#MyDrivingMobility Archives - Driving Mobility

‘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.

Driving Mobility – how we deliver driving and mobility independence across the UK

In this video, the assisted driving and mobility assessment services provided by Driving Mobility are showcased through the William Merit Centre in Leeds

In this professional video, the assisted driving and mobility assessment services provided by Driving Mobility are showcased through the William Merit Centre in Leeds. This centre is part of the Driving Mobility network across the UK. Find your local centre here

Driving Mobility, supported by the Department for Transport As a registered charity, Driving Mobility accredits a network of 20 driving assessment centres covering the whole of the UK. Many with outreach facilities, these centres include independent charities and NHS centres which offer professional information and assessment so disabled and elderly people can gain or retain independence.

Driving Mobility ensures that there are common standards, promotes good practice and offers training and education to all regional centres, whilst working closely with associated national organisations. These include the Department for Transport, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, Driver and Vehicle Agency (NI), Motability and the Police, along with many other valued stakeholders.

Driving Mobility is privileged to have Baroness Thomas of Winchester as their patron, and is supported by HM Government.

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Driving Mobility assessments reopen to safely support disabled drivers

Driving Mobility assessment centres reopening services with Covid-19 safety measures so drivers can once again receive expert guidance regarding assisted motoring.

Driving Mobility, the charity that accredits a network of specialist driving assessment centres, is reopening its UK services with Covid-19 safety measures so drivers can once again receive expert guidance regarding assisted motoring.

Driving Mobility Centres provide professional, clinically-led driving and mobility assessments for individuals who have restricted mobility. Service users self-refer or are signposted to its 20 Centres from the DVLA, Motability, the Police and healthcare professionals such as GPs and Occupational Therapists. These Centres provide over 70 outreach facilities bringing the service close to where people live, and which are managed by independent charities or NHS departments – all focused on helping people with disabilities or life changing diagnosis to continue driving safely. Since the lockdown in March, Driving Mobility assessment appointments have been suspended following guidance from the Government. However, from the 6th July, Centres will be reintroducing services with a phased approach so that clients and staff remain safe from coronavirus.

Edward Trewhella, CEO, Driving Mobility, comments: “Every centre is preparing to reopen for safe driving assessments. All our staff are keen to get going and have been busy organising new procedures in terms of Covid-19. Our Approved Driving Instructors and Occupational Therapists will be fully observing Government guidelines and NHS clinical principles, so clients experience a rewarding driving assessment that focuses on a positive outcome. We have a backlog of enquiries which will be resolved as quickly as possible and our teams are ready for new stakeholder referrals to begin once more.”

Members of the public, as clients, will need to be in a vehicle with Driving Mobility assessors, and this will involve several new procedures to reduce risk. These will include the use of PPE and hand sanitiser, thorough disinfecting of vehicles, open windows at all times and limited close personal contact. Use of assessment rooms and waiting areas will all be adjusted in accordance with advice from Public Health England.

Edward continues: “We believe our services are now more vital than ever before in terms of supporting peoples’ independence. With current advice to avoid public transport where necessary and to take extra precautions if you have underlying health conditions, the ability to drive a car independently with a disability has great significance for mental health and wellbeing. Our Centres also provide assessments and guidance on solutions for mobility that facilitate social distancing, such as powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters. These comprehensive services which encompass all aspects of accessible travel, provide the key to many who have been unable to leave home in an appropriate and safe manner.

Edward concludes: “Driving Mobility is the national voice of assisted driving and independence – now is the time this will be even more pronounced.”

QEF Open Day successfully showcases our Hubs mission

The QEF team at Carshalton has delivered another successful free open day this week displaying a comprehensive range of adapted vehicles, products and services for independent living.

The QEF team at Carshalton has delivered another successful free open day this week displaying a comprehensive range of adapted vehicles, products and services for independent living.

The Get Going Live driving feature was busy all day with young drivers and those new to disability taking advantage of the opportunity to test drive accessible vehicles around the unique QEF private road network. The event was well supported by a range of exhibitors and was officially opened by Sue Rogers MBE, Manager for Mobility Centres in England at the Department for Transport. Motability Ambassador, Chris Edwards, also supported the day with a series of informative seminars which were well attended. Overall attendance was healthy with a diverse range of visitors including individuals with restricted mobility, families with disabled children, healthcare professionals and representatives from charities such as Age UK.

