Herts Ability Archives - Driving Mobility

 ‘Driving Mobility Centre of the Month’ – Herts Ability in Welwyn Garden City

Herts Ability helps older and disabled people to lead an independent life. They are also closely involved in the development of the East London Hub, which is now expected to open in late 2021.

In August’s ‘Driving Mobility Centre of the Month’ we focus our spotlight on Herts Ability in Welwyn Garden City.

Herts Ability helps older and disabled people to lead an independent life. They are also closely involved in the development of the East London Hub, which is now expected to open in late 2021.

As well as their main base at The Weltech Centre, Welwyn Garden City, they have outreach services in Watford, Luton and Harlow.

At their main Centre, they have recently reinstated their Seating Assessment Service. This service provides seating assessments for older and disabled people, enabling them to live more independently. The service aims to ensure that their clients have the most beneficial seating for their requirements and are provided with a full clinical evaluation of their needs. This includes tilt-in-space, rise/recline, fireside, care and pressure relief chairs.

The support and guidance from Driving Mobility and funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) have helped the Centre grow to what it is today. Thousands of clients have been able to return to driving, learn to drive or continue driving (sometimes with adaptations) over the past 20 years.

In April 2021, Herts Ability made a big step in expanding their driving school and introducing a theory test support workshop. Four months on and the driving school diary is full. 
At the same time as expanding the driving school, they also launched a theory test workshop, helping individuals who may have never achieved their goal. Indeed, one of their lovely learners has already benefited, achieving a score of 49/50 and is now well on her way to reaching the test standard!

They have also delivered classroom sessions to a local school that caters for learning difficulties and physical disabilities. To date, three sessions have been delivered and Herts Ability has already been invited back in the new academic year to host a new, bigger, and more diverse class!

CEO, Sean Lawrence, comments: “The Centre and driving school expansion is a huge success, and more people are being given the opportunity to become or remain independent!”

Herts Ability services include:

* Car driving assessment

* Driver/passenger access/seating assessment

* Wheelchair/scooter loading assessment (including WAV)

* Electric wheelchair/scooter driving assessment

* Driving tuition service

* Older driver improvement

* Driving Adaptations Assessment

If you are local to the Hertfordshire area and want to find out more about how the Herts Ability team could help you or someone you know please visit:


Tel: 01707 384 263

Email: driving@hertsability.org.uk

#MyDrivingMobility #DrivingAssessments #DisabledDrivers Herts Ability #Hertfordshire #WelwynGardenCity #Watford #Luton #Harlow

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.”


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!”



Herts GP given driving freedom after serious brain illness thanks to Driving Mobility

Dr Alka Chandrayan, 45 from Letchworth Garden City, has regained her motoring independence following a life-threatening condition, thanks to the support of a Hertfordshire Driving Mobility centre.

Dr Alka Chandrayan, 45 from Letchworth Garden City, has regained her motoring independence following a life-threatening condition, thanks to the support of a Hertfordshire Driving Mobility centre.

Driving Mobility is a national charity that oversees driver assessments, personal mobility guidance and accessible travel information for those who have experienced life-changing illness or have restricted mobility. Clients, such as Dr Chandrayan, can self-refer or are signposted from the DVLA, Motability, Police and healthcare professionals such as GPs and OTs (Occupational Therapists). Driving Mobility, which consists of NHS departments and independent charities, provides 20 centres with over 70 outreach facilities – all focused on road safety and appropriate vehicle adaptations.

Dr Chandrayan contacted Driving Mobility (the Herts Ability centre) following a severe attack of Viral Encephalitis. Encephalitis is a rare, serious condition in which the brain becomes inflamed and swollen. Following hospitalisation and initial rehabilitation, Alka was instructed to seek a professional driving assessment so that she could regain her licence from the DVLA.

Alka begins her story: “Being a GP, I was aware of the Driving Mobility assessment centres.  I became very unwell with an acute attack of Viral Encephalitis during the summer of 2019. As per protocol, the medical authorities told me I must inform the DVLA, who put my driving licence on hold until I returned to good health and my driving ability was re-assessed. When my specialist neurologists and vocational healthcare professionals felt I appeared fit to get back to driving, they advised me to attend a driving assessment centre. My husband, Dr Shivesh Kumar Sinha, looked online and picked up the nearest Driving Mobility centre. As much as my cognitive recovery had been good, I totally understood that more complex activities, like driving and medical work, would need more comprehensive tests.”

“My husband drove me to the centre. The team were very friendly and welcoming – with a relaxed atmosphere. The encouraging leaflets in the waiting area, for people requiring assisted living, caught my instant attention and praise. My assessors Sarah Wright and Simon Edwards greeted me after a peaceful 15 minutes in the waiting area. They were both professional and courteous with a very warm smile. I was a touch anxious having never faced such a situation in my own personal life. Their very approachable yet professional demeanour put me at ease instantly. They patiently explained to me what the assessment would comprise of – screening for cognitive function, followed by an in-car assessment on the road.”

Alka’s assessment began with desk-based activities in one of the centre’s consultation rooms. She explains: “As my husband and Simon watched, Sarah carried out a series of tests to address the core neuropsychological skills necessary for safe driving. It felt very respectful and with each supported step, instilling little life-bursts of confidence in me. It felt more like those fun aptitude tests. Of course, Sarah was testing for visual perception, praxis skills, executive functioning and comprehension.”

Following the initial part of the process, Alka was then accompanied to a vehicle: “For the on-road assessment, I was in the driver’s seat with Simon next to me. Sarah was on the back seat. The centre had already taken the details of my current car and therefore had provided a vehicle with similar specifications – automatic, without any adaptations. I was reassuringly given enough time to familiarise myself with the assessment car, then we proceeded around a 14-mile route. This comprised of residential streets, town centre traffic, faster country lanes and dual carriageways. It took me about 45 minutes and included performing an emergency-stop.”

“During the whole time, the vibes were so positive. Simon kept reminding me, that it wasn’t a driving test and that I was already a proficient driver. He and Sarah had their assessor’s eyes on me as that is their job, but the manner in which it was done added so much to my confidence. Simon said: ‘Alka, even if you take a wrong turn, it doesn’t matter. In normal daily life, we can all take wrong turnings. So, as long as it is done safely, it is okay.’ A simple thing we all know, but to be reminded of it at a crucial time, in the most calm and respectful manner, made me feel that I was driving with friends!”

When the driving assessment was complete, Alka returned to a consultation room for feedback from her assessors: “I felt very positive even before I got my result. The team felt valuable to me and of immense importance, not just because they were assessing my driving, but because of the way they did it. I came out being rendered “safe to return to driving”, and a confident person plus I really hope, a better doctor! I will always inform my relevant patients and their families about this wonderful team and how Driving Mobility could be of immense help to them. Thank you Driving Mobility.”


Post-op farm manager 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.”


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.”