Ian Jones, 62 from Flintshire, is back behind the wheel after a stroke thanks to the support of the North Wales Mobility and Driving Assessment Service led by Manager Gary Jones.
Now retired, Ian worked for over 35 years supporting disabled adults and parents of disabled children. In addition to public speaking on disability, in 2016 Ian joined the advisory group helping the Wales Mobility and Driving Assessment Service (WMDAS). WMDAS has four Centres in Wales with the northern service operated from the Disability Resource Centre, Glan Clwyd Hospital. WMDAS receives grant funding through Welsh Government and is part of the nationwide Driving Mobility network which is a charitable organisation supported by The Department for Transport. Each of the 20 Centres, with over 70 outreach facilities in total, provide ‘fitness-to-drive’ and equipment assessments for drivers with restricted mobility. Individuals can self-refer or are signposted from the DVLA, Motability, Police and NHS.
Out of working hours Ian was a volunteer driver for a local community transport scheme – ferrying people to and from medical appointments and the shops. He also drove a charity minibus, taking elderly people out for day trips to places such as Shrewsbury. When Ian had a stroke in 2018, he could no longer drive his manual car or those owned by the community transport scheme so had to stop volunteering. He needed his own new adapted car to continue both for personal use and volunteering. Despite cerebral palsy, Ian had held a RoSPA advanced driving certificate since 2015 however weakness down one side meant he now needed a ‘fitness-to-drive’ assessment to regain his licence. He was advised to contact WMDAS so his relationship with the Centre went full circle as Ian became a client for the first time.
Driving a standard manual car with cerebral palsy was comfortable and safe for Ian however when he developed weakness down his left side, the need for an adapted vehicle became a necessity. Ian was assessed at WMDAS with a view to him hopefully regaining his licence and driving independence. Alongside a designated Approved Driving Instructor and Occupational Therapist, Gary Jones, Centre Manager, approved Ian to keep driving with the aid of a basic steering ball and automatic transmission. No other adaptations were needed. This was fantastic news for Ian and gave him the opportunity to apply for a car through the Motability leasing scheme. However, with the pandemic delaying delivery until this year, Gary has provided Ian with refresher sessions in one of his Centre assessment cars, ensuring Ian’s driving skills remain up to date.
Ian explains: “WMDAS do an excellent job! From my advisory role with them, I knew they provided an exceptional service however now as a client, the diligence of their support is even clearer. When I lost my ability to drive three years ago it was a huge loss. They have helped me get behind the wheel and find my route back to independence. When I look back at the 1970’s I would have never been given the opportunity to drive when living with cerebral palsy. It was just assumed it would be impossible for me, no chance at all. Thank goodness attitudes have changed these days and centres such as WMDAS understand what is safe and achievable through a tested clinical approach.”
“Gary has been so wonderful helping me keep my skills up to speed. With my monthly drives on a variety of roads, I have kept my confidence and I’m now ready for my own car. I always tend to set myself aspirations, not targets, so I keep moving forward. WMDAS have helped me achieve my driving goal, I can’t wait to get back to being a volunteer driver, I miss it so much.”
Being able to help Ian has given Gary and the WMDAS team a convenient way to thank him for all his support over the years. Gary concludes: “Ian has become such a valued member of our disability advisory group; we were delighted to assist with his pathway back to driving. All his voluntary work is to be commended; he puts so much back into the local community. Having independence in a car is vital to this so we are proud to have contributed and look forward to seeing Ian with his shiny new keys in the not-so-distant future.”