Driving Mobility Archives - Driving Mobility

Driving Mobility to showcase assessment services at Motability’s The Big Event

Your opportunity to put questions, about all aspects of adapted driving, to several Driving Mobility advisors who will be available on a live chat throughout the event.

The national charity Driving Mobility, which accredits a network of driving and mobility assessment centres, will be exhibiting at Motability’s virtual ‘The Big Event’ on 6th and 7th August.

https://thebigevent.motability.co.uk/

Free to attend, The Big Event from Motability will be online this year and provides a unique opportunity to discover the latest options for accessible driving and personal mobility. The event will showcase over 25 car manufacturers, 20 WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle) and adaptation suppliers, and 10 powered wheelchair and mobility scooter manufacturers – all providing solutions available through the Motability leasing scheme. Motability provides the opportunity for people with restricted mobility to assign some of their Personal Independence Payments towards leasing of an adapted vehicle or scooter. Alongside manufacturers, the virtual event will also provide access to specialist speakers sessions, Motability advisors and specialists service providers such as Driving Mobility.

Supported by The Department for Transport, there are 21 Driving Mobility centres with over 70 outreach facilities across the UK. These centres include independent charities and NHS centres which offer professional information and assessment so disabled and elderly people can gain or retain independence. Clinical guidance, from Occupational Therapists and Approved Driving Instructors, provide recommendations regarding fitness to drive, vehicle adaptations, alternatives to driving and driving tuition. Details regarding these services and more will be available on the Driving Mobility stand at The Big Event.

There will also be the opportunity to put questions, about all aspects of adapted driving, to several Driving Mobility advisors who will be available on a live chat throughout the event. An introductory video to charity services and what benefits they offer will be on the stand along with downloadable information.

#MyDrivingMobility #DrivingAssessments #DisabledDrivers #Disabilities 

 

Thomas regains driving licence following head injury thanks to Driving Mobility

Thomas Marshall, 24 from Shetland, has regained his driving licence following workplace injuries thanks to the support and guidance of a Driving Mobility centre.

Thomas Marshall, 24 from Shetland, has regained his driving licence following workplace injuries thanks to the support and guidance of a Driving Mobility centre.

Thomas passed his test aged 17 and enjoyed all the benefits of independent motoring for six years. However, in 2018 he experienced an accident at work which involved falling 20ft off a roof resulting in significant injuries. As a qualified Joiner, Thomas thoroughly enjoyed his job however his fall changed his life and resulted in his driving licence being revoked. He understood that having a traumatic brain injury (TBI) meant his cognitive abilities would have to be assessed to ensure he was safe to drive. Thomas made a good neurological recovery and his other physical injuries healed over time which led him to seek a professional driving assessment to get back behind the wheel.

Thomas discovered the Driving Mobility network online and as his dad lives in Welwyn Garden City, he decided to go to its centre close by – Herts Ability. Each Driving Mobility centre is operated by either an independent charity or an NHS department – all accredited by Driving Mobility to ensure consistent service and standards. Each centre provide clinically led, driving and mobility assessments so disabled individuals of all ages can achieve greater mobility. The 20 centres, with over 70 outreach facilities across England and Wales, ensure service users are signposted towards the most appropriate adapted vehicles, wheelchairs, scooters and accessible transport. Clients can self-refer to a Driving Mobility centre or are directed from the DVLA, Motability, Police and healthcare professionals such as Doctors and Occupational Therapists.

Thomas contacted Driving Mobility and following an initial telephone assessment, an appointment was booked. On arrival, Thomas was introduced to his assigned Occupational Therapist (OT) and Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) who completed a desk-based assessment and a 45-minute session in a specialist car. The experience was positive for Thomas as he explains: “My assessment went really well, especially as I had not driven for a year. It felt really good getting behind the wheel again! I didn’t have any nerves once I had met Jane the OT and Driving Assessor, Mark. They were so friendly, and they went through the process with me, so I knew what to expect. It was really rewarding showing off my driving abilities.”

