AccessAble are delighted to launch a new blog series with accessible motoring expert Helen Dolphin, answering your questions on Blue Badges, parking and motoring. This month we’re focussing on motoring.
So, a little bit about me… I became disabled in my early 20s when I contracted meningococcal septicaemia and lost all four of my limbs. Although I can walk a little bit, I mainly use a wheelchair. I have a Motability car and I drive all over the UK for work and pleasure. I love travelling and have been lucky enough to visit most of Europe, India, Australia and America. I have an assistance dog called Fairport and a three-year-old son.
Since becoming disabled I’ve been passionate about improving transport for disabled people. I currently work for lots of different organisations to ensure the needs of disabled people are met. These include the Department for Transport where I chair the personal mobility working group for the Disabled Person’s Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) where I sit on the consumer panel, Heathrow airport where I co-chair the Accessibility and Access Group and East Midlands Trains where I also chair their access group. I also run a parking accreditation company called People’s Parking which is helping to drive up standards in the industry and help consumers, including disabled people, find their ideal car park.
How disabled people drive varies significantly. Some disabled people need to drive or travel in their wheelchair, and other disabled people may need no adaptations at all. I’m a quadruple amputee, but with a number of adaptations I can drive easily and safely. As well as getting the vehicle and adaptations that suit you there are also other factors to consider, such as getting fuel, what happens when you break down, getting a licence and much more.
How can I get assistance to put petrol in my car?
Like many disabled people I am unable to refuel my vehicle independently and so I need someone else to do it for me. Unfortunately, not all petrol stations have enough staff to help and so I use Fuelservice which tells you which nearby stations have assistants available who will refuel your car. It also provides them with your registration plate and time you will be arriving so often there is someone waiting for you. I use this app at my local Sainsbury filling station and it works brilliantly. This app has not solved the payment issue as you cannot pay for your fuel with it. However, if you get your fuel from BP or Shell you can use either BPme or Shell App to pay through your phone.
Some cities have brought in/are bringing in Ultra Low emission zones, how will these affect disabled motorists?
Since April 2019 drivers of the most polluting vehicles have had to pay to drive into central London, and in the next few years many other towns and cities across the UK will be following suit. This is because the air quality in many places needs to be improved and one of the ways to improve it is by introducing Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) and Clean Air Zones (CAZ). The rules for towns and cities planning on introducing these zones are different, on which vehicles will be banned and which will be allowed in. Some areas have said there will be exemptions for disabled motorists but in other areas this doesn’t seem to be the case. In London vehicles registered with a disabled tax class are exempt from the ULEZ charge until 26 October 2025 and after that there will be no exemptions. Therefore it is difficult to say at the moment exactly how much disabled people will be affected by these zones.
What’s the best way to transport my assistance dog?
There are several different ways to transport your dog, and it will very much depend on you and your access needs, which suits you best. The size and shape of your car and the size and temperament of your dog will also need to be considered. Dog harnesses are the best and safest choice of restraint. Dog harnesses are worn around the neck and chest of the dog and attach to the seatbelt fittings. However, if like me this would be too fiddly for you to manage then a dog crate or dog guard might suit you better. If you have a big dog then you’ll need a big crate and if you have to transport a wheelchair as well it might be difficult to fit. Dog guards can be fitted to your vehicle between the back of the seats and the boot area. This provides a caged in area for your dog to be contained within. However, as long as your dog is restrained it will be much safer for you and them.
AccessAble’s Detailed Access Guides have detailed sections on getting to and parking each of the 70,000 venues on our website and App. Search on www.AccessAble.co.uk and download the free App from the Apple Store and the Google Play Store.
If you have any further questions about accessible motoring, feel free to get in touch.