Investigators have found that many of the UK’s 2.5 million Blue Badge holders risk being excluded from Britain’s EV revolution.
Research by Auto Express has revealed that EV charging providers are systematically failing to meet their accessibility obligations under the Equality Act – and the government is moving too slowly to protect the interests of disabled drivers.
Auto Express is now demanding ‘Equal Access for All’ in a campaign calling for:
- Urgent provision of accessible EV charge sites
- Government regulation on minimum numbers
- Companies to meet Equality Act 2010 obligations
EV-driver and elite paralympic basketball player Ade Adepitan has backed the calls, telling Auto Express that existing charging infrastructure is often “rubbish” and does not work for the disabled community.
Led by Auto Express Consumer and Features Editor, Chris Rosamond, the investigation unearthed a catalogue of failures, ranging from equipment that was unnecessarily difficult for wheelchair users to access to a lack of appropriate signage.
Chris Rosamond said: “Our investigation revealed a shocking disregard for accessibility needs in the UK’s public charging network, with providers seemingly in a wholesale breach of Equality Act 2010 obligations, and government lagging on legislation with consultations only just beginning.
“There’s been a systematic failure to anticipate disabled needs when installing charging infrastructure, and there’s no Government regulation as a back-stop to ensure disabled needs are met”, he continued.
Charging infrastructure remains the number one concern for ‘EV-curious’ drivers, as runs on petrol forecourts and the approaching ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 accelerate interest in EV adoption.
Paralympian Ade Adepitan has driven a Tesla Model S adapted with hand controls since 2016, and has racked up almost 40,000 miles in his EV.
“I’m so lucky because I’m a really able disabled person, but there are so many charge points that are rubbish,” he said.
“I’ve been cursing and swearing so many times; If I get too close to the charge point, then I can’t open the door to get my chair out, and if I go further away then I’m too close to the curbside.
Other chargers are either too high and you can’t see the screen, or they’re in an awkward position for you to plug the cables in.”
Catherine Marris, Head of Innovation at Motability, which provides disabled drivers with 222,000 cars every year and is sponsoring new BSI accessibility standards for chargers, as well as working with government, industry and disabled charities on the issue, said:
“Our research identified that by 2035, up to 1.35million disabled people will be wholly or partially reliant on public charging infrastructure, but that it has not been designed with their needs in mind.
“As the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars approaches, it is imperative that disabled people aren’t left behind in the race to install the UK’s charging infrastructure. Work to secure accessibility standards is vital as the rapidly expanding chargepoint market means that many operators may lock in designs and infrastructure for many years without considering accessibility for disabled users” said Marris.
The Auto Express team accompanied Disabled Motoring UK as they put a number of public charge points in Brighton to the test, and found the chargers themselves were often too tall, meaning screens could not be seen clearly from a seated position, while charging sockets and cables were typically mounted high-up on weighty and unwieldy cables and could be difficult to extract.
They also identified a lack of appropriate lighting, high kerbs and cramped charging bays with no wheelchair access.