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Regarding EVs and the Disabled

November 10, 2021

Helen Dolphin

In 2018, the UK government published the Road to Zero strategy, which set out their mission for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040. However, this date has now been brought forward to 2035, or potentially even sooner, if this is deemed feasible. 


People who currently drive from their wheelchair are unsure as to whether an electric vehicle could be adapted in a similar fashion.


This means there is going to be a requirement for more EV charging points. Although it is expected that most people will charge their cars at home overnight using a dedicated charge point, because it is generally cheaper and more convenient, there will still be a requirement for businesses, garage forecourts and parking operators to provide EV charging bays.


For many disabled people, having an electric vehicle raises a number of concerns. People who currently drive from their wheelchair are unsure as to whether an electric vehicle could be adapted in a similar fashion. The main issue being that to enter a vehicle in your wheelchair the floor needs to be lowered, and in electric vehicles there is a large battery under the floor. For people like me with complex adaptations, I am worried if those adaptations would work on an electric vehicle. And many disabled drivers are concerned about the difficulties of charging. 


Putting fuel in a diesel or petrol vehicle has always been an issue for disabled drivers. There have been tools and apps developed to help overcome this problem, but they have generally focused on getting the attention of someone in a fuel station to come out and help. Charging electric vehicles is another minefield, entirely.


No longer do we have to go somewhere to get fuel as most people will charge their vehicle at home. But not everyone has a drive to charge on, which would mean the charging cable would need to run across the pavement, and this is not ideal or safe at all. I am hopeful that remote charging could be developed soon which would make charging easier for everyone as it would do away with the need for plugging in, but the cost of this could be huge. 


If plugging in is still required, then this could be hard for many disabled people. I know I would not be able to drag the lead from my home to my car and then plug it in. This would require dexterity I do not have, as well as strength. This will also be a problem when going to a dedicated charging point in a car park or service area. I have done some work with the parking sector to start installing electric vehicle charging points in larger bays reserved for Blue Badge holders, but there is still the issue of actually plugging in.


There are currently over 600,000 people on the Motability scheme, which provides vehicles to disabled people, so these issues are potentially going to affect a lot of motorists. In addition, because the Motability scheme requires customers to renew their vehicle every three years, disabled people are likely to be some of the first people to switch to electric vehicles. 


There is a lot about adapting electric vehicles that is still unknown and the way forward is definitely financial backing to allow for thorough research. Also, the support of vehicle manufacturers will be essential in the development of adaptations for disabled drivers and passengers in electric vehicles. 


Disabled people, through the Motability scheme, make up about 10 percent of the new car market, so I hope there is plenty of support for ensuring disabled people will not be disadvantaged by the change to electric vehicles. 


How should the EV bay be set out?


• I would recommend that if five electric charging bays are installed then at least one is set out as an accessible bay and reserved for a Blue Badge holder with an electric vehicle.


• The bay should meet current BS 8300:2009 standard, which are at least 2400mm × 4800mm with a 1200mm wide safety or transition zone marked out with cross-patterned stripes along one side. It is important that bays meet this standard as the hatched marking at the side enables disabled drivers and passengers to transfer to a wheelchair parked alongside. The bays should also have enough space for tail loading.


• The bays should be reserved for Blue Badge holders who are charging their electric vehicles. 


• The charge point should be located at a height suitable for wheelchair users.


• Where possible, car park attendants should offer help and assistance to disabled people in charging their vehicles. 


Helen Dolphin, MBE, is the Director at Peoples Parking. She can be reached at helen@peoplesparking.org



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