Thomas completed the assessment and following a review of his performance, the Driving Mobility team approved him for safe driving once more. The conclusions of their report were sent to the DVLA so Thomas subsequently received his driving licence back. This positive outcome had a significant impact on Thomas: “I am a qualified Joiner however my injuries means I’m still unable to work. Not being able to drive has also been problematic as I’ve had to rely on people for lifts all the time. The bus service where I live is unreliable so I have no choice. My relationship with my five-year-old son has been affected as he has not been able to come and stay with me. Now I have got my driving licence back this will make a huge difference to our relationship; I will be able to take him to the park every weekend like we used to do.”

All Driving Mobility clients have different needs. This is why personalised assessments are vital to ensure all drivers receive qualified guidance that specifically matches their individual circumstances – resulting in maximum safety and peace of mind on the road. In conclusion, Thomas fully recommends Driving Mobility services however offers this advice: “If anyone is looking to drive again after injury or diagnosis, I’d say this – just try to be patient, it is frustrating having your independence taken away but it does get easier with time. I applied in April 2019 to get my driving licence back however it took until November 2019 for me to pass the assessment. The main thing I would say is don’t doubt yourself, be confident in your abilities and if you’re not sure of something then ask.”

#MyDrivingMobility

Enhanced Driving Mobility website delivers greater guidance on assisted driving and independence

Driving Mobility has relaunched its website to provide comprehensive guidance on all aspects of adapted driving, accessible travel and personal mobility.

Driving Mobility, the charity that accredits a network of driving assessment centres, has relaunched its website to provide comprehensive guidance on all aspects of adapted driving, accessible travel and personal mobility.

https://www.drivingmobility.org.uk/

Supported by the Department for Transport, Driving Mobility is the umbrella organisation that coordinates 20 independent driving assessment centres across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. With over 70 outreach facilities, centres are individually managed by separate charities and NHS departments – all providing clinical ‘fitness-to-drive’ assessments commonly for people who have experienced a life changing diagnosis. Client can also benefit from a range of other services and either self-refer or are signposted from the DVLA, Motabilty, Police and NHS.

In addition to clinical recommendations regarding driving with a disability, professional advice is available on wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs), mobility equipment, using public transport and accessible lifestyles. Healthcare professionals are also supported with CPD training and events. Driving Mobility is regarded as ‘the national voice of assisted driving and independence’ and its improved website now reflects this position of authority.

Driving Mobility boasts the UK’s largest knowledge base in terms of accessible driving.

Its team of Occupational Therapists (OTs), Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs), management staff and trustees, bring together vast experience in assisted driving and accessible travel. This wealth of expertise ensures the new Driving Mobility website is a vital gateway to accessibility for all.

Edward Trewhella, Driving Mobility CEO, explains: “When you or a client experiences a change in  mobility, there is always a need for qualified advice so informed decisions can be made to remain independent. There is a raft of information on the internet however identifying solutions to individual needs can be impossible. This is why our new website has been significantly strengthened and redesigned with extra content – to facilitate easier access to many answers regarding driving with a disability. Add to this, solutions for living without a car, condition specific suggestions and HUBs information, the new Driving Mobility website represents an invaluable tool for all consumers and professionals seeking qualified guidance on personal independence.”

Development of the enhanced Driving Mobility website

This hhas involved input from a large number of staff each with unsurpassed knowledge in their field. The team has included respected individuals, such as, trustee and international transport specialist Ann Frye OBE, BA, FCILT, FCIHT, TPP. Her knowledge has complemented clinical content from leading OTs within the organisation and frontline feedback from centre managers. Managers have also assisted with collating an impressive range of client stories which highlight how services make a difference on a personalised level. This material is available through large clickable tiles for easy access and is summarised in the charity’s recently published professional video. This video has already achieved over 30,000 targeted views in just over three months with high performance recognition from YouTube.

Edward concludes: “With the need for safe, accessible and independent travel heightened by Covid-19, demand for Driving Mobility services will be higher than ever as lockdown restrictions are eased. We now have a robust, future-proofed website capable of delivering the support required.”

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Ella beats amputation to drive once more with Driving Mobility support

Ella Dove, 30 from East London, has achieved motoring independence once again after experiencing a leg amputation due to a freak running accident – made possible by Driving Mobility.

Ella Dove, 30 from East London, has achieved motoring independence once again after experiencing a leg amputation due to a freak running accident – made possible by Driving Mobility.

