Cerebral Palsy Archives - Driving Mobility

Driving Mobility gives disabled South Wales student freedom to pursue dream career

Emily Else, 19 from Swansea an A-level student with Cerebral Palsy, has been able to apply for university thanks to her ability to drive independently through support from the South Wales Driving Mobility Centre.

Emily Else, 19 from Swansea an A-level student with Cerebral Palsy, has been able to apply for university thanks to her ability to drive independently through support from the South Wales Driving Mobility Centre.

Emily first contacted the South Wales Mobility & Driving Assessment Service in 2018. This centre is based at the Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff and is part of the wider Driving Mobility network. Supported by the Department for Transport, Driving Mobility is a national charity which oversees 21 centres which provide clinically-led ‘fitness to drive’ and mobility equipment assessments so people with restricted mobility can gain or maintain independence. Service users self-refer, such as Emily, or are signposted to Driving Mobility from the DVLA, Motability, Police and healthcare professionals.

Each centre provides professional recommendations on adapted driving and wheelchair accessible vehicles through the knowledge of specialist Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) and Occupational Therapists. Emily first discovered Driving Mobility on the Motability website whilst researching how to drive with a disability. At the time she was 16 and wanted to apply for her provisional driving licence; however due to her restricted mobility, Emily knew she would need an adapted car to start driving lessons. She contacted the South Wales centre for an assessment of her needs and an appointment was organised.

From the beginning Emily was impressed with the support she received from Driving Mobility: “Upon arrival at the centre everyone was warm and welcoming; they instantly made me feel relaxed. They spent time talking and listening to me about my condition and how it affected my lifestyle. I was then assessed on their indoor driving simulator to check my reaction times and eyesight; no problems there. After that I got to drive a car for the first time in the car park – quite nerve-racking, but the staff kept me calm!  They had already set up an automatic car with something called a lollipop control stick which attaches to the steering wheel. This steering knob allowed me to steer the car with one hand and access secondary controls via buttons – wipers, indicators and lights. The only other adaptation I needed to suit my requirements was an easy release hand brake.”

“I then knew the type of adapted car I needed for driving lessons and they also put me in touch with a recommended Driving Instructor who had specialist experience of teaching drivers with disability. I was all set to go.”

Emily started her driving lessons on the day of her 17th birthday and went on to pass her test first time after 40 hours of tuition. She was absolutely delighted with her achievement and was so thankful to her ADI, Dave Broadhurst, for all his expert support. As she was learning to drive, she applied for a Motability vehicle with adaptations recommended by Driving Mobility. Emily adds: “My parents already had a Motability car, so I knew how good the scheme was for getting you on the road. Motability organised the new car and its adaptation at a local vehicle convertor based in Llanelli. I was able to take delivery of my new car only four weeks after passing my test which was so exciting. I suddenly had independence which was amazing, especially for getting to college and back. That was until the pandemic and everything got locked down. However, I know as we get back to normal my car is going to be invaluable for future education and work.”

Emily is currently completing her A-levels and has received conditional offers to study Occupational Therapy at Cardiff and Bristol Universities. Without the ability drive on her own she would never have been able to go to University, especially to study her chosen degree, as she concludes: “Studying Occupational Therapy, working on placement and then becoming a qualified OT involves visiting a lot of patients in the community. I needed to be able to drive not only to study, but to ultimately get a job. It’s been such an odd 12 months with A-level exams being scrapped but I’m hopeful I will still get into Uni with my assessed grades. Being an OT is my dream job as I’ve had experience from the other side as a client, so I totally appreciate the real difference their work makes. Being able to drive has made my dream job possible – a role that I believe is now more vital than ever before.”


Driving Mobility’s RDAC Salford assessment centre enables Diana to get back behind the wheel

Overcoming her health challenges, Diana, has regained invaluable driving independence through the support of the new RDAC Driving Assessment centre in Salford

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!”.

Claire with Cerebral Palsy achieves driving independence dream thanks to North West Driving Assessment Service

Claire Holtaway achieves her goal to drive independently with Merseyside’s North West Driving Assessment Service.

Claire Holtaway, 26 from Birkenhead, has achieved her goal to drive independently with Cerebral Palsy through the guidance and support of Merseyside’s North West Driving Assessment Service.

Accredited by the national charity Driving Mobility, North West Driving Assessment Service (NWDAS) is part of the Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust based in St Helens, Merseyside. Its specialist team of Occupational Therapists and Approved Driving Instructors provide professional support and driving assessments to people who need to gain, or retain, the ability to drive following a diagnosis involving impairment or disability. They have recently introduced car seat and harness assessment clinics for disabled children and mobility scooter assessments to their range of services.

Claire, now age 26, developed an interest in learning to drive at the age of 19. Following discussions with several friends with disabilities, she was encouraged to investigate how and where she could turn her dream into a reality. Claire comments: “My parents came across NWDAS through a friend whose daughter attended assessments there whilst learning to drive. I decided to contact them for advice and was invited to an initial meeting with an OT. We discussed my medical history and my physical and visual abilities so the Centre could plan effectively with me how to reach my goal.”

In August 2012, Claire began driving assessments at NWDAS which continued for four years. As well as learning to drive a car, it was important Claire found the most comfortable and suitable vehicle adaptations to ensure safe driving. During this time, the Centre trialled a variety of specialist driving aids as well as cushions and backrests until the best accessible options were identified.

Claire continues: “It was a slow process – which was exactly what I needed to build my confidence and to provide me with enough road practice. My assessor, Dave, was incredibly patient throughout. He tried many different mobility aids in a bid to simplify the driving process for me. Initially, we tried a Lodgesons Lollipop infa-red hand control on the steering wheel to operate the indicators, horn, window wipers etc. but I found this quite difficult to use. So, for a while, I drove an automatic car with dual controls whilst Dave controlled the indicators and anything else that I struggled with.”

After a few years, the NWDAS staff suggested to Claire that she should try the hand control again and she found it now suited her well. In addition, they recommended an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI), Martin Vivers, who could provide specialist tuition from home. In May 2017 Claire successfully passed her driving test at the first attempt. Whilst she continues to take refresher lessons with Martin to retain road confidence, she acknowledges that being able to drive has been a huge boost to her independence.

Claire concludes: “Martin has been such a supportive mentor throughout – building on my skills, knowledge and confidence, and taking me to test level! Having obtained my driving licence, I have now moved to my first flat in Greasby. I have also just started driving a VW Transporter which enables me to transfer from my wheelchair independently. I access the car through a boot lift and lock my wheelchair down in the back of the vehicle. I use a swivel driving seat as well which assists me with mobility. My car has all the correct accessories and adaptations that I require for driving independence and I happily credit this to the help I received from NWDAS – the team’s support went way beyond my expectations. The staff at the Centre have been incredibly understanding and I now know that driving is indeed a possibility!”