Disabled badge holders only signFollowing the Government’s Blue Badge announcement yesterday, we asked four families to share their stories and explain why the scheme is so important. They tell us why a Blue Badge can be a lifeline and how it can be the difference between getting out and about or being stuck at home. 

Thanks to: Lewis and Lesley ; Dominic and Rachael; *Charlie, Rose and David; and Noah and Hayley for sharing their stories. Please share them further, so we can increase understanding of why Blue Badges are so important to many autistic people and their families.

Why are Blue Badges so important? 

Just leaving the house is a challenge for many autistic people and their families, involving detailed preparation – and sometimes overwhelming anxiety about plans going wrong.

The existing rules on Blue Badges are too focused on people’s physical ability to walk and didn’t recognise the hidden difficulties many autistic people face. We, at the National Autistic Society, our supporters and other autistic people and families across England have been raising this issue with the Government for many years. We’re thrilled that they have listened to our concerns and put this right. The move will mean that many more autistic people in England will qualify for a Blue Badge – and this will make a huge difference to their lives, and the lives of their families.

For more information about the changes, read our news story.

When will the changes happen?

The changes will need to go through Parliament before they come into force, which will take some time. We should receive an update when Parliament returns in the autumn. We expect that the changes will come into force in 2019. 

We will keep our website updated with more information when it is available. 

Lewis and Lesley's story

Lesley’s 19-year-old son Lewis is autistic. Although Lewis can walk he’s unable to speak or understand instructions, has no sense of danger and can’t plan and follow a journey. His severe OCD means that when he’s outside he needs to constantly stop and touch everything he sees, including people. Lewis is much taller and heavier than his mum and when she tries to intervene he becomes distressed and lashes out, putting both of them at risk. A car is vital if he’s going to travel safely from A to B.

Lesley, said: "If we’re out Lewis stops to touch everything on the way, whether it’s a tree, a leaf, a branch a stick, and if a person comes past he’ll touch their hair. If I try to stop him he gets extremely agitated and hits me, and unless I hold on to him tightly he will run into the road.  

“We did have a Blue Badge but we lost it in 2017, after the criteria changed. Someone decided that if you could walk you were no longer eligible. Well, I would really like that person to come to my home and take my son out and just see how difficult it is to leave the house without putting his life in danger every time he steps out of the door. 

“A Blue Badge would enable us to keep Lewis safe and to do some of the day-to-day things that other families take for granted. It means less stress and exhaustion and an improved quality of life.”

Dominic and Rachael's story

Rachael’s 11-year-old son Dominic is autistic and has other conditions which he struggles with, including ADHD. Dominic’s sensory issues and anxiety means he often has meltdowns when he’s in public places and because he has no sense of danger he will run out into traffic. Although Dominic previously had a Blue Badge he was denied one when they applied to renew it.

Rachael said:
“When we are out and Dominic has a meltdown, which happens regularly, it’s almost impossible to calm him down and make him safe. I suffer from fibromyalgia so I find it extremely difficult to hold him if he decides to run. He can’t go anywhere unaccompanied because of his fearless nature, which is why it’s so important that we park as near to shops or venues as possible. 

“We did have a Blue Badge when he was younger but when it expired we reapplied and were turned down. We appealed the decision but this was rejected too and we’re now going to tribunal to challenge this again. 

“The difference a Blue Badge would make to us is immense! We currently can’t go out as a family as we’d like to - it’s really isolating. If we did have a Blue Badge Dominic would have many more opportunities and a sense of freedom which is so important as he gets older.”

Charlie, Rose and David's story

David and Rose's 17-year-old son Charlie is autistic and has a learning disability. It's almost impossible for us to go out safely as a family because of Charlie's anxieties and lack of awareness of danger.

David said: "We applied for a Blue Badge to help support Charlie's safety when leaving the house but this has been rejected twice because he is considered physically 'mobile'. We've been battling for three years now. We're exhausted. 
"Charlie has no sense of danger and risk. We have to walk everywhere and he needs constant supervision on every road. We have had a few near misses when he's seen our car across the road and has ran to it, without a thought for the traffic. 
"Charlie is also very anxious and can become overwhelmed if we have to park a long way from where we're going, sometimes losing control - kicking and punching. He's 17 now and it hurts. He needs to be able to see our house when we park but we can rarely guarantee a space when we return from going out. So we hardly go out at all now.
"Very simply, all we want is to have a piece of blue card that will help keep our son safe and have quality of life."

*The family’s real names have been changed to maintain their anonymity, at their request

Noah and Hayley's story

Hayley’s four-year-old son Noah is autistic. She applied for a Blue Badge earlier this year but was refused.

Hayley said: "Noah is oblivious to danger, which can make even short walks from the car really difficult. If he manages to run ahead of me, he will often try to run straight ahead regardless of whether there's a busy road in front of him. It's a constant worry. 

“He also has a high level of anxiety and is very resistant to change. If something unexpected happens when we're out, like us being forced to take a different route to town, he can get very upset and lose all control and sometimes be unable to move. It impossible for me to carry him as he is nearly five now and I also have his two-year-old sister in a buggy to consider. It would be safer for us at that point to get him back to the car as quickly as possible.

“There are places we have to avoid during school holidays and at weekends, like busy parks where there is a high demand for parking and a long walk to the entrance.

"A Blue Badge would transform our lives. Parking closer to our destination would make our journeys so much safer and would mean we can leave more quickly, if Noah does become overwhelmed. We'd be able to go out and about so much more, and ultimately have a better quality of life."

Hayley’s husband Tom is completing the 100km Thames Path Challenge for our charity and has raised almost £5,000 so far. Find out more on his JustGiving page.

Further information

The changes won’t come in immediately, as the rule changes need to be approved by Parliament. If you are in the process of applying for a Blue Badge at the moment and you need advice, you can find information on our website

In Scotland and Wales, thanks to our campaigning, eligibility criteria already takes into account some of the barriers autistic people can face getting around. We urge Northern Ireland to follow and replicate these changes. Follow the hyperlinks to find out more about information on Blue Badge eligibility in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.