Overcoming her health challenges, Diana Whittaker from Sale, has regained invaluable driving independence through the support of the new RDAC Driving Assessment centre in Salford, Manchester.
The charity, Driving Mobility, accredits a UK network of twenty independent organisations which offer professional support and driving assessments to people who need to gain, or retain, the ability to drive following a diagnosis involving impairment or disability. The new, custom-built RDAC centre in Salford serves people from Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire with assessments and practical advice for older and disabled drivers, passengers, motorcyclists and mobility scooter or wheelchair users.
Diana lives with a variety of health issues including Cerebral Palsy, which in particular affects her limbs, and Osteoporosis. She has pins in her lower spine, a hip replacement and has experienced cancer twice. Due to health changes and deteriorating mobility, Diana found that she could no longer drive her Motability car with ease or in comfort, which subsequently led to a decrease in driving ability and confidence.
Diana comments: “I can walk short distances but as the strength in my lower limbs and knees has decreased, I find I am now more wheelchair reliant. Unfortunately, over the years, I gradually stopped driving as my vehicle adaptations did not suit my altered health requirements and were not providing suitable assistance. My husband and daughter have been very supportive in driving me around. However, I recently decided that if I could update my vehicle adaptations and return to driving, then it would take some of the pressure away them.”
After researching with her daughter, Diana discovered the organisation Driving Mobility and applied for a referral via Motability. In due course, a driving assessment was arranged, in May 2018, at the newly opened RDAC centre in Salford.
Diana comments: “I was very organised and prepared everything in advance that I could think of. I contacted the DVLA to inform them of changes to my health and upgraded my licence to the photo version. I also made sure when I went for my assessment that I took my driving glasses, pip award and lists of medication. On the day I was very nervous as I hadn’t driven for nearly ten years. However, being welcomed by Sean Barratt, RDAC’s Assessment Team Manager, as well as John Allen, Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) and Rebecca King, Occupational Therapist soon set me at ease. The interest they showed in my needs and abilities really reassured me. I received a medical assessment and we discussed my general mobility. They really wanted to understand my true range of movement and strength so that they could help me in the most effective way.”
The Centre staff accompanied Diana for a short driving assessment and then recommended she try a variety of vehicle controls and adaptations that might make driving easier, including an over-ring accelerator and push-brake through to various cushions to enhance seating comfort.
Diana comments: “John and Becky didn’t just assess my driving – they assessed how parts of my body moved, such as my shoulders and arms. They seemed to know exactly what I needed and constantly checked how I was feeling. It was very much a slow and steady pace whilst I familiarized myself with the controls and driving but overall, I felt really safe. I was thrilled to be able to trial so many adaptations, particularly the over-ring accelerator as I had previously been unsuccessful in finding anywhere to try one.”
Diana received two assessments at RDAC followed by six lessons paid for by Motability. She was provided with feedback and reports from Driving Mobility which she used to keep the DVLA and Motability up to date with her progress. The reports also recommended the adaptations and controls that Diana would require on an automatic vehicle to enable her to return to driving effectively.
Diana concludes: “I am delighted to report that I am now back behind the wheel! I am continuing with a few more lessons to build up my road confidence but I am very much enjoying driving my new Nissan QashQai which has been adapted by Motability. I use a Guido Simplex over-ring, an electric handbrake as well as a push brake and four-way hoist – all recommended by the RDAC team. I really want to emphasise how friendly and encouraging they have been. I haven’t felt any pressure or panic throughout. So few mobility organisations offer these services – you might be able to find someone to demonstrate a push-pull knob but trialling an over-ring is another thing. I can’t thank RDAC enough for the opportunities, feedback and advice I have been given. They have some of the best people I have met – a true dream team!”.