One in three of the population is disabled or close to someone who is, and according to statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions, the disabled population controls a spending power of between £50bn and £80bn annually. But 50 per cent of disabled people report experiencing discrimination in accessing goods and services, and parking is one of the main culprits.
While increasing numbers of severely disabled people are now able to drive their own vehicles, being able to get into a car park at their destination can be difficult, and Disabled Motoring UK (DMUK) – a national membership charity fighting to improve mobility and access for all disabled people including drivers, passengers, and Blue Badge holders - fears that unless parking provision improves dramatically disabled people won’t be able to go anywhere alone because of problems accessing car parking facilities.
“Disabled people have just as many rights as anyone else, and their money’s just as good as anyone else’s,” says Graham Footer, chief executive of DMUK. “They are prepared to pay for parking. They just want to be able to park their cars and they want to feel safe.”
There has been increasingly negative coverage of disabled parking issues in the media, with much of the debate revolving around the blue badge scheme; a survey of Disabled Motoring UK’s own members found blue badge abuse was their greatest concern, ahead of disabled bays.
“Fifty per cent of blue badge misuse is borrowing a legitimate user’s badge,” says Footer. “If we don’t get a grip on this the scheme will be undermined to the point where it is useless.” And that could have disastrous consequences. “The scheme is a lifeline for our members,” he said. “Their quality of life will be reduced and they’ll be stuck back in that little silo in their houses.”
In response to this, DMUK has launched The Disabled Parking Award (DPA) in partnership with UK Parking Control, their preferred supplier and responsible for setting the directive for the award’s conditions and qualifications.
The DPA is primarily aimed at improving parking for disabled people and reducing abuse of disabled spaces. It required owners / operators to adopt an active management strategy to ensure that there are facilities suitable for disabled people and minimal occurrence of disabled bay abuse.
And it is hoped the scheme will help to protect car park operators from discrimination claims under the Equality Act 2010, which says that providers of services to the public must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to remove barriers which may discriminate against disabled people by introducing, for example, larger accessible parking spaces near to the entrance or amenities, lowered payment machines and alternative payment methods.
The award is issued to car park owners / operators who can demonstrate via a self-assessment form or to an independent assessor visiting the site – who will take into consideration the age of the car park, usage levels and other relevant issues - that they are committed to creating a high-quality parking facility that meets the needs of disabled people.
During the assessment process, operators will have access to expert consultation officers who will work to get the car park up to the required standard to achieve the DPA. Successful applicants will get a certificate to display at the car park, access to a press pack to promote the award to the local community, a listing on the DPA website and other benefits.
“At UKPC we often hear from disabled people who are complaining that they cannot park because of the abuse of disabled bays, and many say that they have no option other than to take their custom elsewhere,” says UKPC managing director, Rupert Williams. “We are delighted to be supporting DMUK with their DPA initiative, which recognises car parks that not only have excellent facilities for disabled people, but also enforce the disabled bays. The DPA will bring more disabled customers to shopping centres increasing footfall and delivering a fair and equal service to all members of the community.”
The DPA fees are £200 for a car park with up to 200 spaces, £250 for car parks up to 1,000 spaces, and £300 for those with 1,000+ spaces. The award is re-issued every year subject to an annual reassessment.