They haven’t even got a wheelchair! Why Blue Badges can start a revolution
Category: Blogger's Corner
We love a bit of good news. This month we’ve been loudly cheering the Government announcement that people with hidden disabilities, including autism and mental health conditions, will have access to blue badges that allow them parking privileges.
On the surface, it’s a step to removing the barriers many people face to travel. People that are often overlooked in the push to equality and parity in society. The new recipients of blue badges will be those with hidden disabilities. These have no physical signs to the outside world but are still disabilities under the Equality Act. They include, but are not limited to, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and mental health.
How to get a blue badge?
To get a badge people will now need to show they:
cannot travel without risking serious harm to either their health or safety or someone else’s (this has been praised by parents of young autistic children)
cannot travel without considerable psychological distress
have very considerable difficulty when walking
We applaud this move by the government, and the foresight of the 6,000 people who took part in the consultation. It shows we are moving closer to a society in which we take mental health problems as seriously as we take physical health problems. Both can change and shape people’s lives. Both mean some people need extra support to start from an equal point.
Definitions of disability
On a deeper level, this announcement shows a serious turn towards reconsidering disability and equality. We live in a society where people define disability by wheelchairs, but there’s a wealth of concerns and possibilities among our populations that go much deeper. The Government has taken a sensible step that brings this discussion to the foreground, but they can go further. We all can.
We need to raise awareness about assistive technology solutions. These are small changes that can help those with hidden disabilities to manage things easier. Examples include making sure websites are accessible to all in their fonts, colours and content. That people have the right support they need in the workplace. That government policy is being played out as well behind closed doors as it is in public car parks.
For employers, these may be simple strategies such as using voice mail for basic communications rather than e-mail or written memos. Or using text-to-speech software to listen to text such as Texthelp Read & Write and ClaroRead. This is not just a legal obligation (to make “reasonable adjustments for staff” under the Equality Act) but will increase productivity and job satisfaction for employees.
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