People with conditions such as dementia or autism may soon have greater access to Blue Badges, according to plans from Transport Minister Jesse Norman. The proposed changes would see those with less obvious disabilities, including mental conditions, given greater access to the badges in order to improve their mobility.
"Blue Badges give people with disabilities the freedom to get jobs, see friends or go to the shops with as much ease as possible," Norman said. "We want to try to extend this to people with invisible disabilities, so they can enjoy the freedom to get out and about, where and when they want."
The Blue Badge was introduced in 1970 and has undergone only very minor changes since. These proposals would be the most significant changes to the system since launch.
Around 2.4 million people in England alone have a Blue Badge, which allows them access to disabled parking bays and free parking in towns – usually without a time limit.
Sarah Lambert, head of policy at the National Autistic Society, welcomed the proposal. "It could mean that many more autistic people will qualify for a Blue Badge, which can be a lifeline," she said.
"There are an estimated 700,000 autistic people in the UK and whilst every person on the autism spectrum is different, for some, not being able to park in a predictable place close to a destination can cause a great deal of anxiety and put their safety at risk.
"However, current Blue Badge rules mean that all-too-often autistic people don't qualify. We hope the government will make this important change and we look forward to working with them to make sure that autistic people and their families benefit."