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Posts tagged ‘Blue Badge Bays’

Inconsiderate Cyclists

As a car driver in London, cyclists are not my favourite people. I find the way they ride aggressively and in packs quite disconcerting, and their disregarding of red lights and the rest of the Highway Code appalling.

When I could walk, albeit using an elbow crutch, I had several encounters with cyclists riding on pavements and was knocked over twice. Neither cyclist cared about what happened to me – just riding off swearing because I didn’t get out of their way, dispute the fact they were in the wrong.

A few days ago on my way across London I decided to go shopping at the largest Marks & Spencer store in the capital. There are five Blue Badge Bays at the rear of the Oxford St shop, luckily I only had to lurk for about 20 minutes before a space was free. I manoeuvred into it quickly as other cars were also waiting.

It was only when I got out of my car to unload my wheelchair that I realised I was going to have a problem, a very inconsiderate cyclist had chained his bike to the post displaying the Blue Badge signage. This meant that getting my chair out was going to be very difficult.

I couldn’t move my car any further back, as that would have meant that I did not have enough space to get my wheelchair out. If I moved any further forward, the front wheels would be over the bay markings and I would get a parking ticket. I contemplated doing that, and then moving my car back inside the bay, but obviously that would mean leaving my wheelchair on the pavement. I was really uncomfortable with that option as I feared my chair would be stolen whilst I was re-parking. I’m not being paranoid, this not unknown.

So I decided to try and get the chair out without moving my car. This was easier said than done, the positioning of bike meant I couldn’t set the chair down whilst standing in front of it, the best and safest way. I had to try and guide it from the side, this was much slower to do, and took more time than usual, causing me pain. In doing this, I had to move round my chair to operate the control used to hoist it. My balance hasn’t been good recently and, inevitably I fell, landing on the bike and injuring my leg.

I was really cursing the cyclist by now! Though I suspect he had no idea at all that he had caused any inconvenience to anybody.

Eventually a kind person helped me up, and I managed to move my chair so I could sit in it and get the electrically operated hoist back into the car. I put the footrests on my chair and went off shopping.

Sadly, my hunt for the perfect small black cross-body bag was not successful and I couldn’t find the sleeveless t-shirt I was looking for either. As I got into the lift to go to a higher floor to mooch the garden furniture (well I might get a flat with a balcony or garden when I move) I was joined by two other women. One was, at a guess, in her late sixties, the other about 20 years younger, and as I later discovered didn’t speak much English. As I went to push the lift button to go up, the older woman pushed my arm away, hit the down button and said; “I’m going to the lower ground floor first, you can wait, you’re in a wheelchair.”

For a moment I didn’t quite know what to say, but then I found my voice, “There is no need to be rude to me, I’m entitled to use the lift as much as you are.” By then we had reached the lower floor and the older woman just glared at me and walked out of the lift. I quickly pushed the button to send the lift upwards.

The younger woman looked at me and in broken English asked what had been said, I just shrugged my shoulders pointed to my head with a screw-like gesture saying, “The old lady was rude and mad.” By now we were at the floor both I and the younger woman wanted, I wheeled out of the lift and drove off towards the garden chairs.

I’ve encountered all sorts of reactions to being in a wheelchair, including the women who as she entered the lift with me on my way down to the store exits, just demanded straight out; “Why are you in a wheelchair?” I gave her a quick, truthful response (as I’ve done numerous times before), which thankfully ended our conversation. But, being regarded as a second class lift user is a new one to me!

However, as Eleanor Roosevelt said; ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’ So, I held my head up high and wheeled out of the shop and went off to browse bags I could only pretend to afford across the road in Selfridges.

Blue Badge Bay Battle

Council bureaucracy and van drivers who can’t read!

When I first moved to this flat seven years ago I applied for a Blue Badge parking space outside my flat, as on the road where I live there are often more cars than parking spaces. It should have been a simple and straightforward process, I had been granted my Blue Badge by the same council I was applying to for a parking bay. Both processes required that I was unable to walk more than 50 yards.

