Blue Badge holders who shop in Kirkcaldy have expressed their dismay at the decision by councillors to drastically cut the time they can park in the High Street.
And they claim that their views have been ignored by councillors and officials.
Jack Carr, chairman of Fife Independent Disability Network said that despite many meetings, Council representatives did not appreciate what the move would mean to people with mobility difficulties.
“We feel that this is a form of discrimination,’’ he said.
‘’Surely ridding the street of the many commercial vehicles constantly parking there would relieve the problem sufficiently.
‘‘Also if the Blue Badge regulations were fully enforced, preventing the many instances of abuse of the badge, the reduction in the numbers parking could be considerable.”
Describing the decision as “a foregone conclusion” the chairman said it was obvious during meetings and consultations that the authority was “merely paying lipservice to their duty under the Equalities Act.”
“As constantly pointed out to us there are available alternative methods of accessing the High Street but many disabled people are not able to use these for a variety of reasons.
‘‘No longer will we be able to ‘pop down the street’ as before. A five minute visit to a bank for example, if the alternative methods of access are used, turns it into an hour.”
He also said retailers didn’t fully appreciate the value of disabled people’s shopping.
“Why are there so many Blue Badge holders cars on the street? Because they are shopping, spending money. Do we want our local branch of M&S to close through lack of revenue?
“This action forces us to shop elsewhere and many will be turning to internet shopping, which deprives local shops and branches of income. It also deprives the person of some social activity, which for a disabled person is important.”
“This decision is going to change the lives of many disabled people, and not for the better,” he said.
The Campaign Against Charges and Cuts group has asked the Kirkcaldy Area Committee to re-think its decision, claiming that it is bringing even more austerity into the lives of disabled people.
CACC has challenged the contention that disabled drivers are putting the safety of the public at risk and suggested that any disabled driver caught driving dangerously be prosecuted, not every disabled driver.
Maureen Closs from CACC said: “Pedestrian areas are set aside for people to get about on foot, but consideration should also be given to those in our community who cannot. Setting aside disabled spaces at the west end of the High Street is really too far away.
“I have fibromyalgia and angina and am not able to walk any distance now.
‘‘I need to park within yards of the shop so that I can reserve my energy for getting around. This is the reality for so many disabled drivers.
‘‘It doesn’t seem to be a problem in Dunfermline, which has a similar pedestrian area in its High Street. Disabled drivers have access to it up to noon and from 3.00 p.m. onwards every day – much more than currently is the case in Kirkcaldy.”