Killin community volunteer futureproofs independence despite disability thanks to DriveAbility Scotland - Driving Mobility

Killin community volunteer futureproofs independence despite disability thanks to DriveAbility Scotland

Thanks to the support of DriveAbility Scotland, a new charitable driving assessment service in Glasgow, wheelchair user Helen Lear, 35 from Perthshire, has been able to continue driving and supporting her local community.

Helen’s volunteering is varied and includes working at a charity shop, establishing a tool lending library and supporting the Killin Old Mill. She is passionate about keeping this 1840’s watermill in a good state of repair as the building is of historic importance. This interest in Scottish history has also led Helen to study the Gaelic language at The University of the Highlands and Islands. She is currently in the middle of her distance learning course and is part of a group that actively converse in Scottish Gaelic ‘so the language is kept alive’ as Helen puts it. 

Helen has Neuromyelitis optica which is a progressive neurological condition that affects her spine and ability to walk. To remain mobile, she needed a new car that included hand controls so reduced strength in her legs would not be a barrier to driving. Helen contacted Motability about swapping her standard car for an adapted vehicle through their leasing scheme – the charity signposted Helen to DriveAbility Scotland for an assessment of her needs. Being able to futureproof her driving independence was vital for Helen in so many ways.

DriveAbility Scotland is a new driving assessment centre based in Glasgow. It is part of the national charity Driving Mobility which accredits a network of 21 independent centres, with over 70 outreach facilities, that provide professional guidance on adapted driving, mobility equipment and use of accessible transport. Individuals with disabilities and restricted mobility can self-refer to these services or are directed from the DVLA, NHS, Police and Motability. Similar to all centres, DriveAbility Scotland provides support from Occupational Therapists and Approved Driving Instructors who can assess, recommend and tutor clients on all aspects of driving and independent mobility. Helen contacted DriveAbility Scotland and an appointment was made.

Helen explains:

“Right from the beginning, the team at DriveAbility Scotland were so nice and easy to talk to. It was really refreshing to speak to someone who listened and understood my challenges. My situation was discussed in detail on the phone so a car could be set up before my visit to their centre. This way they could see what hand controls might suit me and also try others. During my appointment I was shown a range of adaptations in a catalogue and then given the chance to try the recommended controls in one of their cars. I drove a car with an ‘under ring accelerator’ on the steering wheel and a push lever brake. I was a bit apprehensive but got used to them quickly.” 

“They also suggested a driver’s seat that swivelled so I could transfer easily out of my wheelchair and a roof top box to store it. These weren’t available on the day, but DriveAbility arranged for me to try them later at my home thanks to one of their recommended vehicle adaptation companies. Everything suited me perfectly, so their report was sent to the Motability Grants team regarding the kind of car and adaptations I needed. Approval was given in just a few weeks… they said go for it! I’m hoping to get my new car in the next few months which will make a huge difference to my life. I now have peace of mind that if my legs get worse I can still drive in my everyday life and when volunteering.”   

Helen is now optimistic about the future and is looking forward to replacing her car with a vehicle that will future proof her driving abilities. She also highly recommends DriveAbility Scotland as she concludes:

“The best thing about all of this has been that DriveAbility Scotland sorted everything out and kept it all moving along. They managed all the calls and the paperwork which was a great feeling. I’ve always been a fiercely independent person and it’s only recently I’ve realised how restricted I’ve become, and how small my world has become, because I’ve not had the adaptations I need to help me get around independently. Independent driving opens up my world, helps me remain confident, and gives me hope for adventures in the future. Thanks to DriveAbility Scotland and Motability for making it all possible.”