I was speedily issued with my Blue Badge, but when it came to the parking space the OT who assessed me somehow decided that because I was using a mobility scooter and not a wheelchair I could not be granted a bay. I appealed and the same decision was repeated. So I contacted a firm of solicitors with expertise in such matters and they agreed to represent me under the Legal Aid scheme so I could challenge the council decision by Judicial Review. Several letters were not responded to and it was only when my solicitors were within days of fixing the court hearing that the council caved in and agreed to grant me the bay.

Great, I thought, no more parking problems! But I was mistaken, it seems that a high number of delivery drivers (they are the worst culprits) are unable to read. I often discover that when I’m not parked in the space, they decide it’s a convenient spot to leave their vehicles whilst delivering to my neighbours. So I’m often unable park anywhere near my flat and find myself blocking the road until the parking bay is free. I also find that other Blue Badge holders often use the bay, which they do not need to. Anyone with a Blue Badge may park in any residents bay in this borough for an unlimited period.

Occasionally too, the empty bay gets used by mums driving ‘Chelsea Tractors’ drooping their children off for play dates or parties. They are usually rather more polite and apologetic than white van man!

If I need to park in another residential street I invariably avoid any Blue Badge bay outside someone’s house out of consideration for the person who applied for the bay and therefore needs to use it themselves. I wish others would be as thoughtful.

Sometimes the car using the bay outside my flat has no Blue Badge, which means in theory that I could call the council and ask that the car be ticketed and removed. But, due to cuts neither parking wardens or the pick-up truck work outside ‘office hours’. Thus it can be hours, and at the weekend, days before the car is driven away or is forcibly removed.

Having noticed several other bays in my borough that are now for designated Blue Badge holders only I called the council to enquire how I can get the bay outside designated solely for my use. I was not impressed to discover I have to undergo yet another assessment!

I asked why and was told it was ‘procedure’! I explained that I receive DLA, soon to be PIP, only to be told that didn’t matter I still needed to be assessed. I really cannot understand why. If I’m entitled to a Motability car by reason of having the Higher Rate Mobility Component of DLA why do I need to prove that I use a wheelchair? It is well known that the road I live in is ‘parking premium street’ In council-speak, so why waste my time and the council’s money on paying yet another OT to assess me again?

In September last year I filled in the form and got someone to post it for me. It took seven weeks and four frustrating phone calls to finally get an appointment for my assessment. I was lucky that a friend was able to come with me and that someone in the council managed to get permission for me to park in the Town Hall car park, so I didn’t have to risk getting a parking ticket, as parking in notoriously difficult near the Town Hall.

My OT assessor was a young man, only a couple of years out of college as a guess. I used to employ OTs at work and this one did not appear very knowledgeable. Despite giving him a written account of my Medical History and Medications, he asked a number of questions which indicated he didn’t understand my medical conditions. Within 15mins we were out of the door again, having been told I was eligible for the bay! A waste of time & money for all concerned!

That appointment was in mid November last year. By Xmas I still had no further letter from the council saying when the signage would be amended to personalise the bay.

Eventually, half way through January and after several more phone calls, I got a letter saying the work would be done by the end of February. I was also sent a special permit, which I proudly displayed on my car windscreen. February came and went and still no new signage. During the first week of March, I finally managed to speak to someone who assured me the work will be done within the next two weeks.

Still nothing happened. One Friday however, several bays including the one outside my flat were all suspended. I mistakenly presumed that the personalisation of my bay was about to happen. No workmen turned up and the only other activity was the tow truck taking three cars away. A bonus for the council of £1,000, the cost for the drivers to get their cars back from the car pound.

Again, more phone calls, this time I was given an actual date 7th April. I was told that the suspension notices would allocate a temporary bay for me further down on my side of the road. Whether I can access it or not, of course depends on other drivers leaving the space free.

On Sunday evening, no luck! The space was occupied by another car. I can’t move my car before 8am on Monday morning, as my carers don’t come that early and if I put my contact lenses in at that time I will have to take them out mid afternoon, greatly restricting my day. I managed to park fairly near my flat on the other side of the road.

The first thing I heard this morning when I woke was the tow truck taking cars away. More money for the Council! Eventually at about 11am the workmen arrived and within 45mins the bay was finally personalised, so nobody else should park there in future. If anyone does, the police as well as the council have the power to tow the offender’s vehicle away.

