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Accessible Parking: An AccessAble Guide

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 parking.

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.

Accessible Parking

When trying to find somewhere to park a car, most motorists want somewhere close to where they need to go at a reasonable price. In addition, disabled people also need wider parking bays and level access so they can safely get out of a car. Parking is available on the street where Blue Badge holders can park free of charge or off-street in car parks provided by the local authority or by private operators such as NCP. Wherever you park do check the rules of the car park as they all tend to differ and in off street car parks Blue Badge holders may have to pay. Many people get confused about parking rules, they don’t know why they got a PCN (parking ticket) or how to appeal.

Helen Dolphin in a car park with her assistance dog

Parking FAQs

What are the main differences between a private run car park and a local authority run car park?

When parking in a car park you may not notice whether it is run by your local authority or by a private operator such as NCP. Most car parks will provide accessible bays and ensure there is level access for those who need it. However, the main differences come from how they deal with people breaking the rules of the car park, for example by parking in the wrong bay or overstaying the permitted time.

If you have broken the rules of a car park run by a local authority you will get issued with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). If you disagree with it, you need to make a formal challenge and if this is rejected you can appeal to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal or London Tribunals if you live in London. If the car park is managed by a private parking company, you will be issued with a Parking Charge Notice. Before doing anything, you should check the company is registered with an accredited trade association (ATA). This will either be the British Parking Association (BPA) or the International Parking Community (IPC). Only ATA members can get your details from the DVLA. If your appeal to the parking operator is rejected you can appeal to an independent Appeals Service. Depending on the ATA the company is registered with the appeal will be to a different body but all the information should be provided on your Parking Charge Notice.

If all the Blue Badge bays are taken at the supermarket can I park in the family bays instead?

By law supermarkets need to make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled people can access their goods and services. They usually do this by providing accessible bays and making sure they are kept free for people who need them. If they let anyone without a Blue Badge park in them they could be in breach of the Equality Act. This is why you see signs up saying that if you park there without a Blue Badge you may be issued with a parking ticket.

Supermarkets also provide bays for parents with children. There is no obligation for them to do so, it’s just good for customers. However, these too usually have signs in them saying if you park there without a child you will get a parking ticket. They can do this as the carpark is run under contract law. Therefore, if you parked in a parent and child bay you could potentially get a ticket. However, in reality if all the accessible bays were taken and so you parked in a parent and child bay, as long as you inform the customer services desk that is what you have done you will usually be fine but don’t just assume it will be OK.

If I need to take my Blue Badge with me when I fly abroad, and I need to display it in the airport car park to avoid a PCN, what can I do?

All airports in the UK have procedures in place to enable you to both park in an accessible bay which requires a Blue Badge to be displayed, and take your Blue Badge with you. The policy can vary from airport to airport so do check what it is at the airport you are flying from. Some require you to display a copy of your badge whereas others issue you with a permit to put in your window. Smaller airports may just make a note of your registration and pass it on to the company managing the car park.

Do Blue Badges work the same wherever you park in the UK?

The Blue Badge parking scheme is a UK wide scheme and the rules on where you can and cannot park are generally the same with a few exceptions. The most notable exception is the fact that you cannot park on double or single yellow lines in the City of London, City of Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and some parts of Camden. It’s also worth noting that in Scotland there is no restriction on how long you can park on double and single yellow lines whereas in the rest of the UK you can only park for up to three hours. The cost of a Blue Badge is also different depending on where you live as well as some of the qualifying criteria.

AccessAble’s Detailed Access Guides have detailed sections on parking for each of the 70,000 venues on our website and App. Search on and download the free App from the Apple Store and the Google Play Store.

Screenshot of a Detailed Access Guide parking section

If you have any further questions about the Blue Badge scheme, feel free to get in touch.

Motoring advocate, entrepreneur, presenter