If you have a blue badge you can park in areas that other drivers can't. But you must make sure that your blue badge is visible at all times. You might also be exempt from paying car tax and some tolls or congestion charges if you have a blue badge. If you’re travelling abroad, it’s worth checking that your blue badge is still valid. Some countries are still undecided on whether they’re valid due to Brexit. Here's what you need to know.
In 2021, nearly 2.4 million people in the UK had a Blue badge. The government changed the eligibility criteria for blue badge holders in 2019, which could have increased the demand for disabled parking spaces further.
The new criteria now includes people who have disabilities which aren’t visible, for example, dementia or anxiety disorders. Out of the 824,000 blue badges issued in 2021, 18,000 blue badges were for people with non-visible disabilities.
It was recently found that 11 countries in the EU are undecided on the UK blue badge status in their country due to a Brexit hangover. If you use your blue badge in one of these countries, you could face a parking charge.
So, what are the rules for parking in a disabled parking space in the UK? And what should you do if you’re travelling to an EU country that doesn’t accept blue badges?
Can I use my blue badge in the EU?
11 countries in the EU are still undecided on the status of UK blue badges. This could mean that if you use your blue badge in one of the countries listed below, you might face a parking fine.
According to the Guardian, the government is still negotiating the situation with these countries. The list was updated last in September 2021.
The countries that are undecided on the status of UK blue badges are:
Spain (including the Balearic and Canary islands)
Some countries may accept the EU parking card which gives you similar rights to your blue badge. You can find more information on this on Your Europe.
Either way, If you have a blue badge and you’re thinking of travelling to any of the countries listed, it’s worth checking the rules on its embassy website. You can do this at GOV.UK.
Blue badge rules: Who can get one?
In some circumstances you’re automatically able to get a blue badge. For example, if:
- You get the higher rate of the mobility component as part of the disability living allowance
- You get certain benefits from the armed and reserved forces and have a permanent, substantial disability that greatly affects your ability to walk
- You get a personal independence payment (PIP) because you can’t walk more than 50 metres
- You’re registered blind or severely sight impaired
- You get a War Pensioners Mobility Supplement
Blue badges are available in England and Wales. There are separate schemes for those in Scotland and Northern Ireland. You can find the full criteria on GOV.UK.
You must provide proof of this to automatically apply.
Even if you don’t automatically qualify you might still be able to get a blue badge. Some examples of when you could be eligible are:
- You either can’t walk, or you find walking considerably difficult
- You have a severe or permanent disability that greatly affects your mobility
- You have a severe disability
You can find more examples on GOV.UK.
The new extension applies in the following circumstances:
- You can’t take a journey without there being a risk of serious harm to your health or safety. This applies to you or any other person, for example a young child with autism.
- You can’t take a journey without it causing considerable psychological distress.
- You have great difficulty walking - both the act of walking and the experience of it.
- You can use the badge whether you’re a driver or a passenger with a disability.
What is the walking limit for a blue badge?
If you can’t walk more than 50 metres then you should be eligible for a blue badge. If you get the personal independence payment, you should be able to get a blue badge too.
In terms of walking and mobility, the government says that you should be eligible for a blue badge if:
- You can’t walk at all
- You can’t walk without help from mobility aids or another person
- Walking causes you pain, discomfort, or it takes you a long time
- Walking is dangerous for your health and safety
What are the blue badge parking rules for holders?
If you have a badge you should be able to park in the following locations:
- On single or double yellow lines, for up to 3 hours unless a ban on loading or unloading is active
- Without a time limit in on-street disabled bays unless signs say otherwise
- For free where there are parking meters, pay and display machines or spaces where a wheelchair symbol is displayed
- In some European countries (a full list is on GOV.UK)
How long can a blue badge holder park on a street?
If you’re on a street with parking meters or pay and display machines you can park here for as long as you need to. But remember to display your badge at all times.
You can park in disabled person bays on streets or in car parks for as long as you need to, unless there’s a sign that says otherwise.
Can I park on double yellow lines with a disabled badge?
If you have a blue badge you should be able to park on double yellow lines for up to 3 hours. This is only possible if there's no ban on loading or unloading. To find out you need to check with the local authority.