Ella qualified to drive a manual car when she was 18 and drove for a few years. However, she moved to London in 2014 and decided not to take her car as it was easier to use public transport in the capital. Ella’s car remained at her parent’s house. In 2016 Ella unfortunately experienced a freak accident whilst running which involved a trip and fall. She fractured and dislocated her knee so badly the circulation to her foot was severed which finally resulted in a right leg amputation below the knee. Ella did not drive for six years until she was guided back to adapted motoring by Driving Mobility.

As Ella lives in Stratford, she decided to contact the Driving Mobility centre nearest to her at Harlow (a satellite centre for Herts Ability in Welwyn Garden City). This centre is one of 20 Driving Mobility centres across England and Wales which are supported by 70 outreach facilities. They provide clinically led, driving and mobility assessments so individuals can gain or maintain personal independence through appropriate adapted vehicles, mobility scooters, wheelchair or accessible transport. Driving Mobility centres are operated by independent charities or NHS departments – all accredited by the national charity Driving Mobility. Service users can self-refer or are signposted from the DVLA, Motability, Police and the NHS.

As Ella’s physical abilities had changed, her driving licence was put on hold by the DVLA. Hence, she was advised to seek a professional driving assessment so that official recommendations could be gathered and an appropriate solution to independence could be concluded.

Ella spoke to an advisor representing Driving Mobility who initially assessed her needs and organised an appointment with their team at Welwyn Garden City. Ella attended the centre for a driving assessment in one of their automatic vehicles. Ella explains: “I was initially quite nervous, but I really enjoyed the experience and definitely felt myself progressing in confidence and ability as the session went on. The private Driving Mobility test drive course in Harlow is a fantastic idea and a great way to ease back into driving again. I had not been behind the wheel for six years so this reassured me…  especially when driving for the first time just using my left foot for acceleration and braking.”

Ella adds: “The fact that the Driving Mobility team were so supportive massively helped me. I wouldn’t describe myself as a confident driver to start with; I’ve always been quite cautious behind the wheel, so I did feel myself gripping the wheel quite tightly and moving like a snail to start with during the assessment. However, I discovered that my road sense was still there, which was comforting, and driving didn’t feel as alien as I thought it would. By the end of the assessment in the automatic car, I was really enjoying myself and left feeling very proud – it was an enormous milestone for me!”

Following her driving assessment, Driving Mobility concluded Ella was safe and competent to drive an automatic car. This was amazing news to Ella and was a significant result for her confidence and independence. She received her driving licence back from the DVLA with the all-clear to drive a non-manual car with adapted pedals. In conclusion, she offers this advice: “I’d say have courage. Confidence for me is the biggest barrier. So, it was more a psychological push to get myself back behind the wheel than a logistical one. Getting used to an automatic, especially with specialist pedals and using my left foot for everything hasn’t been easy, but the more I do it, the more confident I become. So, go for it! Don’t let fear hold you back!”

 

#MyDrivingMobility

Teenage quadruple amputee Izzy aims for driving independence thanks to Driving Mobility

Izzy, aged 16 and quadruple amputee, has just received her brand-new adapted car and started specialist driving lessons thanks to the Derby-based Driving Mobility centre.

Izzy, aged 16 and quadruple amputee, has just received her brand-new adapted car and started specialist driving lessons thanks to the Derby-based Driving Mobility centre.

Driving Mobility accredits 20 independent driving assessments centres across the UK, with over 70 outreach facilities, which provide clinically-led driving and mobility assessments. Service users self-refer or are signposted from the DVLA, Motability, Police and healthcare professionals such as GPs and Occupational Therapists (OT). Each Driving Mobility Centre, such as the NHS facility at Kingway Hospital Derby (Derby DrivAbility), provide guidance and support to individuals with restricted mobility. A large number of young disabled people use these services when aiming to drive for the first time such as Izzy.

Izzy contracted meningococcal septicaemia aged 7 which resulted in life-saving amputations. As a young teenager Izzy was keen to learn to drive however, she knew adapted controls would be needed. Izzy was referred to the Driving Mobility Centre by her OT who was based at the City Hospital in Nottingham. Being able to drive was simply another challenge Izzy would take on without hesitation thanks to her determined attitude.

