Philip Wilson, 62, from Stockport, has regained his driving life-line after experiencing a stroke thanks to the support of the new Regional Driving Assessment Centre (RDAC) in Greater Manchester, part of the Driving Mobility network.
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. RDAC is part of this network and has been in existence since 1989 – it provides assessments for older and disabled drivers, passengers, motorcyclists and mobility scooter or wheelchair users. Within its services practical advice is given regarding appropriate driving adaptations, WAVs (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles) and specialist tuition so that domestic and professional drivers can remain independent and safe. The new, custom-built RDAC centre in Salford represents a ‘flagship’ modern facility servicing people from Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire.
Following his stroke in January 2016, which resulted in left-side paralysis, Philip spent six months in hospital undergoing rehabilitation and physiotherapy. Once discharged, Philip requested to have his driving licence returned and was delighted when it came back with no restrictions. Philip comments: “I have always been active and mobile. Originally from Liverpool, I was in the navy until 1981. Shortly before my stroke, I worked in International Sales, leaving home on a Monday and returning on a Friday. I spent a lot of time driving and covered about 30,000 miles each year. Being able to drive is important to me and I was thrilled to have my licence back.”
However, due to his left-side weakness and eighteen months without driving, Philip found he had lost confidence and was unsure how to proceed. He had purchased an automatic car but could not find a driving instructor with an automatic dual-controlled vehicle to provide tuition and guidance. Following an online search, Philip contacted RDAC who invited him for a self-referral assessment.
Philip comments: “The Centre staff were welcoming and helpful. I met with Sean Barrett, the Assessment Team Manager, and John Allen, an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI). The assessment they gave me was very thorough. They asked me about my stroke and rehabilitation and also about any medication I was taking. I had cognitive and visual tests and I could see they were observing the way I walked and talked. It was very detailed and I really felt I was in safe hands.”
Philip was then accompanied for a drive in a dual-controlled automatic vehicle and was able to try different adaptations that promote safe and comfortable driving. As Philip finds using left-side controls a challenge, such as the indicators, RDAC recommended a steering ball as well as a Bluetooth device which allows a driver to operate everything with one hand. The centre also provided a written report and details of external Approved Driving Instructors.
Following his RDAC assessment, Philip is driving with confidence again, supported by assistive vehicle adaptations. He is now able to visit the gym three times a week, with rehabilitation exercises specifically aimed at improving functionality.
Philip comments: “A stroke wipes out the memory bank in terms of movement, so I have had to retrain my body to do basic things. In fact, when I first left hospital, I had a competition with my little granddaughter to see who could walk first! My driving assessment was part of this retraining and the Centre’s response was so positive that the boost to my confidence has been huge. I thought “I can do this” – and I have. The Driving Mobility centres offer such a good service to people who are struggling with driving confidence. They have given me my independence back – an absolute life-line for me.”