A WOMAN with a debilitating illness today hit out at council staff, claiming they refused her a parking permit which allows her to use toilet facilities at short notice.
Jenna Christie, who has colitis, says she relies on a special blue parking badge for her car.
The 27-year-old says having the inflammatory bowel disease means she often needs the bathroom while driving.
But when she called up Sunderland City Council to try to renew the badge, she claims a man said to her that she was not disabled, would not be allowed to have a permit or appeal the decision.
However, council bosses today said that Jenna will be allowed to appeal.
“The man asked if I could walk unaided and when I said ‘yes’, he said ‘well you aren’t disabled then,” said Jenna, who works in the motor trade.
“He was really obnoxious and I had to put the phone down because I was getting stressed, which can make my condition worse.
“I was told I couldn’t appeal or send in a letter from my doctor either.
“I couldn’t believe that someone who is a health worker would say such a thing.”
Jenna, of Seaburn Dene, who is not registered as disabled, currently has to take more than 20 tablets a day before she even leaves the house to go to work.
She often has intense abdominal pain, diarrhoea, as well as feeling tired or having a loss of appetite.
She says that the illness is not as publicised as others, but should be so that more people understand the condition.
“We need to make more people aware of it,” said Jenna.
“The Manchester United footballer Darren Fletcher, who has colitis, spoke about how he had to plan his routes where he knew he would pass a toilet.
“He couldn’t take his children to the park, play football or go to a restaurant with his wife for the fear of not knowing where the nearest toilet was situated. It’s not the case that we just go to the toilet more often than others.
“I don’t know when I will need the toilet and now I have to worry about parking the car first and where before I can enter premises and use their facilities thanks to the fact my blue badges haven’t been renewed.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport told the Echo that guidelines have changed over who and who isn’t allowed a blue badge in the past year, although he added that it is up to councils themselves to determine who is or isn’t eligible.
There is no specific criteria which says that those with colitis are eligible for the passes, although a Government guidelines document states that “Crohn’s disease/incontinent conditions are not in themselves a qualification for a badge”.
Councillor Graeme Miller, portfolio holder for health, housing and adult services at Sunderland City Council, said: “The council issues blue car badges in accordance with national guidance set by the Department of Transport.
“This guidance awards badges to adults who have:
l a permanent and substantial disability that means they are unable to, or have extreme difficulty walking.
l a permanent upper limb condition which means they are unable to, or have extreme difficulty operating parking meters.
“People who do not meet the qualifying criteria may be supported with information and advice about other services that may help them in the management of their mobility.
“The council has appeal procedures where applications can be reconsidered.”