Following an initial telephone consultation, Izzy visited the Derby-based Driving Mobility Centre to meet an OT and ADI (Approved Driving Instructor). To help ascertain the right vehicle for her needs, Izzy was paired up with another service user, Angela Yates, who also was a quadruple amputee. Angela has previously achieved driving independence through the support of the Centre and so discussed the type of car and adapted controls that worked for her. This gave Izzy confidence that she could achieve her goal, not that extra confidence was really required thanks to her positive personality.

A driving assessment was arranged so that Izzy could try a vehicle with suitably adapted controls.  Accompanied by an ADI and OT, she drove using a radial accelerator, push away brake, steering wheel cup, lightened power steering and a bleeper control system for secondary controls including indicators and horn. Izzy was able to confidently use these adaptations quickly and drove for five miles comfortably – the team were delighted with her ability and approach. However, the Driving Mobility team advised that further bespoke adaptions would be necessary for Izzy if she was to use a car fulltime. She was signposted to the vehicle adaptations specialists Des Gosling Mobility who had previously adapted Angela’s car. This established supplier assessed Izzy’s needs and agreed to provide a solution when she had selected a car.

Izzy decided to lease a new car through the Motability scheme however due to the Covid-19 outbreak she experienced a delay. However, in early July 2020, her new car was delivered to Des Gosling and the new controls were fitted. Izzy has now approved all the adaptations and has just begun driving lessons.

All the Derby Driving Mobility team expect Izzy to reach her goal of being able to drive without any issue. If it had not been for the coronavirus crisis, she might have achieved this before her 17th birthday as she was able to get her licence a year earlier because of her disability. Everyone at Driving Mobility wishes Izzy the best of luck.

#MyDrivingMobility

Post-op farmer’s wife regains driving confidence thanks to Driving Mobility

Lisa Hall, 57 from Bedfordshire, has retained her priceless ability to drive following a life-changing amputation, thanks to the support of a Driving Mobility centre.

Lisa Hall, 57 from Bedfordshire, has retained her priceless ability to drive following a life-changing amputation, thanks to the support of a Driving Mobility centre.

The charity Driving Mobility accredits a network of 20 independent driving assessment centres with over 70 outreach facilities, which provide guidance to drivers with restricted mobility. Service users either self-refer or are signposted for assessment from the DVLA, Motability, the Police or NHS – so the most appropriate means of driving can be recommended.

Lisa was referred to a Driving Mobility centre early in 2020 after undergoing a fore quarter shoulder and arm amputation due to bone cancer. At this time one of Lisa’s main concerns was the possibility she would never drive again. However, her consultant at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Stanmore assured Lisa she would be able to drive again. This led to a referral to a Driving Mobility centre (Herts Ability) via Lisa’s assigned Occupational Therapist (OT). The friendly and knowledgeable team at this independent charity would provide full assessment and recommendations regarding vehicle adaptations so Lisa could potentially drive comfortably with one arm.

Being able to drive again was a major focus for Lisa after her operation as she explains: “I needed to get behind the wheel as fast as I could after being in hospital. It was my main focus and a goal to aim for. I have always been a confident driver as I live on a farm and always running short notice errands for the business. Managing our busy 700-acre arable farm with my husband means I need to be driving for lots of jobs, from banking to collecting machinery parts. Not being able to drive would be a disaster.”

Lisa continues: “When you undergo an amputation you can be in a state of shock, you can lose yourself. My op could have had a massive impact on my life and business, especially as driving was vital for both. Even during time away from the farm, I was always the regular driver for my group of friends. I’ve always loved driving. This could have all been taken away from me. Thank goodness my consultant had confidence in me that I would be able to drive again one day. He said I’d find it second nature again with new controls. He was right and the Driving Mobility centre made it happen.”

Lisa’s assessment was booked for February 2020. She spoke to the Driving Mobility team beforehand and completed an online form, so a suitable vehicle was ready for her visit. The team explained what to expect during the assessment and offered calming reassurance. Lisa felt fine on the way to the centre as she says: “Despite a lot riding on being able to drive again and some anxiety, my apprehension was manageable thanks to the support I received from the centre. My husband drove me there, so I was even more relaxed on arrival. I hadn’t driven for several months so it really helped I felt no pressure from the staff, especially as they kept asking me if I was ok.”

