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Christine McGuinness' Blue Badge Row

Christine McGuinness has bravely spoken out about the intimidation she has encountered over using a blue badge.

Model and Loose Women star Christine, married to TV personality Paddy McGuinness, has three children with Paddy; seven-year-old twins Penelope and Leo, and Felicity, four. All three children have an autism diagnosis. She has shared that her son Leo is particularly unpredictable with his behaviour and meltdowns in car parks, so the family qualify for and benefit from their blue badge.

After a recent unsavoury incident – and not the first that the family have experienced – Christine has spoken out to call for more understanding and support for families with autistic members. She shared;

“It was quite intimidating. The man said I wasn’t disabled, my children aren’t disabled, so why are you parked in a disabled space? I take any opportunity to educate people on autism. But there’s a time and a place and it’s not when I’m in a car park on my own with three children. We all need to remember to be kinder to each other. If there’s a blue badge in the window, just believe they’re entitled to be parked there.”

We could not agree more strongly, Christine!

Featuring on ITV’s Tonight programme, Hidden Disabilities: What’s the Truth, Christine says other parents she knows “gave up” applying for blue badges because the application for people with a disability is so arduous, full of red tape, and must be done every three years which puts many people off due to the stress.

The programme features other people with invisible disabilities who are often interrogated about their ability to work or use disabled facilities. It’s great awareness raising and we’re really glad to see ITV are covering this topic! This show is presented by journalist Saima Mohsin, who has a personal experience of invisible disabilities – she experienced a nerve injury when her foot was run over by a jeep on a work assignment in Jerusalem. She told the Mirror:

“I could barely walk, sit or stand. I went from covering 28 countries to hardly being able to move without pain. I’d keel over and people would push, shove and tut. People with a physical disability have a tough time fighting for their rights. Having an invisible disability adds another layer of obstacles. I made this programme so we would give people a little more understanding and kindness.”

You can watch *Hidden Disabilities: What’s The Truth? Tonight on ITV at 7.30pm on Thursday the 5th of August. You’ll be able to watch Christine and Paddy’s TV show about autism later this year – watch this space!

Who is eligible for a blue badge?

The criteria for a blue badge is quite strict and as already mentioned, you must reapply every three years. This scheme means that you can park in disabled bays, at pay and display meters, and also on double yellow lines for up to three hours as long as there is no ban on loading in that area. For families who have a parent or child with a condition that means their support needs meet the criteria, a blue badge is a total game changer!

To be eligible, you must have one of the following disabilities;

  • Be are unable to walk
  • Have great difficulty getting from your car to your destination
  • May come to harm when walking
  • May harm others when walking
  • Are registered blind
  • You will get a blue badge if you get the highest rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance

You can find out more and apply on the government website here.

What are ‘invisible disabilities’?

Invisible disabilities are quite self-explanatory; they’re disabilities that may not be visible to the naked eye. A person can be disabled and appear able-bodied! The Invisible Disabilities Association has a great page explaining the concept here. Autism is classed as an invisible disability – there is no ‘look’ or aesthetic to autism, you can’t tell that someone is autistic just by looking at them, nor their level of support needs.

What other ways are there to show an invisible disability?

There are some schemes that people with invisible disabilities can use to show that they are affected without having to instigate the conversation with strangers – the most well known of these is the Sunflower Lanyard scheme! We’ve personally found these really useful out and about in situations where people are staring or being judgemental. Here is one of our favourite posts shared on their Instagram!

From a personal perspective, I really wanted to add that I feel so strongly about this for Christine and Paddy.

My little boy Max has two diagnoses; autism, and Global Developmental Delay (GDD), and I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and my own autism diagnosis so invisible disabilities are a HUGE topic of interest for myself.

Max is 5 and whilst he is doing absolutely spectacularly much to our pride and is the happiest little ray of sunshine ever, he’s developmentally less than half his chronological age and the gap between him and the typical 5 year old is widening as he grows. Max hasn’t got much, if any, safety awareness around car parks and traffic, so we’d really benefit from a blue badge to ensure that we can park away from hazards and closer to our destination when needed.

Stories like this actually make me cry with frustration because, as Christine correctly points out, you get a blue badge for a good reason. You cannot just apply for the fun of it, there needs to be staggering evidence of needs! In 2021, awareness of invisible disabilities is mainstream so there is little excuse for ignorant comments really. Stories like this are also precisely why I am so reluctant to apply for a blue badge – but as we reach the point where Max is getting faster and stronger, it’ll be needed soon for his safety as I’d never forgive myself if there was an avoidable accident.

Just because someone appears able-bodied and physically well, does not mean that they do not have a disability that means they need a blue badge. Fundamentally, this really needs to stop. It is very, very rare that someone is misusing a blue badge, so mind your own business!

What do you think of this story? Have you ever used a blue badge for yourself or a relative and experienced abuse? Tell us in the comments.

Cover image credit: Christine McGuinness Instagram & Pixabay

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