For now, I’m just delighted to have my personalised bay, after 8 months of battling. It will give me greater freedom, I often worry about going out at night, or coming home in the evening, as experience has taught me that is the most common time for non Blue Badge Holders to occupy my bay. All I hope is that others will respect the signage and park elsewhere!

Murder at a Blue Badge Bay

The jailing for 5 years of Alan Watts on Thursday this week for the murder of Brian Holmes, because he wrongly believed that Mr Holmes should not have been parking in a Blue Badge Bay in the ASDA car park in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, has caused me to ponder once again about how disabled people are treated.

In the case I’ve cited, Alan Homes who had recently recovered from cancer, was not the Blue Badge holder, but his wife who was disabled and shopping in the ASDA store was entitled to use the bay. So, on a wrong hasty premise, violence occurred and a much-loved man lost his life in a cruel, premature and dreadful way.

His murderer Watts was another pensioner, and in none of the reports that I have read was there any mention him being physically disabled. So I’m presuming that Watts himself was not entitled to use a Blue Badge, and was probably just judging and interfering in something that was actually nothing to do with him at all.

Why is it that some people chose to set themselves up as ‘moral police’ and think they know better than others?

Why do they think they have this right?

Is it because Ian Duncan-Smith and other Tories seek to demonise disabled people and threaten even the most disabled and the dying with loss of benefits?

One of the things that being disabled has taught me is that Is that often disabilities are hidden. One of my disabilities is not visible unless I try to walk any distance, I only have 40% lung function and that obviously greatly affects what I can do.

When I first started to need to use an electric buggy for mobilisation I was in my early 50s and I used to get very suspicious looks from people, some even suggested that I didn’t need to use it at all. If I felt brave enough I would explain why I needed to do so. Sometimes I just said “You’re lucky you don’t have my disability”, other times I just ignored the comments.

I sometimes get the impression some that non-disabled people do not think that we (as disabled people) should have any ‘preferential’ treatment.

Believe me, believing disabled is not ‘the easy option’. I, and many disabled people I know, would love to be well enough to work full-time, to be able to go shopping and not have to spend the rest of the day resting to get pain levels and breathlessness stable again. It would be lovely to be spontaneous again and not have to plan everything around how or where to park and when I’ve got someone to go with me.

I wish I didn’t need to use Blue Badge Bays, or a wheelchair, but I can’t change the fact of how that aspect of my life is governed.

Blue Badge Bays are NOT a privilege, they are a much-needed help for those of us that need to use them.

One of the organisations I belong to Disabled Motoring UK runs an annual survey called BayWatch. This asks members to monitor Blue Badge Bays in their local supermarket and check how many are being used by cars not displaying a Blue Badge and how the supermarkets deal with these infringements. As supermarket car parks are private land mis-use of bays is not a matter for Local Authority Parking Wardens. I’ve never joined in this survey as I’ve not felt brave enough to do so. I have always been concerned about encountering someone who would be abusive or threatening.

I once read about a disabled woman who printed out a sign which said ‘You’ve parked in my parking space, would you like my disability too?’ She used to place this on cars in her local supermarket who were parked in Blue Badge Bays without displaying a badge. I wish I could reach car windscreens from my wheelchair to do the same!

But, back to my original questions. Is our society just becoming more intolerant and/or violent? Should we as disabled people be more vocal when we are challenged or is silence the safe option? I don’t know the answer, but I know that statistics say that violent crime is decreasing, however I’m not sure I believe the statistics!

I do know that as a woman on my own, I’m not brave enough to challenge others, even though I would like to. I’ve been political all my life, being involved with CND, the Anti-Apartheid Campaign, Amnesty International and many others, but now my campaigning has to be through this blog and the occasional tweet or letter to a newspaper.

Disabled people deserve the same rights and considerations as any other human beings. We don’t need sympathy, just understanding and some help to do those things which non-disabled people take for granted.

It is a mitzvah (commandment) in Jewish teaching that we should not judge others harshly. In the Christian faith there is a saying by Jesus “Judge not least you be judged”. My grandmother taught me “If you can’t say anything good about someone keep quiet!”

If more people followed even one of these dictums the world would be a better place and disabled people would be treated with less suspicion and more courtesy.

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