Blue badge battle for people who have unseen disabilities

Scarborough couple Paul Ratcliffe and wife Maggie are raising awareness about the need for blue badges for individuals with hidden disabilities.
Scarborough couple Paul Ratcliffe and wife Maggie are raising awareness about the need for blue badges for individuals with hidden disabilities.

A Scarborough armed forces veteran with early-onset dementia is throwing his weight behind the fight to provide blue badge parking permits to people with unseen disabilities.

Currently the decision on whether to allocate a blue badge, which enables holders to park in disabled spaces and on double yellow lines, lies with local councils.

According to Paul Ratcliffe, who was diagnosed last year after 22 years in the army, successful applications from those without clear physical disabilities are hit and miss.

New Department for Transport (DfT) proposals could make it easier for people with conditions including dementia and autism to obtain a permit.

Paul, 63, has been campaigning for the changes alongside his wife Maggie and the rest of the Scarborough-based Deep Vibes dementia support group.

The veteran, from Scalby Mills, was working as a manager at McCain’s when he first noticed worrying symptoms.

Eventually, he received a diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia.

Paul said: “I was responsible for the health and safety of employees in the plant and I started making mistakes.

“I attempted to clean a machine that I hadn’t shut down and secured safely, and as soon as I realised what I was doing I went straight to my bosses.

“They were brilliant from the beginning, and have been incredibly supportive every step of the way, but it was obvious to all of us that I couldn’t continue.”

Despite having a degenerative condition for which there is no cure, Paul is keen to ensure he lives independently for as long as possible.

But, he says, although he is quite safe to drive with the aid of a SatNav and is regularly assessed by both the DVLA and his GP, he can forget where he’s parked his car.

“It’s a very common problem,” he said. “People with dementia may look and sound fine on their good days, but sometimes you can forget something that happened 30 seconds ago. There are times when I’ve parked my car and by the time I’ve been to the shops I’ve completely forgotten where it is and I’ve got lost.”

Blue badges, say Paul, Maggie and fellow campaigners from the Deep Vibes support group, will make retaining independence simpler for people with dementia.

“It’s about getting out and about and not being stuck in the house,” said Paul. “I can’t get on a bus on my own, and I know that I’ll have to give up driving soon, but that shouldn’t mean I have to lose my independence as well.

“When that time comes, I hope I will be able to go out in the car with Maggie and park as close as possible to our destination. I may not be limping or using a wheelchair, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t be going through my own struggle to get from place to place.”

The blue badge eligibility decision is expected to be made this month. People can sign a petition about the issue at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/blue-badges-4-dementia-1

Deep Vibes can be contacted at irene.jervis@makingspace.co.uk or 01723 371958.