As one of the UK-wide Driving Mobility assessment centres, Salford’s RDAC has given powerchair user Paula Taylor from Bolton the route to complete driving independence through its specialist assessment and advice service.
Charity Driving Mobility, supported by the Department for Transport, accredits twenty independent organisations which offer professional driving assessments to people who need to gain, or retain, the ability to drive following a diagnosis involving impairment or disability. Service users can self-refer or are signposted by the DVLA, Motability, Police and healthcare professionals such as GPs. The new, custom-built RDAC centre in Salford advises Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, mobility scooter and wheelchair users on independence mobility.
Paula, aged 46, has driven the same adapted vehicle since a car accident in 2001 which caused a progressive decline in health and mobility. Following injections in 2003 to treat Fibromyalgia, she became paralysed from the neck down and spent a year recuperating in hospital. Paula was subsequently diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), a debilitating complex pain condition in her limbs. Now a full-time wheelchair user, Paula’s needs have recently changed and she finds unaided transfers into her car particularly difficult. Having first visited a Driving Mobility centre fifteen years ago, she decided to arrange another assessment at RDAC Salford in preparation for a new vehicle purchase. Paula wanted to ascertain that she was still using the most suitable adaptations and which controls would fit her new vehicle.
Paula comments: “Following my time in hospital, I became very depressed as I needed help with everything. I knew something had to change and my first Driving Mobility assessment in 2004 was incredibly helpful. In fact, I have used the recommended adjustable floor-mounted hand control ever since. I now have a more limited range of movement and a PA visits during the week to assist me – but I’m determined not to lose my driving independence, especially with five children and seven grandchildren. As I wanted to thoroughly research all my options, I contacted RDAC who have been really helpful.”
Following an update regarding Paula’s medical history and a cognitive assessment, Sean Barratt, RDAC Centre Manager, suggested Paula trial various new hand controls to operate the brakes and accelerator, as well as steering wheel rim controllers. However, as Paula found them unmanageable over extended periods of driving time, Sean subsequently recommended she updated her current controls to a Carospeed Menox. This can be installed in most vehicles and is highly adjustable to suit individual requirements. Sean also recommended a steering wheel ball and pedal adaptations to enable Paula to be more comfortable in the car.
Paula concludes: “To be able to talk to a specialist about individual needs and receive impartial advice is so reassuring. I discovered exactly what I needed, and I was delighted that all the adaptation recommendations were suitable for any vehicle. I’m grateful to the Centre staff for also spending time trying to establish which new vehicle would be best for me. They considered transfer requirements and which car could cater for my hoist and powerchair. Following my assessment, I have ordered a new accessible vehicle which fits me like a glove and is so easy to transfer into. The hands-on information that people can receive from Driving Mobility centres is unparalleled. I certainly know where to go next time I need advice!”