Sunday, 28 July 2013

Blue badge

I decided to apply for a blue badge because my walking is now unbelievably painful, and I'm using poppy (my mobility scooter) a vast majority of the time now. I pretty much only walk inside, and then use poppy outside.

I realised applying for a blue badge would be a sensible thing to do when I was with my parents and we were taking Poppy places in the car and unloading her and getting her set up in the middle of busy car parks is not exactly safe. It's also not very safe to be so low down driving round car parks because you're not very visible sat on a scooter, whereas disabled spaces are positioned next to walkways.

I also realised that a blue badge would mean less concern about needing to drop me off places, my parents could park outside and when we decide to leave we could just get in the car and leave instead of me waiting for someone to drive round to pick me up.

My legs are very weak, and the weakness at the moment appears to be progressive to some extent, which is a little worrying. Walking is very challenging, it requires concentration and is physically difficult for me. I therefore felt that the time had come to apply for a blue badge.

I filled in the form beginning to end one evening and submitted it online. Some of the questions were difficult to answer, particularly with a fluctuating condition like mine. It wasn't nice to have to think about my failing mobility but I gave as much information as I felt necessary to answer the questions fully and accepted that what would be, would be.

I received a letter in the post within a couple of days asking me to attend for a mobility assessment.

I got a taxi out to the assessment centre, the taxi driver lifted poppy out and I got her set up and headed in. I was greeted by a friendly person on reception and we chatted a bit until the occupational therapist came to get me for my assessment.

I had no idea what to expect. I've never applied for anything in terms of benefits or anything so had never been for an assessment. The assessor was friendly though and put me at ease. He asked whether I had any medical information with me so I got some medical letters out that I had taken with me, and he spent a while reading through these and clarifying things with me. He then proceeded to ask me a lot of questions, some of them were very similar to those on the application form, others were seemingly unrelated to my mobility and were more about how I was coping day-to-day. There were questions about my conditions, how I usually travel, where I live etc.

We then proceeded to the physical assessment. I felt quite self-conscious with him watching the way I was walking and I was really struggling with my legs so felt quite clumsy and uncomfortable. My pain levels were quite high and I was having difficulty answering his questions while walking because I was concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. We were going round corridors and there didn't seem to be an end in sight and I was really starting to struggle so I asked how much further we were going, he explained the route we would ideally complete and I looked horrified, so he explained that I needed to let him know if I couldn't continue. He then took me a shorter route to a flight of stairs where I found a chair- relief!!- and had a sit down. He then watched me ascend and descend the stairs which I felt I did quite successfully, and then took a seat again. He asked whether I felt I needed to sit down and I said yes. I was shattered, the staircase was quite wide, so it was quite difficult to drag myself up with the banisters. He asked whether my feet always turn in when I'm climbing stairs- it's not something I pay much attention to because I'm concentrating more on going up than keeping my legs pointing straight, but I do know it's a problem that is developing. The assessor was nice though, and waited until I felt ready to do the walk back. He took me back the way we had come which was reassuring for me, because I knew I could do the distance, although this time I was starting off more tired. I made my way round the corridor again, but this time he asked me to walk along the middle, away from the security of the wall. I coped ok with this, but I had said I thought my balance would be fairly ok, given that it was early afternoon. When I made it back to the room I collapsed into the chair, relieved to have made it back. I was then asked about how I was feeling and my pain levels etc.

I think this pretty much brought the assessment to an end. In total it took about an hour. It wasn't as bad as I had imagined it might be, although it brought it home how badly affected my mobility now is. I found the walking section really quite unpleasant because I was self-conscious, overly aware of the problems with my walking and I was feeling really quite unwell. I suppose that's the whole reason why I was there though, so it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise.

I was told I would hear in 7-10 days, 12 days later I contacted the council to ask whether it was just taking a while or whether I was meant to have done anything. I received a reply saying that my application has been approved and a letter had been sent out the day before.

I should be pleased that I have been awarded the blue badge I applied for, but it's just made me feel very 'disabled'. I know I am disabled. I know I can't walk far, I don't walk well and it hurts. I still don't want to admit these things to myself though.

To be awarded a blue badge you have to be considered to have a permanent disability causing you to be unable to walk or to have very substantial difficulty walking. You have to pretty much be deemed to be unable to walk 50m sufficiently well. You basically have to be very disabled- that's the whole point.

To be placed in this category is upsetting. I know I applied, and I applied because I had reason to believe that I was eligible and in need of a blue badge, but it doesn't make it any easier to accept someone's agreement that you are very disabled and you really do have a hard time walking.. I think in a strange way I would have been quite pleased to be turned down initially, which sounds completely mad I know, but I don't WANT to qualify for a blue badge. I want to be deemed too well to have one.

I do accept that I deserve it and need it deep down though. I didn't know how to feel when it arrived yesterday. I am pleased, but I do still find it somehow a little offensive.. I may need to go and enjoy the novelty of parking on some double yellow lines to get over it, haha. I'm sure I'll see it as a positive thing once it makes life easier.. it's just going to take a bit of getting used to. Free parking, can legally park almost anywhere, random discounts- finally found a perk of being chronically ill!

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