Some authorities might let you park in a space even if there is a ban on loading or unloading. But you should check this first before you park.
When you get your badge, you should also be given a clock that needs to be displayed wherever you park. It shows parking inspectors how long you've been in a space for.
Can I park in parent and child spaces if I’m a blue badge holder?
If you have a badge, and there are no spaces available, you might want to park in a parent and child space because of the extra room available.
You find parent and child spaces in some car parks, such as in hospitals or supermarkets. They have extra room to help parents manoeuvre children and babies in and out of cars.
As these spaces are found in private car parks, the rules differ over who can use one of these spaces.
Blue badge holders are usually permitted to park in a parent and child space if they need to. Before you do though, it’s worth checking with the owner of the car park to make sure you’re allowed to park in a parent and child space.
What are the disabled parking rules If I don’t have a blue badge?
If you’re parked in a blue badge parking space, you need to display the badge at all times. You could be fined if you don’t display it.
If you’re parking in a private car park, and you don’t have a badge, you could always ask for permission to park in a disabled spot. The owner of the car park might allow you to park in the space without the badge.
It’s up to the discretion of the owner of the car park though as they set the rules on who can park in the blue badge spaces.
How do I apply for a blue badge?
You can either apply or reapply for a blue badge through GOV.UK. Here you can apply for yourself, someone else, or on behalf of an organisation.
You need a couple of things to apply:
- Proof of identity, for example a passport or driving licence
- Proof of address, which could be a utility bill or bank statement from less than 12 months ago
- Proof of any benefits
- Your national insurance number
If you’re reapplying, you need the details of your current blue badge.
Once submitted, your application should be sent to your council. It should decide whether you’re eligible within 12 weeks.
Your application could either be approved, rejected or you might have to provide further information.
An investigation by the BBC Shared Data Unit revealed that 8 out 10 local authorities had higher approval rates for people with physical disabilities.
For 10 of those local authorities, the difference between approvals of physical vs non-visible disabilities was more than 50 percentage points.
James Taylor from the disability charity Scope said:
“This new data shows a shocking disparity between the allocations of blue badges to people with invisible and visible impairments.
"Councils need to understand the devastating impact their negative decision can have."
How do I report someone breaking the blue badge parking rules?
If you see someone misusing a council-owned blue badge bay, you can report it to your local authority.
Make sure you include as much information as you can, like:
- The car’s make and model
- Its registration
- How often you see the car in the space
- A photograph of the car in the space
Some councils have a dedicated form, others may have an email address. To find your local council’s information visit GOV.UK.
Supermarkets are slightly different as they’re privately owned. If you notice someone parking in a blue badge space who shouldn’t be, report it to the store manager or speak to customer service.
Does having a blue badge affect your car insurance?
Having a disability shouldn’t lessen your chances of getting car insurance. In fact, the 2005 Disability Discrimination Act ensures that insurance companies can’t charge you more just because you have a disability.
What could impact your insurance costs is if you’ve modified your car to accommodate your needs. These could include:
- Modified hand controls instead of foot pedals
- A steering ball for easier steering movements
- Conversions to accommodate a wheelchair
You should tell your car insurance company if you make any modifications to your car.
It’s also worth letting them know if you plan on sharing driving responsibilities with a family member or a carer.
If they’re doing the bulk of the driving, they might have to be put down as the policy holder rather than a named driver.
If you find that your prices are higher because of how you’ve had to adapt your car, it’s worth shopping around for a better price. You may be able to find a better deal from a specialist insurer so they’re worth adding to your list when comparing prices.
Compare car insurance quotes
Am I exempt from car tax because I have a disability?
You could be exempt from paying Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) - also called car tax - if you have a blue badge. You can claim the exemption when you tax your car.
To get the exemption:
- The car has to be registered to the person with the disability
- The car has to be used only for the needs of the person with the disability
- If you’re taxing a car for the first time, you can only claim the exemption at a Post Office.
For more information, visit GOV.UK
Do I need to pay for tolls if I am a blue badge holder?
If you have a blue badge, you might not need to pay to cross certain toll roads. In most cases, you need to apply to the concession before you cross, so it’s worth checking beforehand.
You can see the list of tolls at GOV.UK