March News Update

March 2nd, 2011

Welcome to the March Inclusion.Me news update – been a busy few months for us so apologies for the lack of regular news updates – we try our best but do follow us on Facebook and Twitter for much more regular news updates.

DfT announces reforms to Blue Badge parking system

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced reforms to the Blue Badge parking system for disabled people in England, including measures intended to prevent drivers from abusing the system. Blue Badges prioritise parking spaces close to services, allowing disabled people to access them more easily. However, the Government has stated that increasing levels of Blue Badge fraud mean that people who require the spaces are often displaced by people who do not need them. The Government also estimates that such fraud costs the UK £46 million a year.

The measures, which will start to come into force from April this year, include:

  • providing local authorities with an on-the-spot power to recover badges that have been cancelled and misused
  • shared administration between authorities – including an online application facility
  • wider use of independent mobility assessments, rather than those currently undertaken by GPs, to determine eligibility. To enable this, local authorities will be given control of National Health Service spend on Blue Badge assessments
  • replacing handwritten badges with standard electronic ones which are harder to alter and forge
  • extending the scheme to more disabled children under three years of age and disabled Armed Forces personnel and veterans

A decision on whether or not to extend eligibility to people with temporary impairments lasting at least one year has been deferred, pending the outcome of independent research into the likely impacts on existing holders and local authorities. To finance the improvements, the maximum fee for a badge that local authorities can charge will rise from £2 to £10.

The reforms follow a consultation on the Blue Badge parking system which took place between March and July 2010.

The Minister for Transport, Norman Baker, said: ‘The changes will crack down on Blue Badge misuse, modernise the system and extend eligibility to other groups such as more disabled children under three and severely disabled war veterans and service personnel. These improvements will mean that blue-badge holders get a much better service for less than 1p per day.’

Dai Powell OBE, Chair of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) said: ‘These proposals can bring us one step nearer to a fairer and more consistently applied scheme. DPTAC hope to continue working closely with the Department as it implements these measures to ensure they lead to better outcomes for disabled people.’

For further information, visit the DfT website

New Routemaster bus judged inaccessible for electric wheelchairs

The charity Transport for All has said that the new London Routemaster bus, examples of which are due to be introduced from 2012, is inaccessible to electric-wheelchair users. The new bus design was commissioned as a replacement for the old Routemaster bus, the last routes of which stopped running in 2005. Full-scale mock-ups of the bus are currently being built and tested in Northern Ireland.

During testing sessions, wheelchair users from Transport for All were unable to access the bus. Yousef Bey-Zekkoub, of Transport for All, said: ‘The wheelchair space is even smaller than on the bus I use regularly. It is completely inaccessible for electric wheelchairs.’ He added: ‘With the 2012 Olympics, Transport for London has the opportunity to show the world what an accessible bus is.’

Mike Weston, Operations Director for London buses at Transport for London, said that several rails and seats had been moved, but insisted they could not remove seats altogether as elderly people needed plenty of seating on the lower level. He said: ‘Since the mock-up was delivered last year, we have been holding sessions with user groups who have been trying the vehicle. Based on them we have made some changes to the wheelchair bay.’

He added: ‘We have now got something better than a lot of buses we have already got, and way in excess of legal requirements.’

For the full story, visit the BBC News website

RLSB chief executive left stranded after lack of assistance by Eurostar

Bit of a major blunder by Eurostar…….The chief executive of the Royal London Society for the Blind, Dr Tom Pey, is considering taking legal action against Eurostar after the train operator failed to provide assistance when he arrived at Brussels. Dr Pey, who had chosen not to take his guide dog on the journey, had arranged in advance to be guided off the train at Brussels, where he had visited the European Parliament to press for improved rights for guide-dog users. However, as nobody arrived to guide him off the train, he was unable to find the way out of the station for more than an hour.

Dr Pey said: ‘For me it was just terrifying because you literally don’t know where you are, and if that happened to you in London, for instance, at least you know how you can stop and ask for help. When you’re in a foreign country it doesn’t necessarily work that way and you’re pretty much on your own.’

A Eurostar spokesman said: ‘This was obviously a distressing experience for Dr Pey and we called him last week and apologised unreservedly. We are committed to providing support to all our passengers who require assistance and while situations like these are thankfully rare, this incident is being taken extremely seriously.’

Eurostar also confirmed that it had offered Dr Pey two pairs of first-class tickets to be used for fundraising purposes, and had also offered to make a financial donation to the Royal London Society for the Blind.

For further information, visit the BBC News website

MP says that he was mocked for disability in parliamentary debate

Shocking but unfortunately still a bit predictable…….A Conservative MP has said that Labour MPs mocked him in the House of Commons. Paul Maynard, who has cerebral palsy, said that opposition MPs made faces at him, apparently impersonating him, as he spoke. He said that the MPs could have been trying to put him ‘off his stride’, and that their behaviour could have been put down to ‘normal parliamentary tactics’. He added: ‘Only they know for certain whether they were taking the mick out of my disability. But it felt like it.’ Mr Maynard criticised the ‘schoolboy antics’ of the chamber and said that the adversarial style of the debates encouraged ‘childish behaviour’.

A spokesman for the Labour party said that the incident could have been a ‘misunderstanding’ that took place during the heated atmosphere of a parliamentary debate. The Labour party has stressed that it does not tolerate discrimination and that it has been a consistent campaigner for equality. However, a female Labour MP, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Times that she had seen the alleged abuse take place. She said that both sides of the Chamber were guilty of ‘deeply retrograde and unacceptable behaviour’, and that younger female MPs were also subjected to ‘constant sneers’.

Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party and the MP for Brighton Pavilion, criticised the ‘politics of the playground’, which had at times descended to ‘cruel comments about people’s appearance’. She added: ‘We wouldn’t tolerate it in other workplaces and we shouldn’t tolerate it here.’

David Blunkett, the Labour MP and former Home Secretary, described his experience of prejudice as a ‘covert, rather than overt’ problem when he entered Parliament. Mr Blunkett said: ‘There appear to be two elements here; genuine ignorance of Paul’s disability, which is forgivable, and downright prejudice, which is not.’

For the full story, visit the Telegraph website

The Chairperson of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, has told the BBC that the parliamentary Speaker, John Bercow, should look into the matter. He said: ‘He was obviously being mocked, according to his account, by other members of Parliament – that to me is shocking, I felt physically sick when I read about it. If that had happened in a football ground, the people mocking him would have been on CCTV, and they would have been whipped out of the ground and not let back.’

For the full story, visit the BBC News website

Anyway, that’s all from us now….time to go and have a weekend……but don’t forget to get in touch and let us know your thoughts about how we might be able to help you become a private Occupational Therapist / get onto an OT course or come work with us: