Monday 2nd August 2010
The battle for better rights for people with disabilities has made significant progress.
The Disability Discrimination Act in 1995 was a landmark piece of legislation which, amongst other
things, ensured adaptations were made to public buildings to allow wheelchair access.
More recently, the ‘Barred’ campaign resulted in new laws which ensured better access to pubs and clubs.
And I was proud to play my part as a committee convener when the Disabled Parking Bill was being scrutinised and passed by the Scottish Parliament.
Under these changes, disabled parking bays went from being advisory to enforceable and meant fines for those taking up disabled spaces without a blue badge.
Taking a disabled space when you are not eligible is unacceptable and I am glad that blue badge holders are starting to get the benefit of this.
But there is still much more that has to be done and an unwelcome setback has now emerged.
The latest proposals from the Scottish Government are aimed at those who have a blue badge but aren’t really eligible for them.
To weed these people out, they want to force blue badge holders to undergo independent medial assessment.
Understandably, these plans have met fierce criticism from disability rights groups, who feel they are being unfairly targeted.
I firmly believe there has to be a system of checks and balances to ensure this scheme isn’t abused by people who like the idea of convenient parking.
I want to see those people caught and punished appropriately.
But asking disabled people to prove their eligibility is a step too far and I will be strongly opposing these measures.
While it is important that we make this scheme work, we shouldn’t punish those we are supposed to be helping.