The foundations of Driving Mobility date back to 1980 when the Department for Transport (DfT) established the Disability Unit. Its role was to review services for disabled people across all modes of transport. The team immediately discovered a lack of opportunity for disabled people to find out about assisted driving and vehicle adaptations.
One of the first initiatives, was to set up the Mobility Roadshow. The idea was to give disabled people, for the first time, the chance to try out different vehicles and adaptations and test drive vehicles before deciding on the right solution for their needs. . In 1983 the inaugural Mobility Roadshow took place at Berkshire’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL – providing the first event of its kind to exhibit adapted vehicles. The Roadshow grew into the largest UK consumer exhibition for independent mobility and ran for over 30 years.
Banstead Place in Surrey, was the only mobility centre at that time, and today remains a Driving Mobility assessment centre, which is based in Carshalton and managed by the Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People (QEF). The DfT studied driving assessment services in Belgium (at that time the only country in Europe with such a service) and following the recommendations of the DVLA Chief Medical Adviser and the Chief Driving Examiner, funding was approved for.
The Mobility Advice and Vehicle Information Service (MAVIS). Located at the TRL in Crowthorne, this new service, opened in 1985, and was funded by the DfT as part of its Disability Unit. It offered support from Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) and Occupational Therapists (OTs) although it had no direct medical input. This achieved its goal in delivering a more approachable choice for service users so A/B testing could determine whether medical or non-medical routes achieved better outcomes.
As demand for specialist driving assessments grew, it became clear that more nationwide centres were needed. This led to a number of independent charities, local authorities and NHS organisations setting up centres with different approaches and standards. Despite significant funding challenges, they managed to develop effective services, so clients with disabilities could be signposted towards appropriate vehicle adaptations and mobility equipment. In the 1990s funding was secured from the DfT so more centres could open and an accreditation system was established. They were all inspected and checked on an annual basis by the Department with this responsibility being handed over to ‘The Forum of Mobility Centres’ in 2003 – the predecessor to Driving Mobility.
During this time there was a significant change in disability awareness and the provision of equipment. Motability grants were on the increase and The Mobility Roadshow continued to provide an annual showcase of the latest vehicles. An impressive array of motor manufacturers were joined by specialist car convertors and mobility equipment suppliers resulting in a unique exhibition that met all aspects of personal mobility. Its onsite test drive facilities where promoted strongly and aided awareness of similar opportunities at mobility centres. The number of driving assessment centres continued to grow, and despite MAVIS closing in 2007, it had established the educational model for Driving Mobility staff training, which then moved from The University of Greenwich to The University of Chester in 2011.
Fast forward to 2016 and the Forum of Mobility Centres had grown to xx main centres with xxoutreach facilities. Each centre operated independently as they do today however common standards and practices needed to be implemented to ensure consistent service. This led to the transition from The Forum of Mobility Centres to Driving Mobility in 2016. A new brand identity was developed to reflect a more up-to-date approach and to strengthen the link between all the independent centres. Taking a different approach to other driving associations, through a clinically-led focus, Driving Mobility became the national voice for assisted driving and independent mobility.
In 2017 the charity’s Chief Executive Ed Passant retired and was replaced by Edward Trewhella. Edward joined the sector in 2014 as Chief Executive of Cornwall Mobility and following a rigorous selection process, was appointed as CEO of Driving Mobility, which is a role he continues to undertake. . Under his expert leadership, Driving Mobility now oversees 20 independent centres with 71 outreach facilities which are operated by 14 independent charities and 4 NHS organisations.
Today service users self-refer or are signposted to Driving Mobility from the DVLA, Motability, the Police and healthcare professionals. The charity continues to expand its reach with new centres planned and diversification of services to encompass all aspects of accessible travel. The 250 staff and board of Trustees bring together an unsurpassed level of knowledge and expertise within the realms of assisted driving. The charity is regarded as an invaluable source for guidance in terms of transport policy and future strategies.