In case you missed it, the criteria for having a blue parking badge in the UK have changed. This means that people who find going out difficult, such as people with ASD or mental health issues, can have one part of the journey eased by having an accessible parking space. Firstly, this is a fantastic further step in equality, as it recognises that it’s not just physical disabilities that can become a barrier in going out.
There’s also a second reason why this change in criteria is #ADisabilityPositive. Now that it is commonly understood that people with Blue Badges do not necessarily have a physical disability, hopefully the public will stop looking for people who “look the part”.
It’s a big issue in the UK, that those with hidden disabilities, including mental health issues, are not considered in the same way as those with more obvious disabilities. It seems only right to let someone in a wheelchair use the lift, for example, but not as obvious to let someone in first if they struggle with waiting due to a hidden disability. This is something that has to change – it needs to be understood that there are people who may not have an obvious disability, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have one. People are very willing to be kind and generous when they can see that they have to be, but are far less likely to help and be patient when they can’t see that there might be a good reason to be.
As much as disability equality needs to come a long way from everyone, people need to be forced into realising that disability affects people in so many different ways that aren’t always visible. It’s not their job to make it more obvious, it’s your job to think outside the box and consider that there may be something you can’t see.
Also, people don’t realise how hard it is to get a Blue Badge. You have to qualify for one, so not even everyone who deserves one can get one. This means that the next time you see someone leave their car, who doesn’t “appear” to have a disability, realise that they do. You can’t see it, but that’s okay, it’s not your business to. If we start accepting that all disability isn’t visible, we can make a further step towards equality by understanding there are things you might not understand. This is why I hope that the change in the Blue Badge criteria can be a starting point for a change in disability perception in the UK, as it will hopefully make others think a little bit more about what they can’t see rather than revert to assuming that someone isn’t deserving of the support they are receiving.