The diversity of features which included accessible vehicles, wheelchairs and mobility scooters perfectly reflected QEF’s standing as a new Hubs centre. This was enhanced by its existing TryB4uFly services which continue to prove popular as the interest in accessible air travel continues to grow. The mobility scooter test drive course provided by TGA was also popular with many QEF colleagues and visitors keen to understand more about these products and the latest advice regarding road safety.

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Driving Mobility and REAL charities to host accessible travel event to help NE London elderly and disabled

REAL ACCESSIBILITY EVENT. Thursday 3rd October, 10am – 4pm. Mile End Art Pavilion, Clinton Road, E3 4QY

Supported by The Department for Transport, Driving Mobility, the nationwide charity which accredits driving assessment centres across the UK, is partnering with the Tower Hamlets’ REAL charity to provide an accessible travel event in East London.

REAL ACCESSIBILITY EVENT. Thursday 3rd October, 10am – 4pm. Mile End Art Pavilion, Clinton Road, E3 4QY

Free to attend, this charity-led event will bring together a range of displays that demonstrate how locals living with restricted mobility can benefit from greater independence. Visitors will receive one-to-one advice from qualified representatives, including healthcare professionals on:

  • Accessible public transport choices
  • Travelling with a disability
  • Adapted cars
  • Mobility scooters and wheelchairs

Members from Driving Mobility will also be seeking feedback from attendees so the charity can help influence future transport services in the area. This is part of the charity’s ongoing ‘London Project’ research initiative which aims to understand more fully the needs of elderly and disabled people in terms of private car, taxi, bus, train and tube accessibility. With this information Driving Mobility can more effectively put forward proposals to reduce the risk of isolation and loneliness in the area.

For more information regarding the REAL Accessibility Event, email: robert.morton@towerhamlets.gov.uk

The ‘London Project’ online survey can be located here: https://www.drivingmobility.org.uk/london-project/

Please feel free to download the pdf and share: 2046DM_REALeventSept19v2

East Anglian DriveAbility’s extended centre in Thetford successfully launches to help elderly and disabled drivers

East Anglian DriveAbility (EAD) has officially opened its new extended Thetford centre to high visitor numbers.   

East Anglian DriveAbility (EAD), a charity which is part of Driving Mobility’s UK network of assessment centres for elderly and disabled drivers, has officially opened its new extended Thetford centre to high visitor numbers.

Isabel Coe, retired Centre Manager, officially cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the new training facilities and expanded waiting area facilities. The opening was also supported by Helen Dolphin MBE, chair of the EAD charity and highly respected accessibility campaigner. A high number of visitors attended particularly Occupational Therapists (OT) and fellow healthcare professionals who were keen to discover more about the latest services offered by EAD. EAD is currently expanding its services beyond driving assessments to include quality guidance regarding all forms of accessible travel and independent mobility.

Driving Mobility accredits 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. EAD is part of this network with centres in Thetford and Colchester. In addition to guidance regarding adapted controls and wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV), its OTs and Driving Advisors provide additional advice regarding mobility scooters, powerchairs and wheelchairs.

The open day showcased several adapted cars and WAVs from the EAD fleet which included a variety of specialist driving controls and disabled driver and upfront passenger solutions. Visitors were also able to meet several specialist manufacturers which included TGA mobility scooters, Autochair car boot hoists and the WAV convertor Sirus Automotive. The TGA mobility scooter test drive course proved to be busy all day with OTs trialing products and gaining new insight. CEA Mobility, Andys Kars and David Relph also assisted with vehicle adaptations during the event.

Yvette Bateman, CEO, East Anglian DriveAbility, comments: “Our official opening was a significant success for visitors and our charity. Attendees told us they gained so much from coming to the event and hence we now plan to hold an open day annually at either our Thetford or Colchester centre. It was a delight to welcome lots of OT students from the UEA who gained invaluable vehicle and product knowledge for future client prescriptions.  Thank you to all the EAD team for organising such a positive event and we appreciate the support of several manufacturers who attended and added depth to our showcase. We are proud of our new facilities which give us the platform to expand services so independent mobility is achievable for many more people whether that’s in a car or any other mode of accessible transport.”