The Blue Badge scheme has long been recognised as a way for disabled people to have more freedom and independence. Since its introduction in 1970, the scheme has improved quality of life for millions of disabled people by allowing them to park close to where they need to go.  Currently, around 2.4million people have blue badges in England which also means they can use disabled parking bays and park on yellow lines for up to three hours.

However, only people with physical disabilities are currently eligible for a Blue Badge. Those with a so called ‘hidden disability’, such as dementia, are not.

But this could all be about to change, thanks to new government proposals to tighten up the guidelines (which are vague at best) so that dementia, autism and other disabilities which may not be immediately visible, are also included in the Blue Badge scheme.

The news has been welcomed by people whose lives are affected by dementia, as well as experts and campaigners who believe it could help to ease social isolation and improve daily life for people with dementia, enabling them to see friends, go shopping and keep important hospital and doctor appointments.

Current guidelines about Blue Badge eligibility are open to interpretation, and whilst a few councils do recognise the ‘hidden disabilities’, many don’t. This means some people with dementia find they can get a Blue Badge…and others can’t. The Department of Transport wants new guidelines to be clearer and more consistent so that every Local Authority in England understands that dementia and other hidden disabilities should be treated in the same way as any physical disability.

As it stands, the current ‘postcode lottery’ can causes a great deal of frustration and confusion. For example, some family carers have found they can get a Blue Badge if they focus their application on the fact that the person they care for has suffered a fall or experiences dizzy spells. But having to ‘prove’ they deserve a Blue Badge by citing evidence of physical disability, can be both demeaning and depressing. After all, isn’t a dementia diagnosis proof enough that a person is disabled?

The final decision about the Blue Badge scheme will be made after an eight-week consultation. Let’s hope the policy makers finally see sense.

Did you know?

  • 75 per cent of blue badge holders say they would go out less often if they did not have one
  • You don’t need to drive to get a Blue Badge. If someone else is driving you, the badge should be displayed in their car, but you can’t allow other people to use it when you are not in the car, even if they’re shopping or doing something on your behalf.

Want to apply for a blue badge?

Start by going here. You will then be directed to the right place, according to where you live. If your local authority doesn’t recognise dementia as grounds for eligibility, it might be worth waiting a few weeks until the government consultation period is over.

Want to read more about dementia and driving? Here’s 3 more articles:

Can I still drive if I have dementia?

What are the signs of unsafe driving?

Dementia’s dirty secrets #2: Driving, dementia and breaking the law