Sarah Sullivan, 34 from Kilmarnock, has been able to continue driving with multiple sclerosis thanks to expert guidance from Glasgow’s DriveAbility Scotland.
Sarah, Mum of 10-year-old Charlotte, came to accept in the summer of 2022 that she was struggling to drive safely. Diagnosed with MS in 2014, her progressive condition meant she was experiencing mobility difficulties and reduced sensation in her feet – so operating a brake and accelerator pedal was becoming a challenge.
Sarah already owned a standard automatic car; however, the driving controls no longer met her needs as she explains: “I had started to avoid driving as my MS was getting worse. I still hoped for a while that the symptoms would go away, but they didn’t, so I knew I had to do something to get back on the road. I was staying at home more and more. At one point I’d been in the house all week and I thought this is ridiculous, I can’t go on like this, I must do something to try and get driving again.”
Sarah’s predicament was impacting on many aspects of family life. The main problem was not being able to give Charlotte lifts to school, friends, and her performing arts club. Sarah’s shopping trips and regular hospital appointments also meant reliance on others or using public transport which was challenging for a time-pressured mum using a powered wheelchair.
Sarah continues: “Things needed to change. So, after speaking to my neurologist, I was signposted towards DriveAbility Scotland who would assess me and recommend the right driving controls to get me back behind the wheel. I had an appointment at their centre in October and was assessed by an Occupational Therapist and Approved Driving Instructor. I was quite apprehensive before my visit; however, they immediately put me at ease by explaining it was not a test, it was an assessment. Due to weakness in my legs and arms, it was agreed that I should try driving with a steering wheel under-ring and radial push brake. Well, it felt a bit odd at first but to be fair, I got my head around using these controls pretty quickly. This meant I could drive without using my legs, amazing!”
Following her assessment and receipt of a written report, Sarah was given the names of recommended vehicle convertors who could adapt her car with the new driving controls. Sarah chose AIC Glasgow to fit the under-ring and radial push brake and within a few weeks she was driving full-time and back ‘being Mum’.
Sarah concludes: “Being able to drive means we can live a normal life; I can be the ‘Mum taxi’ again. I spend most of my time driving Charlotte around to her friends and various activities and share the school runs with other parents. I’m absolutely loving it. Using my new adaptations now feels second nature. It took me a bit of time to get totally used to them, and remembering I can’t wave at people, but today I don’t think twice about how to get about. I think the superb support from DriveAbility Scotland has helped me get my confidence back so quickly and they were brilliant all the way through. I’d recommend their services to everyone in Scotland looking for ways to drive independently with conditions such as MS.”