Stephen Mains, 66 and retired HGV driver from Stockton, has been able to regain his driving independence following a stroke thanks to the support of Driving Mobility and a grant from Motability.
Driving Mobility is a national charity supported by The Department for Transport that co-ordinates a network of driving and mobility assessment centres across the UK. These 21 centres, many with outreach facilities, provide ‘fitness to drive’ assessments for clients that self-refer and are signposted from DVLA, Motability, the NHS and Police. Helping drivers with disabilities to regain or maintain independence is achieved by professional advice regarding appropriate vehicle adaptations and mobility equipment. The Newcastle Driving Mobility Centre is based in the Walkergate Park Hospital Centre for Neuro-Rehabilitation and Neuro-Psychiatry and operates as an NHS department with the Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust. This Centre were instrumental in supporting Stephen so he could return to driving after a stroke in 2020 – assisted by free assessments, lessons and vehicle steering adaptations funded by the Driving Assessment Grant (DAG).
The DAG has been made possible by Motability, the national charity that helps keep disabled people mobile through its vehicle and equipment leasing scheme. To help individuals not currently using the scheme or who do not qualify, Motability awarded Driving Mobility £50,000 to pilot this grant programme which has proven extremely successful.
Stephen is one of the latest drivers to benefit and tells his story: “When I had my stroke, I really thought my driving days were over, I was so upset in the hospital as I’d lost function in my right hand. I had to give up my licence until I was deemed safe to be back on the road so was directed to the Newcastle Driving Mobility Centre. I was quite anxious before my driving assessment but the team there were so fantastic, they really did all they could to put me at ease. They recommended I used a steering aid called a ‘Lodgesons lollipop’ so I could steer with one hand and use its buttons for controlling things like the indicators and wipers. I was assessed driving around the block a few times with this kit however they concluded I needed driving lessons to get more proficient with this new way of driving. Well only after 11 hours of tuition I went back to the centre and passed! Kirsten and Neal at the centre were amazing, so encouraging all the way through.”
Now driving again full time, Stephen’s independence is making a huge difference to him and his wife, Lesley Ann, as he concludes: “I can’t tell you how grateful we are for getting me back behind the wheel. I’m over the moon! Without the support of the Newcastle Driving Mobility centre and the grant from Motability, I’d have never been able to drive again. Our first journey was a trip to Redcar to see the coast and enjoy an ice cream. It has been so long since we have been able to visit the seaside. It was so wonderful to see the sea and countryside again and we want to say a big, big thank you to everyone at Driving Mobility and Motability who has helped me get back on the road. I do hope my story helps inspire other people with disabilities…I say to everyone ‘go for it!’.”