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Hi Sunshine News Readers

Its been a HUGE week for the charity as momentum around of our Disabled travel and parking campaign, #ItsMySpace, has really picked up. We've now had talks with local TV news outlets, various other charities and even North East businesses who are looking to improve their inclusivity. We've also been overwhelmed with the amount of parents and carers of children with additional needs who have come forward already and shared their experiences with us. Thank you for trusting us with your story.

We have been speaking to local families about their experiences when traveling with disabled children throughout the North East. As a region, the North East has some of the highest amounts of blue badges issued of any UK region with 3,945 in Newcastle alone. However in a recent study conducted by Nationwide Vehicle Contracts, Newcastle featured in the top 20 worst places to access disabled parking and the study found that almost a third of our City Centre car parks do not have disabled bays at all.

We are staggered to learn of the negative experiences many of the people we have spoken to have had while using public transport or when parking in a designated disabled parking bay. Some have been met with aggression, inappropriate questions and ignorance, we want to challenge stigma and misconceptions.

One Gateshead Mum who asked to remain anonymous, shared her experience with us "There have been far too many experiences to mention, I've lost count of the times I've been tutted at, made to feel like a criminal or even approached aggressively for parking in a disabled bay. The worst thing is my son hears all of this and feels it’s his fault. It makes me so mad. I park in a disabled bay because my child uses a wheelchair and I need adequate space to get him in and out of our car safely. It’s not about free parking or being closer to the entrance of the supermarket it’s a necessity for safety. I clearly display the badges, I park considerably and basically mind my own business, I wish people would do the same!"Gateshead Mum

The initial idea for the campaign stems from our charity vision to support our children and their families not just through providing them with specialist and adapted equipment but by also offering practical and emotional support. We are exclusively offering our Sunshine Families car stickers to proudly display in their vehicle with clear messaging hopefully enabling them to park and travel easier and more safely, free from any judgement or challenging behaviour. Please note our stickers do not provide free/priority parking and are not designed to be used in place of a Blue Badge. Our families can access these through our private families area of The Chronicle Sunshine Fund website in the coming weeks.

Disabled adults and parents of disabled children should not need to speak out or justify themselves to use the services and areas designed specifically for them. We want to highlight this issue in the era of Being Kind and ask you to think first, be aware and be considerate. You can support our campaign by following TCSF on social media and liking, sharing and engaging on #ItsMySpace posts to support us in raising awareness of the campaign. We ask all of our readers and supporters to be considerate when you park your own vehicle; only use disabled bays if you or your passenger are a blue badge holder and entitled to do so and please leave enough space on pavements and in car parks for wheelchair and frame users.

Whilst we know that disabled bays and parking areas are often abused by drivers and members of the public who do not have the right to use them, please consider your behaviour and refrain from confronting drivers as they may have every right to be there. Remember not all disabilities are visible.

Please have conversations with your own children and family members, don’t avoid talking to them about disability - including hidden disability - and why it’s so important to be kind and non-judgemental. Explain why the disabled car parking spaces and priority seats on public transport are so important. We need to educate our future generations and promote inclusivity for all.

As a small charity who makes a big impact, we want to raise awareness and ask the general public to show more consideration and kindness to disabled passengers and their families. We aim to givie a voice to vulnerable and underrepresented North East Families and raise awareness of the challenges and animosity they face on a regular basis when traveling with disabled children in their care. We also aim to highlight the importance of dedicated disabled parking and travel facilities in our region and creatie a positive catalyst for change to ensure that there are enough allocation of resources to adequately serve our disabled communities.

Our Charity Director, Siobhan Sargeant said “We are honoured to share the journeys of hundreds of families caring for children with disabilities in our region and we have been outraged at some of the experiences they have shared with us regarding parking and travel. A staggering amount of families have been met with aggression and have been confronted about utilising blue bay parking areas in supermarkets, in public car parks and even in our regions hospitals, despite having the right to use these zones and having displayed the appropriate blue badges. We want to raise awareness of this ongoing issue and say enough is enough. In an era where we all readily share Be Kind messages, we want our communities to extend this sentiment and courtesy to the disabled children in our region. Its their right to use these spaces and areas too.”

You can get involved with #ItsMySpace and help us make a positive change. Visit our website and follow us on social media for more updates and discussion on disabled travel and parking in our region#ItsMySpace. Facebook @sunshinefund Twitter @sunshine_fund

Donate and help us continue to speak up for disabled children and the barriers they face. Donations can be made online or by texting SUNSHINE 5 to 70085 to make a one-off £5 donation.

Team Sunshine x



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