“Once the initial welcome and meeting was completed, I was accompanied by a driving instructor and two therapists to a car adapted with a ‘lollipop’ steering knob. The instructor drove first and then it was my turn. I was given plenty of time to get used to the car on a quiet industrial estate before starting my 45-minute driving assessment. I feel comfortable and not stressed throughout the experience.”

When the driving assessment was complete, Lisa was given an appraisal of her performance and a written report. The ADI (Approved Driving Instructor) and OT (Occupational Therapist) explained their findings and recommendations regarding suitable vehicle adaptations. They felt with appropriate equipment Lisa could continue to drive safely and independently. A steering knob or ‘lollipop’ with ancillary controls including indicators, lights, horn and wipers was deemed ideal for Lisa’s disability. The necessary paperwork was processed that day and sent to the DVLA so Lisa’s licence could be updated, and her insurance company informed.

The adaptation to Lisa’s Land Rover Discovery then needed to be arranged. The Driving Mobility team were able to suggest several local vehicle adaptation specialists, so Lisa wasted no time in contacting them seeking assistance. She selected PB Conversions based in Leighton Buzzard who completed the work within a week – with the actual installation taking a few hours. As Lisa’s new steering ‘lollipop’ operates wirelessly, it can be easily clipped on and off the steering wheel so the car can be used with either standard or adapted controls.

Lisa concludes: “I was so lucky to complete my assessment and have my car adapted just before lockdown. Now I can definitely say being able to drive has given me my life back. I felt comfortable and supported throughout the whole process by the Driving Mobility centre and the steering controls they recommended are perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was thrilled to pass my assessment! Using a car is now second nature to me again and we have flexibility with the controls so my husband can drive without the ‘lollipop’ attached, it’s so easy. Driving has always been a big part of my life and I am delighted to say this will now continue. I would encourage anyone in a similar position to do the same and give it a go, I thoroughly recommend Driving Mobility.”

#MyDrivingMobility

Stroke survivor Nigel perseveres with Driving Mobility support to drive once more

Nigel King, 74 from Enfield, is back behind the wheel following a stroke thanks to specialist support and driving tuition from a Driving Mobility assessment centre based in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

Nigel King, 74 from Enfield, is back behind the wheel following a stroke thanks to specialist support and driving tuition from a Driving Mobility assessment centre based in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

Nigel is a retired residential and commercial estate agent who has always led an active lifestyle with extensive driving. His career involved selling substantial properties which involved the use of a car on a regular basis. Since passing his test at 17, Nigel drove for over 50 years until he experienced a stroke in 2018. This left him with reduced mobility in his left hand and arm which meant driving a standard car was impossible.

Nigel was concerned that he might not be able to drive again however his consultant and Occupational Therapists explained there were possible solutions that gave him hope. The DVLA was informed of Nigel’s situation so his driving licence was put on hold until a professional assessment confirmed he could drive safely in an adapted vehicle. This led to help from Driving Mobility.

As Nigel’s rehabilitation began, the stroke department at his local hospital advised him to seek a specialist driving assessment. This would provide a professional evaluation of his capabilities and recommend suitable adaptions to allow safe driving with one hand. Nigel researched online and discovered the charity Driving Mobility which accredited a centre close to his home (Herts Ability).

The national charity Driving Mobility oversees 20 centres, which consist of independent charities and NHS departments, with over 70 outreach facilities across the UK. Driving Mobility is regarded as the ‘national voice of assisted driving and independence’ and continues to support the development of new services focused on all aspects of accessible travel. The Welwyn Garden City centre is proud to be part of this network with its CEO, Sean Lawrence, being an active Trustee on the Driving Mobility board. Nigel contacted the Hertfordshire centre and a driving assessment was booked.

Nigel explains: “Driving Mobility were so supportive of me throughout the whole process and really patient. After an initial consultation on the phone I made an appointment to visit their centre. After a reassuring welcome I underwent a cognitive test and was then accompanied in a dual-control car by an instructor and therapist. A steering knob or ‘lollipop’ had already been fitted to the vehicle to see if I could operate it safely and confidently. At first I did not find it easy, even though I am right-handed my 50-years of holding a steering wheel in a standard way made it difficult. Driving Mobility was very patient with me and following the initial assessment they recommended driving lessons so I could get used to this new way of driving. As part of their service they put me in touch with one of their assessors, who was able to provide tuition.”

