Changes to the blue badge parking scheme in Fife were introduced on Monday, January 1, in a bid to make it fairer and tackle misuse.
The scheme, which is run by the local authority on behalf of the Scottish government, has been in place since 1971 and helps people with disabilities retain their independence by allowing them to park close to where they need to go.
In Fife, there are over 21,500 blue badge holders.
Resources co-ordinator Jane Pilmer explained: “From January 1, all blue badge holders who want to renew their badges or apply for a new one will have to use a new national application form.
“The new form is a bit different to the old one and people will find that the questions asked are looking for more detail about their physical disability and how it affects their ability to walk.
“The blue badges themselves have also been redesigned to make them harder to tamper with, copy or forge.
“They will be made of plastic instead of cardboard, include digital photographs and will be more robust.
“We’re working now to get information out to blue badge holders in Fife who will be approaching the time to renew their badge so they know about the changes.”
The improvements to the scheme are being welcomed by disability groups in Fife.
Alan Suttie, chief executive of Fife Society for the Blind, commented: “By the nature of their disability, blind and partially- sighted people cannot drive and are totally reliant on either public transport or other people to take then shopping, on social visits or to appointments.
“For this reason the blue badge scheme is an essential element to ensure they can be taken as close to a venue as possible allowing the driver/guide to leave the vehicle and guide them in to a building or shop.
“Improvements to the scheme will hopefully cut down on abuse and misuse which often result in our volunteer guides and drivers being unable to park and drop blind people off.”
His comments were echoed by a spokesman for the Fife branch of the MS Society, who said: “The misuse of blue badges causes great inconvenience and sometimes the inability of a disabled person to get where they need to be.”
Ms Pilmer added that people should continue to use their current blue badges until the expiry date shown on the badge and should apply for a new one six weeks before the expiry date.
More information is available at www.fifedirect.org.uk/BlueBadge,