Getting out and about as a family is great. Families with disabled children can face different challenges – but there are solutions.
Children deserve the opportunity to explore the wider world. Motoring enables families to enjoy that experience together. Here are a few of our favourite tips to make it easier…
Rights of disabled children
If you’re the parent of a disabled child it’s important to realise that they have rights, just as any other disabled person does. That means that they may be eligible for both access to the Motability car leasing scheme and a Blue Badge parking permit – even though, if the child is under three, it’ll be in the name of an appointee (usually a parent or carer).
The Higher Rate Mobility Component (HRMC) of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) can be awarded from a disabled person’s third birthday. It is possible to apply for the allowance before that date and as long as the eligibility criteria is met, the award will start from when the disabled person turns three. An application to Motability can be made up to three months before their third birthday, if an allowance has been confirmed but the lease agreement cannot start until the allowance is actually awarded.
Children who receive HRMC of DLA can remain on this benefit until they reach the age of 16 as long as they continue to satisfy the eligibility criteria. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will write to existing claimants before their 16th birthday to inform them when their DLA will end and how to claim for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – which can be used to continue their membership of the scheme.
If a disabled child is under three years old, their parents (or carer/guardian) may apply for a Blue Badge if their child has a specific medical condition requiring them to be (always) accompanied by bulky medical equipment which cannot otherwise be feasibly carried around – or if they need to be kept near a vehicle at all times so that they can, if necessary, be treated in the vehicle or driven to a place where they can be treated, such as a hospital.
People may also be eligible for a badge if they are more than two years old and have a permanent and substantial disability which causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking.
As part of the application process, the local authority may ask for information from a medical professional involved in your child’s care.
Search: ‘Blue Badge parking’ via: www.gov.uk
It’s important to consider the needs of disabled children whilst they are in the car. They may, for example, have a specific condition that requires watchfulness, such as reflux or display challenging behaviour, which can pose other difficulties.
- Make sure you have enough warm clothes as well as any food and medical supplies you may need. Assume your journey will take longer than anticipated.
- Take a bottle of water with you. Even on short journeys. (Not only can you drink it but it’s handy for cleaning up any spills etc.)
- To keep an eye on a child sitting in the back, attach an additional mirror to the windscreen or rear-view mirror.
- Make sure your child is comfortable whilst considering how their seating affects their posture and if it might trigger any symptoms such as difficulty breathing etc. You may need to look at specialist seating and harness solutions.
- When children become agitated it can be helpful to distract them by opening windows or changing the volume of the radio etc. Be observant to your child’s dislikes. Perhaps a (neutralising) air freshener or ear defenders might help.
- Tinted windows or rear blinds can help reduce uncomfortable glare.
- Child locks on the back doors prevent children from opening them from the inside. Check them periodically since some children may learn to operate the lock themselves. Seatbelt buckles can also be a challenge. There are covers which can be put over the buckles but removed swiftly in an emergency.General advice is to seat children in the rear of the vehicle. In any case, children under 12 years must use an appropriate child restraint, unless they are over 135cm in height. Once a child is taller than 135cm, they can use the car’s seat belt, regardless of their age. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that every passenger under 14 is in a child seat or is using a seat belt according to the law.There are circumstances when it may be better to seat disabled children in the front seat, such as for those that experience frequent epileptic seizures or reflux (and choking) – that may need swift intervention. (Make sure you know where any emergency kit or medication is, in preparation for such a scenario.)
(It is illegal to put a child in a rearward facing child car seat in the front passenger seat, if there is an active passenger airbag.)
- Incontinence pads may be more likely to leak in the car, especially on long journeys. Many child seats have removable (and spare) covers, so they can be washed if necessary. You can get protective covers that go on top of a child car seat, and you can put a protective pad under the seat to protect the car’s upholstery.
- Carry an emergency medical kit in the car, with any equipment or medications you may need. Check that your mobile phone and any medical devices are fully charged.