Nigel completed some 20 hours of tuition and another assessment over a 12-month period – achieving a positive outcome in November 2019. This meant his driving licence was returned and he was approved to drive independently once more. Nigel’s automatic Ford Fiesta has been fitted with a wireless ‘lollipop’ which clips onto the steering wheel to provide leverage and push-button control of indicators, lights, wipers and horn. It can be easily removed for his wife to drive their car with standard controls. They can now drive together or independently again.

Nigel concludes: “It took me a year to achieve approval to drive again, however, my persistence paid off. I’ll be honest I didn’t find it easy and I really had to work at it, but I got there.  Dependent on your abilities, I’d say it is wise not to expect success overnight.  After a life-changing experience, it can take time to learn a new way of driving. So, my final piece of advice is not to be deterred. Be patient and take your time, concentrate and practise and you’ll get there. Being able to drive again has enabled me to regain my independence thanks to Driving Mobility.”

 

#MyDrivingMobility

How Emily Learns to Transfer Again

Emily Roberts learns to transfer again and demonstrates how she transfers in and out of her car.

In this video Driving Mobility friend, Emily Roberts, demonstrates how she transfers in and out of her wheelchair and into/out of her car.

Emily says: “So, I had a new car which I could drive but couldn’t transfer or lift myself into. It really set me back, I cried, screamed and got really angry, (sorry mum and dad). After LOADS of encouragement and trying every way except using the kitchen sink, i’ve got there. Differently abled people find themselves adapting and overcoming new challenges every single day, please, don’t give up, you’ll find a way to do anything you put your mind to, your way. ”

You can subscribe to Emily’s YouTube channel here

For more information on how Driving Mobility driving assessment centres can help with vehicle adaptation advice please contact your local centre https://www.drivingmobility.org.uk/find-a-centre/ 

#MyDrivingMobility

Driving Mobility’s RDAC Disability Driving School helps first client pass driving test

Following a severe arm injury, James Martin, 30, from Farnworth near Bolton, has become the first Driving Mobility client to pass his driving test thanks to the support of the new RDAC Disability Driving School.

Following a severe arm injury, James Martin, 30, from Farnworth near Bolton, has become the first Driving Mobility client to pass his driving test thanks to the support of the new RDAC Disability Driving School.

Father of two young boys, James experienced a life changing injury whilst working at a plastic recycling centre in 2018. His arm and hand were crushed in a mechanical baler which resulted in hospitalisation, several operations and amputation of two fingers. After his initial recovery, James continued with rehabilitation however has been left with limited mobility and strength in his right hand and arm. His injury has also affected his back and ability to walk which meant passing his test to drive a car was essential for independence and supporting his family. To gain his licence, James would need to be assessed by a qualified organisation who could professionally check whether adapted driving controls would be suitably safe. His rehab manager researched suitable driving assessment services and decided to contact RDAC in Salford, a Driving Mobility centre, to see if they could help.

RDAC centres (Regional Driving Assessment Centres) are centrally located in the UK and are part of the wider Driving Mobility network. Supported by the Department for Transport, Driving Mobility is a charity that accredits over 20 driving and mobility assessment centres across the UK. Many with outreach facilities, these provide clinically-led ‘fitness to drive’ guidance for disabled drivers who want to maintain or regain independence behind the wheel. Driving Mobility centres either operate within the NHS or as independent charities – all focused on assisted driving or personal mobility through accessible travel, wheelchairs and mobility scooters. The Salford RDAC centre provides all of these services alongside a new Disability Driving School. Established in 2020, this specialist tuition service helps drivers with life-changing diagnosis, such as James, to learn how to drive with adaptations.

Following an initial telephone consultation to evaluate his needs, James attended RDAC for a driving assessment in October 2020. With the help of John Allen, ADI (Approved Driving Instructor) and an RDAC Occupational Therapist, James completed a desk-based session, checking cognitive abilities and general mobility, followed by a 45-minute assessment out on the road. James drove one of the centre’s fleet of automatic dual-controlled cars which had already been adapted with a steering aid to ascertain its suitability. RDAC had recommended a ‘Lodgesons Lollipop’ grip secondary control unit which clips to a steering wheel and communicates with a car via Bluetooth. This provides an easy-grip handle for turning a vehicle safely with one hand and can include a range of secondary controls.

