Flash Says…

B&Q and the Disabled Parking Debacle

Posted on: 2013-08-24

It’s a bank holiday weekend. What are you doing – perhaps some DIY or pottering around the garden? Well, if you’re disabled, chances are you won’t be able to shop at a B&Q because their dedicated blue badge parking bays are used to store stock from Spring to Autumn. And the company aren’t willing to change.

I’m physically disabled. I need to park as close to my destination as possible, and I need a wide parking bay with hatching either side, so I can open my doors fully in order to get in and out – if I use a regular bay and someone parks alongside me, I can’t get back into my car. Luckily, the number and sizes of these bays are specified by the Department for Transport (DfT), so I can rely on them being present when I need to shop. The specifications are detailed on their website (although this PDF is dated 1995, the DfT confirmed to me in June 2013 that this is still their current guidance). So it’s straightforward – a shopping area should provide dedicated, wide parking spaces for every disabled member of staff, plus 6% of all bays if there are under 200 spaces in total, or 4 bays plus an additional 4% if there are more than 200 spaces.

When a store doesn’t provide those bays, or if they are provided but not enforced, it’s easy to campaign, quoting the DfT’s guidance. But what happens when disabled parking bays are present, but it’s the store themself who abuses them?

B&Q is a repeat offender. Take my local store, Leyton Mills in East London. I won’t bore you with the numbers, but you can see the location of disabled bays – marked with blue splodges – on this trading estate. Whether you only count the parking bays in the B&Q area, or the entire trading estate, I’ve totted them up and the numbers are such that obstructing just a few bays will mean that the DfT minimums are not met. Every dedicated wide bay is important for me and the many disabled people who want to shop there.


Image from Google Maps – click for detail

Back in 2009 I raised the issue of the disabled bays having been turned into a garden centre:

The management didn’t seem to care – I spoke to them three times and then followed up with a letter, but nothing changed – so I contacted the local police team who patrol the trading estate. A lovely PC gave me the management company’s address but also confided that he’d already had words with B&Q on this topic and it was a source of frustration. The PC spoke to store management again and this time they removed plants from three bays, and promised to free up another two over the weekend (theoretically leaving just one disabled bay full of stock, and eleven available for parking).

Well, B&Q did indeed remove plants from some of the disabled parking bays… however, they replaced them with a gazebo containing a woman selling trampolines!

If it wasn’t so frustrating and ridiculous, I’d laugh. All I want is somewhere to park.

The problem is ongoing, every year the same. In May 2013 the disabled bays looked like this:

…yes, it’s another garden centre! I should point out that there are plenty of normal parking spaces that could be used instead of the dedicated wide ones, if they are unable to fit all their stock in the store. But not only do the disabled bays get used for plants, but they are spread out to provide space for people to browse around them! So it’s not just an emergency holding area, but a deliberate abuse of the space.

Don’t just take my word for it. Here are some examples from other stores…

Claire Brewer spotted this in Lea Bridge Road:

And my own image of the same store (I was unable to park there at all, and staff looked at me blankly when I called them over and asked them to clear a disabled bay for me) – click on the image to see more detail:

Su Smith visited Aylesbury, where they were displaying compost in the car park:

And Dr John Bullas saw this stack of trolleys at a Southampton store:

This problem has also been in the news, for example last October Harrow Times reported on B&Q’s Stanmore store: Anger at DIY store blocking disabled bays with stock. And I’ve heard reports of similar issues at B&Q stores across the UK. Clearly the company don’t care about the needs of their disabled customers. I won’t give you the full spiel about the business case for providing access, but suffice to say that 1 in 7 adults in the UK are disabled, with an annual spending power of around £80 billion. It’s clear that B&Q are not just frustrating and insulting disabled people, but are also turning away a lot of potential income.

So what do B&Q have to say?

Their website has an “Ethics FAQ”, which states:

“Q. What services do you provide for disabled customers?
A. All car parks have designated disabled parking bays, near the main store entrance.”

It would be nice if, having created these parking bays, B&Q would keep them free for the customers who need them.

