Blue badge parking app to be trialled in Reading
A smartphone app designed to help disabled people find empty blue badge parking spaces is being trialled.
Sensors have been placed in 70 disabled bays in Reading which will detect when vehicles are occupying the designated spaces.
These will then send updates on vacant spots to the app users' mobile devices.
The EU-funded project, called SIMON, is also being piloted in cities in Spain, Portugal and Italy.
'Making life simple'
Marian Marsh, transport planner at Reading Borough Council, said she hoped more than 300 of the town's disabled people will provide feedback on the scheme before the end of April 2017.
She said: "It is all about making life simple for people with disabilities.
"The idea is that you can check on the app before you leave home where there is a free blue badge parking space."
Simone Illger, a disabled Reading resident, has been among the first to test the technology this week.
She told the BBC that disabled spaces are "not always very visible" and expects the app to "come into its own" for those visiting unfamiliar locations.
She said: "Technology is helping disabled people more than it is anyone else - and this is really wonderful.
"I am really proud that Reading is one of the first places to see it come to fruition."
The SIMON project is being coordinated by business group ETRA, which said the app could also be used to reduce the fraudulent use of blue badge parking spaces.
Antonio Marquez, development director of ETRA, said he wanted the app to be used in towns and cities across the world following the trial's conclusion in 2017.
He added: "If we are unable to provide mobility to everyone in society, we are failing."