During James’ assessment he demonstrated that he could use this adaptation to steer with confidence; however, it highlighted he could not affectively use standard indicators, especially when navigating roundabouts. This led to RDAC’s recommendation to integrate indicator controls within any future steering lollipop.

Following his assessment, James was given a consultation and a report explaining RDAC’s recommendations. To pass his DVSA driving test for the first time, they advised he completed driving lessons at the centre with a car specifically adapted to his needs. James agreed and was assigned specialist Driving Assessor Dominic Hibbin to instruct him for an initial 10 hours. It was estimated James would then be experienced enough to take his test and pass without any problems. He completed the course with the RDAC Disability Driving School and did indeed pass his test first time during November 2020 as he explains: “I thoroughly enjoyed my driving lessons; Dom was excellent and believed in me all the way. He gave me confidence that I could do it and made me feel relaxed. I passed the theory test and then when it came to driving, I took this relaxed feeling into the practical test. I knew this would be important, as if I was relaxed, the examiner would be relaxed. I’m so happy to say I passed first time and can now look forward to driving.”

James has applied for a Motability car through his Personal Independence Payment. He has the RDAC recommendations which will be used to specify the right adaptations so he can drive safely. James already has plans for how this is going to improve his life: “Having a car will make a massive difference to us. I’ll be able to take my boys further afield as they love to be out kicking a football and we can go and see my mum in the Scottish Borders. On a day-to-day basis, we won’t have to get taxis everywhere and I can help my elderly neighbours more with their shopping. Shopping at the minute is hard as I struggle to walk and carry bags so have to keep stopping. However, I’ve carried on during lockdown to help my neighbours who can’t get out.”

James is optimistic about the future and is so grateful for the support of RDAC. He recommends its services to all with driving challenges, as he concludes: “RDAC are one excellent organisation! I’m chuffed to have been the first person to benefit from this new service and will share the news with all my friends and family. They were all fantastic and gave me the belief I could pass my test again. John’s mock driving test really helped before the big day. Dom kept saying how comfortable he felt in the car with me during the lessons and we had a rewarding time together. I now have the details of a vehicle convertor who RDAC recommends so can get my car ready quickly when Motability hopefully approve my application. My rehab manager is confident I’ll be successful, so I can look forward to brighter days when the lockdown is eased.”

#MyDrivingMobility

‘The Force’ is strong with Star Wars Chris and Obi the dog thanks to Driving Mobility

Lifelong Star Wars film fan Chris Welch, 48 from Poole, has maintained driving independence thanks to the support of Driving Mobility and his assistance dog Obi.

Lifelong Star Wars film fan Chris Welch, 48 from Poole, has maintained driving independence thanks to the support of Driving Mobility and his assistance dog Obi.

Chris is a medically retired sales manager with five children, who has peripheral neuropathy. Despite significant problems with mobility and pain, Chris is a dedicated parent who supports his family with the help of Obi, his assistance dog. Obi, a three-year-old black Labrador, is named after a character in the popular Star Wars films – the Jedi Knight, Obi-wan Kenobi. Obi has been trained to help Chris with daily tasks such as dressing and fetching items, along with supporting him when out driving. Chris unfortunately experiences high levels of anxiety on a regular basis; however, Obi has the ability to sense stress and will always move safely and calmly alongside his owner to reassure him if needed in the car. As Chris has to renew his driving licence every three years due to his condition, he was instructed by the DVLA to attend a Driving Mobility centre for his regular ‘fitness-to-drive’ assessment. The centre closest to him was Wessex DriveAbility, accredited by Driving Mobility, based in Southampton.

Driving Mobility is a network of 21 independent centres, with over 70 outreach facilities, that provide clinically led, driving and mobility assessments for people with disabilities. Clients self-refer or are signposted to Driving Mobility from the DVLA, Motability, the Police, and healthcare professionals such as GPs. Each centre is either an independent charity or an NHS department which provides Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) and Occupational Therapists (OTs). By completing an assessment, clients such as Chris, receive professional advice and guidance to remain mobile with the most appropriate driving adaptations, accessible vehicles or equipment such as mobility scooters and wheelchairs.

