"Why should the disabled park for free?" asked one contributor to the Examiner's Mailbag. His was one of several letters following controversy over news that Kirklees Council plans to scrap free disabled spaces at Queensgate multi-storey car park in April, when a new system is introduced which would allow people to pay as they return to their cars. Here DIANE HUTCHINSON, of Huddersfield, makes a personal plea to secure free parking for all those who hold such a pass
THE Examiner's letters columns has recently carried comments from those in favour - and against - free car parking for the disabled via the blue badge system.
I, too, have a blue badge and I am extremely grateful to Kirklees for allowing me to park free in the town centre which I could not access without my carer's car.
I have multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and rheumatoid arthritis, among other diseases and could not use buses. My carer needs to be with me at all times.
Due to the specific peculiarities of my MS (every case will be different), if my muscles go into spasm then I simply cannot move.
After the administration of medicine, which has to be carried everywhere, I have limited but very painful movement.
Access to a car is necessary. I simply cannot afford taxis and, even if I could, I doubt if a taxi driver would be impressed if I was unable to get out at the end of the journey.
At least, the last time this happened my husband could drive me home, cover me with blankets, until I could get out of the car!
The costs of disability are high and each disability will have its own specific need.
Many disability aids which help us to live independent lives (as far as is possible) are very expensive despite being VAT free.
For example, the bath aid I needed was £899.99 (six times my weekly income). I have the use of one hand and so need special equipment to feed myself, prepare food etc. The list is endless.
Lack of concentration and "absences" are also part of my own particular disease process.
Unfortunately, two weeks ago my husband and carer, damaged his back. He was in such severe pain that he could not move.
I had to cook and I suppose I should congratulate myself that I burnt only four pans beyond recognition, that week. These need to be replaced!
My daughter, who does all she can, cannot drive and does not live near us.
Our neighbours would help but they have disabilities which are worse than the ones I have!
Those people who have blue badges temporarily, may not experience the difficulties that those with long-term disabilities may have.
Prior to the progression on my own diseases I led a full and active life. I worked full-time in a responsible job but had to walk from Almondbury to Edgerton as it was not well-paid.
In order to study and obtain qualifications, I arose at 4am and studied for a degree before setting out for work.
I had four children - one with special needs - and grew all my own food.
My former husband, unable to cope with the child's special needs, left and did not contribute to their up-bringing although I tried every possible avenue to make him do so.
At that time, I had not been diagnosed with MS so I was very annoyed with myself for repeatedly getting ill and having to give up.
MS is very hard to identify initially. The result was that I could not save and therefore do not have the savings to tide me over which temporary blue badge holders may have.
I am privileged to be on medication which relieves the profound fatigue for a few hours a day enabling me to spend time with my two beautiful grandchildren and buy them, as any other grandparent would want to do, simple presents for birthdays and Christmas. Concessions help me to do this. They should not be victims of a disability.
Yes, social services may provide some equipment but in my case it took two years from initial assessment before a stairlift was finally installed.
I have been to Gateway twice recently for information to be told they don't know the answer to my question.
I do realise it is difficult, if you have one illness, to appreciate fully the difficulties of another type of illness so to the letter writer, who had a heart complaint, who queried the wisdom of concessions for blue badge holders, I do hope that this will go a little way to answering your question.
I too, deplore the incorrect use of blue badges but this is a separate issue and I am sure that traffic wardens are vigilant about this. I hope more supermarkets do "patrols" too.
I am certainly not in favour of all that Kirklees do but these concessions are an act of compassion and this is a commodity which is certainly lacking in society.
A concession like this is a huge gift and one for which I am profoundly grateful for. Let's keep it.