2015-08-27 11.47.53               2015-08-27 11.47.41

Joff’s orange badge, age 4.

I came across a fab blogpost this morning on Twitter by MrBoosMum @premmeditations via fellow parent of 2 children with additional needs @AlexaDWilson about the attitudes to us all being blue badge holders on behalf of our children.

Seeing Red Over Blue Badges

It struck me that almost 20 years after Joff first got his ( back in the day, they were UK orange badges before the EU blue badges ) the same stinking attitudes are still rife. Like Alexa, I agreed 100% with everything MrBoosMum had to say and inspired me to make some comments too.

Joff was lucky when he got his because the rules were that you had to be at least 5 to apply for a badge on the basis of impaired mobility, the same age as when you could apply for a Motability vehicle. He got his at 18 months of age, his ophthalmologist tested his eyesight and declared – he’s got some sight, but recording him as partially sighted isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. I’m recording him as blind as in my opinion he will always have significant visual impairment and I suspect, significant neurological impairment. At least if he’s registered blind, you can apply for an orange badge for him, help you park at the hospital and the like.

Joff has always been little for his age. Joff has always been very young looking in the face. We were still lifting him and out the car manually at age 6 – 7 and it wasn’t till he was 11 or 12 till he got his first “wheelchair-looking” chair. All the ones previously were buggy style, colourful, small wheels, a “baby’s chair”. So these factors contributed to the ongoing public harassment we got parking up and getting him out of the car. In the public mind, blue badges = older people.

The idiotic statements, accusations, head shaking, tutting, fist shaking, window chapping, “you’re not supposed to be parked there” largely, I have to say, from older people.

Mr Effie and I were once on a shopping trip to Elgin, they had a disabled parking area at one end of the pedestrian precinct for 6 cars or so. We were approaching the area with Miss Effie Snr and the Bold Joff in the back of the car, passenger windows blacked out because Joff couldn’t cope with glare back then ( ironic, huh? ) Joff would have been about 3.

An older couple were reversing out of the space and Mr Effie put his indicator on to show he wanted to take the space next. The male driver stopped and shook his head at us, not fully out of the space. Mr Effie shrugged to ask what was wrong, he had left plenty room for him to reverse freely. The old boy shook his head again, pointing to us and mouthing something we couldn’t hear. Mr Effie gestured that he was going into the space and the man picked up their orange badge and waved it at us. So Mr Effie picked up Joff’s and waved it back at them. It was truly like something out of the “One foot in the grave” comedy. The man eventually moved, but shaking his head all the way. I think it genuinely didn’t occur to him that orange badges were issued to anyone under 65.

And I think that idea is common. People saw one or two thirty/forty/fifty somethings getting out the car with two tiny/bigger kids and think we’re taking the piss. When we’re still in the car, who the hell can tell* if it’s Mr Effie’s badge and he’s got hand controls, if it’s my badge and I have MS or the Bold Joff’s badge and he has Lowe Syndrome?

*those first two examples are illustrative, both Mr Effie and I are very fortunate to have good health. But how can anyone tell by just looking?

We were totally lambasted by a stout, red-faced wifie in Bristol Asda, came right across the road and out of her way to check our car and the occupants, you ought to be bloody ashamed of ourselves, scumbags, fit young people stealing pensioner’s spaces. I wasn’t polite, because she came at us first, all fur and feathers flying, I responded in kind, brandishing Joff’s picture on his badge – I told her to eff off and that my son is dying. ( I’m totally ashamed of that incident, btw, it definitely wasn’t my finest moment, I had meant to say life-limited but the heat just took over )

Occasionally we’d get a quiet polite enquiry/telling off, “you know these spaces are just for badge holders only?”

“Yes, and we’ve got one, thanks”

At least they mostly had the good grace to look embarrassed, because we had been clearly accused and judged long before they opened their mouths.

We didn’t plan to have Joff be born disabled and we would love to not need a blue badge. ( my husband’s ex-colleague said once that we were so lucky to have a blue badge, cos we could “park anywhere we liked”. Yay, go us! )

When Joff was a baby I read a story about a young woman who had become paraplegic through an unusual accident. She’d fallen awkwardly down a railway embankment at a pal’s garden party trying to rescue a child who’d wandered down when no-one was looking. The kid got saved, but she lost sensation below the waist, including her bowel and bladder. So she had to time her visits to the toilet quite carefully or she was at risk of having an accident.

She was visiting a public building one day for an important meeting, driving her adapted vehicle. She couldn’t get parked close to the entrance as some inconsiderate dick in an open topped sports car without a badge had stolen a space. She had to park some distance away and by the time she’d sorted out her wheelchair and wheeled to the door of the building, she’d wet herself. And to add insult to injury the driver of the sports car breezed by her, and jumped into the car without opening the door, while she went by in tears, wet through with urine.

That’s almost 20 years since I read that story and if I was ever tempted to take a disabled space illegally, there was the human side behind it. I have never, nor ever will use a blue badge space without Joff being in the car.

So clearly there’s a few issues behind the ownership and use of badges.

Getting/renewing the badge – not as easy as folk think, especially for children. And definitely not emotionally easy. Here’s where you tell the public, my kid’s body or mind or behaviour is so radically different from typical children we need help every chance we get. A small reminder in a lifetime of small reminders that your kid is not the same.

And then there’s…

Being accused of having the badge illegally – children don’t get badges/ they’re only for old people. Yup, we parents and carers are that grasping.
Abuse of the badge by people who shouldn’t have use of it – just borrowing granny’s badge or indeed, people who have since died.

Abuse of the spaces by utter arsepieces who should know better.

I have a good/bureaucratic story about one time I applied for a renewal of a blue badge in Fife.

I’ll keep that for next time.

One last thing Columbo, for @premmediations and @alexadwilson the staring gets far less accusatory and more pitying as your kids age. “Out of the frying pan into a bigger frying pan…”