Should Blue Badge holders be fined for parking in mother and child bays, asks Helen Smith.
We all know the situation. You drive into a supermarket car park. All the disabled bays are full but there’s space in the parent and child bays. You now have to make the decision – do you risk the wrath of a worked up mother and park in the parent and child bay or wait in the hope that a disabled shopper will soon return to their vehicle?
This is just the situation which the disabled parents of Janice Turner, a journalist from The Times, found themselves in. When they went to do their shopping at their local supermarket they parked in a parent and child bay as all the disabled bays were full. However, when they returned to their car they were shocked to find a scrawled note pinned to their windscreen saying: “This is not a disabled space, this is for parents, you stupid old bastards.” Janice was so angered by the insensitivity of the note-writer that she wrote a piece for The Times entitled “Worship of children has gone too far”. Her article goes on to say that: “The note-writer is ignorant as well as cruel: a Blue Badge holder has the right to park in any space – even on yellow lines – by law.”
Although I completely agree with Janice that the note was cruel she is in fact wrong in advising that Blue Badge holders have the right to park in any bay. Although it seems like common sense to let disabled people park in the parent and child bays when all the disabled bays are full it does seem that this is a line which must never be crossed. After this article was published in The Times I received this email from a confused Blue Badge holder.
“Can I park with my Blue Badge showing in a parent and child space if all disabled spaces are full? In our local Sainsbury’s car park I was fined £30 for doing this, which I think is disgraceful, especially as there were plenty of mother and child spaces free. I read in The Times that for disabled people to park in parent and child spaces is quite legal and I should not have been fined. I paid the fine, unfortunately, as I did not know this! But can you tell me what the legal position is on this?”
The legal position is quite simple. Off-street car parks can have spaces for pink Sherman tanks if they want and if they put up the proper signs they can charge you if you park there with any other vehicle. Therefore disabled people without children cannot park in the parent and child spaces.
Although supermarkets have a duty to make sure disabled people can access their goods and services there is no such requirement which says that they must make it easier for parents with children. The reason parent and child spaces are provided is because it makes life easier for parents who spend lots of money and that’s good business sense.
What’s not good business sense is fining disabled people for parking in the wrong space. Just like the elderly couple featured in The Times disabled people don’t park in the mother and child spaces because they can’t be bothered to walk a bit further. They park there when the disabled bays are full and they are in need of a wide space near to the door.
So should parents with children be allowed in the disabled bays? As far as I’m concerned absolutely – as long as the parent is disabled. But otherwise no. I may be accused of being a hypocrite but for many disabled people a wide bay close to the door is essential whereas for parents with children a wide bay really is just a help.