, in Waterlooville, whereby the contractual terms and conditions are placed on a low-mounted sign, at the entrance to the car park, and in very small print.  This car park has already gained a reputation of incredibly fast-moving enforcement officers, and unlike many car parks, DOES charge blue badge users which, to be fair, is not unreasonable.  However, from anecdotal posts on the internet, tickets can often be issued in under three minutes, which for many is the time it takes to get a ticket from the machine.

Car park operators are generally members of one of two different trade associations, and will adopt the code of conduct of one of them, even if they are members of both.  For blue badge holders, my advice is to seek car parks who adhere to the code of conduct of the British Parking Association, as their code instructs members NOT to ticket blue badge holders for whatever reason.

Where most operators come up against the law, in this case the Equality Act, is in not making reasonable adjustments, these would include:

  • A longer grace period between parking and affixing a ticket to the car where fees are due
  • Ensuring that marked accessible ‘blue badge’ spaces are laid out to BS8300 standards, and subject to constant review and improvement where complaints or comments are received.
  • Where all spaces are taken, being more understanding where a vehicle which is obviously in use by a wheelchair user, by virtue of visible alteration, blue badge or labelling, in accepting that more room in standard spaces is required, which will often force a disabled driver to overlaps two bays.  Understanding and accepting this, without a ticket, constitutes reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act.
  • In using a private car park, you are agreeing to a legal contract.  Technically this renders fines unenforceable, and if taken to court, the worse case scenario would by having to pay the required fee.  However, for even this to be applicable, the full terms and conditions MUST be visible and posted in multiple locations, generally adjacent to pay machines.  If they are hidden away, and not on your route from the car park to your destination, then there cannot be a contract because you had no opportunity to read and accept the terms.
  • While I don’t know if this is a common practice, or just human error, as yet, but I received a ticket due to having to overlap two bays resulting from my need to fully open the drivers door AND the adjacent car itself being over the line.  I felt that accepting this necessity was a reasonable adjustment.  When I appealed, and complained due to impossible to find terms and conditions, two weeks later I was told the ticket was not even in the system.
  • After two weeks of considerable worry, in my case causing major worsening of existing depression and anxiety, I came to feel that this was a deliberate act on the part of the warden, in not submitting the ticket, because I was disabled, and that he likely realised the ticket would be negated upon appeal.  By not submitting the details, I still have notification of a fine and potential prosecution, but cannot appeal it, or even pay it.  I’ve therefore been forced, following lack of interest from the operating company to investigate, to report the attendant, by his reference number, to the Police, under the Disability Hate Crime laws.  The case, as they say, continues.

Knowing your Badge Rules

The biggest problem with many users of blue badges is that they fail to read the very easy to understand booklet that accompanies EVERY issued blue badge.  It is the same booklet irrespective of who issued the badge, because only one company in the UK actually produces the badges for all authorities.  A couple of things you might not realise:

  • The badge is solely for the benefit of the user.  If the car is parked, and the badge holder remains in the vehicle, then the badge is not being used correctly, and a ticket should be expected.  Put simply, the badge should only be used where the holder actually leaves the car to undertake their own shopping or other activity.
  • The badge cannot be used by a third party in order to perform tasks or activities on the behalf of the holder.
  • The badge is not an automatic license to park anywhere.  You must NOT park in a location likely to cause an obstruction, nor where there are yellow ‘stripes’ on the kerb stones, Zig-Zag markings from crossings and schools are also no-go areas.  You should also know that yellow lines and other restrictions continue to apply even if there is space behind them, or you park on a wide pavement.  Indeed if you block a pavement even without restrictions, you will be ticketed and even towed by the Police fo obstructing the highway.

Our advice is for any blue badge user to read carefully the booklet and follow the simple rules.  They should also keep it with the badge, perhaps behind the clock in one of the many badge holders and ensure that any one else driving you also spends the five minutes needed to read the booklet.  One note about plastic badge holders, the new style plastic printed badges must only be used in new-style holders which are made with a type of plastic which does not remove the printed ink.  If you damage your badge, you WILL have to pay for a new one.

Blue Badges, disabled spaces, and abuse of both, is a very emotive subject, and is one of the largest causes of conflict and bad feeling between the general public and disabled people.  It is very much OUR responsibility to ensure we don’t break the laws.