This summer I tackled B&Q via twitter, hoping that the publicity would make them think twice. They responded to my photos of Leyton Mills, and asked their manager to move stock out of the bays. This was done in many cases, but several of the hatched areas (needed for disabled people to open their doors fully or to pull their wheelchairs alongside their car) remained blocked with stock. A quick poll of my disabled friends on twitter indicated that in order to be useful, the bay needs to have clear hatching on both sides of the bay. And indeed this clear hatching is specified in the DfT guidance. If stores are still blocking hatching they are still obstructing the bays.

Also, B&Q may have cleared some of the spaces in Leyton Mills. Stores in other locations remain just as bad. They might have responded to my tweets in fear of bad publicity but they haven’t made any kind of change to their general attitude or policy. In fact when I visited Leyton Mills this week I found another bay blocked by a sign inviting me to come and shop over the Bank Holiday weekend. This infuriated me enough to finally blog about it.

So it seems that B&Q just don’t care. Summer may be nearly over, and perhaps once colder weather comes and the bedding plants are sold out for another year, the demand for disabled bays (from both customers and the stores) will diminish.

But we know it will happen again.

Name and shame your local offenders, and perhaps head office will do something about it. If not, perhaps it’s time the issue was raised with the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

As their advert says – “B&Q: What could you do?

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11 Responses to "B&Q and the Disabled Parking Debacle"

Call to trading standards ?

I’m not really sure it’s in their remit? I couldn’t find anything online when looking at what they cover.

The other issue with Trading Standards is that you have to register issues with the office in your borough or county, so I’d have to complain about the Leyton and Lea Bridge ones to Waltham Forest Trading Standards, and others to their nearest office… etc. Which gets a bit wearing when the issue is not so much one store, but a whole company’s attitude.

This is business idiocy. I have *never* known a person with acquired long term illness or disability who hasn’t been told by multiple medical professionals to try some light gardening as a therapeutic exercise. There’s a fortune to be made if B&Q bother to think about how to harness that.

Thanks Mary, that’s a really good point. I too enjoy light gardening when I can manage it, but I go to Homebase instead – they have also used some parking areas for stock, but kept the disabled bays clear. They also see me in the store, offer help and then carry my goods to the car. B&Q could learn from them!

This sounds like an issue The One Show might cover.

Oh – good idea! Thank you.

I’ve just been back to B&Q Leyton Mills. The bank holiday sign has been replaced with one saying “Feeling unloved?” Well, yes I am, when you block disabled bays with signage…
http://twitpic.com/dbqtqk
It’s not a great angle, but if you compare how the sign touches the wheelchair symbol with the bay next to it, coupled with the fact that the hatching is blocked with stock too, you’ll see that there’s no way I could have parked there. Luckily it wasn’t busy and I could use another bay today, but they still need to provide the DfT recommended minimum number of accessible bays. It ain’t accessible when there’s a sign in it!

Excellent and well put together post of an absolute scandal! I’ve not been to a B&Q for a while but I think I will take a trip out to the Sheffield one to see if they’re behaving – or not. This story should really get some coverage – what about the local press? Though I guess they will be too busy taking the B&Q advertising shilling. Keep up the pestering work on this one!

Hi. I visited the Wisbech store with my partner. We are both disabled there were trolleys in the bays and a van took up 3 spaces blocking 4. I complained the staff looked at me like I was stupid. I complained to head office. When the manager called me back from the store he told me.”disabled drivers and their parking spaces were the bain of his life”!!!!! I am still waiting for a call back from head office.

Bane of his life? That’s a shocking attitude! I wouldn’t be too confident that Head Office will give a damn, but well done you for making them aware that we won’t just roll over!

Frustratingly the disabled bays nearest the exit in Leyton Mills have been replaced with Trade Only bays! They have put alternative disabled bays in, but these are further from the entrance and even further from the exit. I want to park near the exit, since I cant carry my shopping very far… Surely the Trade Only vehicles could park a little further away?

Just goes to show that B&Q dont give a damn about disabled customers. Still.

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