Recently featured on the BBC, Driving Mobility client Chiara Beer, 27 from Winchester, is publishing ‘one handed hacks’ to help people drive after experiencing a stroke.
Chiara is a busy and positive individual who works for her father’s cereal bar business ‘Boka Food’. Her job involves a variety of roles including packaging and managing the company’s social media. Being able to drive to work and for social time is essential for Chiara. Without this she would not be independent and would have to rely on mum and dad for lifts all the time. As a keen swimmer, Chiara spends a lot of time at the local sports centre so freedom to go whenever she wants is important for her mental health and well-being.
Chiara experienced a stroke aged two which developed into dystonia and hemiplegia, affecting the mobility and strength of her right side. Therefore to drive, Chiara needs vehicle adaptations so she can steer and control with her left hand and left foot. When she decided to start learning to drive at 17, Driving Mobility were instrumental in signposting her in the right direction in terms of specialist tuition and vehicle adaptations. Without the clinical assistance of the West of England Driving Mobility centre, Chiara would not have been able to pass her test and go on to driving independently.
Chiara picks up the story: “I spoke to my GP about the possibility of driving so he wrote to the DVLA. They said I needed to go to a Driving Mobility centre for a driving assessment. The nearest one to us was the one in Bristol so I went along. The staff there were amazing, so friendly. An Occupational Therapist and Approved Driving Instructor took me through some basic health and mobility checks and then I got to try various driving controls around the car park. They recommended a steering ball with secondary controls and a left foot accelerator. Now I knew what I needed, I just had to pass my test. They signposted me to an instructor who specialised in lessons for drivers with disabilities. It took me 2 years and three attempts to pass, but I got there in the end which is the main thing!”
Chiara drives with a Lodgesons steering ball which encompasses buttons that control secondary functions such as lights and indicators. This detachable ‘lollipop’ uses wireless Bluetooth technology and can be easily removed if standard steering control is preferred. Her ‘twin flip’ accelerator pedal again can be quickly adjusted for either left or right foot control. This means the rest of her family can use her automatic car without any adaptations.
Today, driving is second nature for Chiara – she is confident and at ease behind the wheel. She freely admits driving on her own was quite daunting in the beginning, but her concerns faded over time.
As she volunteers for ‘Different Strokes’, a charity that supports younger people affected by stroke, her story was sent to the BBC by their press team. Newsbeat took interest in Chiara’s ‘one handed hacks’ video series which featured advice on putting up hair, applying make-up, cutting food and wearing jewellery. She followed this with YouTube videos showing how she drives using one arm. Chiara plans to continue publishing advice reels for people with restricted mobility or limbloss, and hopes to support Driving Mobility in some way in the future.
In conclusion Chiara says: “To all fellow people with disabilities learning to drive, don’t give up, your perseverance will pay off! Some days I thought I would never do it, but I did. The support and reassurance I received from my instructor and Driving Mobility definitely helped.”