When Government restrictions due to the Covid pandemic were eased, Chris was impressed with the speed at which his assessment was arranged. He was able to visit Wessex DriveAbility within two weeks of booking an appointment. Chris and Obi drove from Poole to Southampton for their assessment and were immediately put at ease on arrival by the Wessex staff: “I was very anxious before my appointment, however Rachel and her team were amazing. As soon as Obi and I arrived, they understood my anxieties and did all they could to make me feel relaxed. They respected that Obi was ‘at work’ so didn’t give him any fuss and were really patient so I didn’t get stressed – I felt their care was sincere and genuine. When you have a disability, you feel like you are fighting for everything all of the time, commonly things that able-bodied people take for granted. This was so different at Wessex, they kept saying ‘they were on my side’ and I didn’t feel awkward or tense, I’d recommend them 100%.”

Chris’ assessment started with desk-based activities to check his cognitive abilities. He was assessed by an OT and ADI who also checked his general mobility and movement in relation to operating a car safely. Once this and an eyesight assessment were completed, Chris was accompanied on a 45-minute driving assessment around the outskirts of Southampton.

A car from the centre’s fleet was used for the assessment so Chris was given plenty of time to familiarise himself with the controls as he explains: “I’d never driven a Ford Focus before however it wasn’t a problem as we only set off when I felt totally comfortable. It helped I had Obi by my side who always travels upfront and wears his special seatbelt. The Covid safe procedures were very thorough – we all wore masks, the car had been thoroughly disinfected and we regularly hand sanitised. I was assessed driving along different types of roads and given various junctions and obstacles, such as parked cars, to negotiate. They checked things like my use of mirrors, road alignment and how I interacted with other road users. I was surprisingly calm throughout the experience in the end, I’d even say it was enjoyable despite the traffic being pretty busy.”

Chris returned to the centre and the final report was compiled by the Driving Mobility OT and ADI. For Chris it was a positive outcome in terms of driving – he was deemed fit to continue using a car independently, with Obi by his side of course. After the whole assessment was over, the Wessex team asked if they could give Obi lots of fuss, which they did, and he loved.

With the support of Driving Mobility, Chris can now continue to drive a VW Transporter with no specialist driving adaptations. However, as his condition is progressive, he may need assisted controls in the future which can be recommended by Wessex DriveAbility. Chris requires this eight-seater vehicle to transport his large family and Obi, which is vital during the summer months. As getting cold severely increases the pain in his legs, Chris tends to remain indoors at home as much as he can during the winter. Having the ability to drive is crucial to build ‘special memories in the sunshine for his children’ and to perform ‘dad duties’ which involves ferrying them to activities. Chris is used to being housebound and believes many people with disabilities can provide advice to people struggling with lockdowns caused by the pandemic. He fully recommends the companionship of a dog or pet as: “they make a huge difference to your mental health and wellbeing.”

In summary Chris remarks that the Wessex DriveAbility service is second to none: “They made me feel confident and helped me demonstrate that I could still drive safely. You do have doubts about your abilities, but their exceptional support reinforced I could do it! As a person with a disability, you do worry about losing your driving freedom as you have already lost so much. However disabled Star Wars actors such as Kenny Baker, who played the droid R2D2, and ‘Ewok’ Warwick Davis, helped me as a child respect people for who they are, irrespective of ability. I wasn’t born with a disability so have had to adapt – these guys have always inspired me. Those films were pure escapism for me during my childhood and still are to this day – hence calling my dog Obi. He really enjoyed his time with Driving Mobility, especially all the attention he received from the Wessex team. They were all so professionally brilliant and encouraged me all the way. I cannot sing their praises enough.”

Chris was approved to continue driving however some clients may be advised to seek further tuition or their licence is revoked. Not being able to drive a car does not mean independence is lost as each Driving Mobility centre can provide alternatives. These may include advice on using accessible public transport or ownership of a mobility scooter. Several centres also now provide a HUBs service which offers a comprehensive programme of guidance on all aspects of localised assisted transportation and accessible lifestyles.