Headshot photo of Nusrat Ghani, Accessibility Minister

New rules on Blue Badges are coming into force in England on 30 August, which will mean many more autistic people can apply. In this exclusive blog, Accessibility Minister Nusrat Ghani explains the new rules and outlines the guidance being issued to local authorities to help them implement the changes.

With summer just around the corner, there’s nothing better than getting out of the house to visit friends or family, or for a day trip.

Lots of people wouldn’t think twice about parking the car when out and about - but for many autistic people, these journeys can quickly switch from a joy to an ordeal.

Just leaving the house is a challenge for many autistic people, involving detailed preparation – and sometimes overwhelming anxiety about plans going wrong. And some might not be aware of the dangers of the road or may become overwhelmed by busy or loud environments.

The possibility of not being able to find a parking space near where they’re going can mean they can’t contemplate leaving the house at all.

Blue Badges are a lifeline for disabled people, giving them the freedom and confidence to get to work and visit friends independently. The scheme already means people with physical disabilities can park closer to their destination than other drivers.

That’s why today marks an important step towards our ambition of expanding the Blue Badge scheme to include autistic people and other people with non-visible disabilities.

We have listened to charities including the National Autistic Society and its supporters who have highlighted the concerns of autistic people and their families and the need to look again at the rules for Blue Badges.

And I am delighted that people with some types of non-visible disability will soon be able to access Blue Badge parking permits, thanks to the roll out of new guidance. The extension of the scheme was announced last summer, and forms an important part of the Government’s drive for greater parity between physical and mental health, including non-visible disabilities.

The new guidance, which represents the biggest change to the scheme in 50 years, will offer a lifeline to people who often find road travel difficult and help many to reduce loneliness and isolation.

Our clear and consistent guidelines will help councils administer their Blue Badge schemes and decide if an applicant meets the eligibility criteria when these changes come into force on 30 August 2019.

To coincide with this, a task group will be set up to help local authorities tackle fraudulent use of the badges, and help the public to understand that the people using a badge may not immediately appear to need one.

As Transport Accessibility Minister I am committed to ensuring that people with all disabilities have the same access to transport as everyone else, and that they are able to travel easily, confidently and without extra cost. But we know that there is still more to be done which is why my department is also working hard on ensuring our wider transport network – not just roads – but railways, buses, aeroplanes and ferries too – is open to all.

Last year we announced our Inclusive Transport Strategy – laying out how the Government plans to build a transport system that will enable disabled people to travel easily, confidently and without extra cost.

Back in April, we shared the fantastic news that 73 stations across the country will get a share of £300 million to make the rail network more accessible. Alongside this, we have also made £2 million available for audio and visual equipment on buses and a further £2 million of funding for fully accessible toilets at motorway service stations.

And as part of this important work we will also be launching a campaign to improve awareness of the needs and rights of disabled people across the transport network, and to prevent hate crime. But while these schemes will make a real difference to disabled people’s lives, they are only part of delivering the real change that is required to provide equal travel opportunities for everyone.

It’s absolutely right that disabled people are able to go about their daily life without worrying about how they will get from one place to another.

These changes will make a huge difference to thousands of people with non-visible disabilities, so that they can enjoy the freedoms that many of us take for granted.