Father praises charities’ free Bugzi wheelchair loan scheme and assessment services for disabled toddler
Two-year-old Olive, born with cerebral palsy, is enjoying her first independent steps with a unique long-term loan of a free Bugzi powered wheelchair following an assessment at North West Driving Assessment Service
Two-year-old Olive, born with cerebral palsy, is enjoying her first independent steps with a unique long-term loan of a free Bugzi powered wheelchair, provided by children’s disability charity MERU, following an assessment at North West Driving Assessment Service, accredited by the charity Driving Mobility.
Her father, Rhys Corkwood, a paediatric Occupational Therapist, says free provision of specialist equipment in this way is normally unheard of, with funding a massive issue in the world of disability.
The MERU Bugzi is a small, indoor powered wheelchair that can be used on any flat surface such as at home, nursery or school. Suitable for children up to approx. 6 years of age, it enables a child to move around independently, play and interact with friends and family, whilst also encouraging learning about cause and effect as they use the controls.
Olive has quadrilateral or full body cerebral palsy following a complicated, premature birth. Low tone means she is unable to sit, stand or walk unaided and lives with tightness on one side of her body. Olive also has cochlear implants to overcome deafness and her condition is affecting her speech.
Rhys says: “Olive had tried a small walker but was unable to step, so my friend, a physiotherapist, recommended the Bugzi to me. I visited an event called Kidz to Adultz North with Olive to trial specialist equipment. North West Driving Assessment Service (NWDAS) was exhibiting alongside Driving Mobility and MERU, which provided a fantastic, hands-on opportunity to try out the Bugzi.”
MERU manufactures the unique powered wheelchair and charitable support enables them to provide free loans to families across the UK; following an application, assessment and a small refundable deposit. MERU works closely with several Driving Mobility centres across the UK, whose specialist staff can provide Bugzi assessments. Driving Mobility accredits a network of twenty independent organisations, many with satellite services, which provide professional information and assessments for safe and independent mobility.
The Corkwood family from Manchester applied online to MERU for a Bugzi wheelchair, which Olive’s father states was a straightforward process. He also explained he could not fault his daughter’s assessment at North West Driving Assessment Service, part of the Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. NWDAS began offering Bugzi assessments as a new outreach service in 2019, which complements the Centre’s existing provision of driver, passenger and equipment assessments for the North West community.
Rhys says: “I really valued how uncomplicated this process was as life can be so busy for parents with disabled children – you feel you move from one appointment to the next. Our MERU application was handled quickly and within a month we attended NWDAS for an assessment. It was an additional bonus to have a Driving Mobility assessment centre locally in St Helens.”
“The centre’s Occupational Therapist, Hilary, explained the assessment service clearly and discussed Olive’s medical history and her physical abilities. Olive’s always happy to meet people and the staff were clearly interested in her, so it was a non-pressured, very personal experience. Olive drove the Bugzi, tried different hand controls and played with toys. She was totally at ease. I can’t rate the assessment centre highly enough. We even had a moving and handling assessment with our car.”
“The Bugzi means Olive can move independently for the first time. She practices navigation in a therapy space at home, whilst playing with her sister, 3-year-old Connie. We recently took the Bugzi to a church hall party. Olive loved it – a big, wide, open space where she could move freely and interact with other children. Of course, they all wanted to chase her which was delightful to watch.”
Emma Pryce, Bugzi Engineer from MERU, comments: “Bugzi is a safe, compact and manoeuvrable indoor wheelchair for young children with disabilities. Our loan scheme provides families with access to a Bugzi so that a child can benefit from experience and learning that independent mobility brings. We work with several Driving Mobility assessment centres across the UK, where specialist staff can adapt and tailor a Bugzi chair to the child’s needs and usually it can be taken home on the same day.”
Olive’s father concludes: “Most local authorities wait until a child is much older before assessing for a powered chair, yet the skills that Olive is currently acquiring through use of the Bugzi cannot be overestimated. Learning to move within a certain space, concentration, coordination, independence – these are fundamental skills. A free loan and assessment service such as this, is something I’ve never come across before either as a parent or an Occupational Therapist. It’s a very ethical service.”
For more information regarding North West Driving Assessment Service: www.bridgewater.nhs.uk/northwestdrivingassessmentservice or call 01942 483713. For more information on MERU or the Bugzi loan scheme visit www.meru.org.uk or email email@example.com
To find your local Driving Mobility Centre please visit: https://www.drivingmobility.org.uk/find-a-centre/
NWDAS expands Liverpool driving assessment provision with new community Fire Station Outreach Services
The North West Driving Assessment Service (NWDAS) based in St Helens, Merseyside, has launched two new outreach schemes at community fire stations in Liverpool
The North West Driving Assessment Service (NWDAS) based in St Helens, Merseyside, has launched two new outreach schemes at community fire stations in Liverpool, enabling increased access to driving and adaptation assessments alongside home fire safety guidance.
With a team of Occupational Therapists and Approved Driving Instructors, NWDAS is delivered by Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (Bridgewater) and overseen by the charity, Driving 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.
Following the success of a recently launched outreach scheme in Leyland, Lancashire, NWDAS is now officially offering independent driving and adaptation assessments at Netherton and Crosby Fire Station and Bellevale Fire Station, both in Liverpool. As part of this new arrangement, NWDAS clients visiting the two new Merseyside services will be able to access free home fire safety guidance combined with advice about how to stay safe and well at home.
Rebecca Jones, NWDAS Team Leader, comments: “We are proud to have a strong working relationship with partner organisations in local communities and by locating our services within community fire stations we can become even more accessible to the public. The two additional Merseyside locations will provide a reduction in travel time for many people living in the region. Outreach locations not only provide a greater choice of venue but increase availability for assessment appointments as well, which we hope will encourage more people to seek professional driving information and gain specialist advice.”
Rebecca concludes: “As with all Driving Mobility Centres, we always endeavour to ensure the provision of high-quality services and information, and we are delighted to be linking our assessments with an opportunity for clients to gain valuable fire safety advice.”
Assessments are free when referred by healthcare professionals, the DVLA and Motability. Alternatively, individuals can make a self-referral to the service via the main centre in Haydock, at a cost of £50.
To find out more about the support available from The North West Driving Assessment Centre visit www.bridgewater.nhs.uk/northwestdrivingassessmentservice or call 01942 483713.
Pictured: Hilary Kay, Specialist Occupational Therapist and Martin Vivers Approved Driving Instructor
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!”
North West Driving Assessment Service to introduce regional specialist car seat clinics and mobility scooter assessments
North West Driving Assessment Service has launched two new services – car seat and harness assessment clinics for disabled children and mobility scooter assessments for people with restricted mobility.
North West Driving Assessment Service, based in St Helens, Merseyside, has launched two new services – car seat and harness assessment clinics for disabled children and mobility scooter assessments for people with restricted mobility.
Part of the Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, North West Driving Assessment Service (NWDAS) is accredited by the charity Driving Mobility. Its 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. Driving Mobility oversees a network of twenty independent organisations – all striving to provide safe and independent mobility.
The new paediatric car seat and harness assessment clinics at NWDAS coincide with the recently launched and relevant Driving Mobility campaign in association with RiDC, The Research Institute for Disabled Consumers. Both charities are working together to raise awareness regarding specialist car seats for disabled children so passenger safety is maximised. This vital information is now readily available to service users attending driving assessment centres across the UK. The new free service at NWDAS is the first of its kind to be provided in the North West of England. It will ensure that disabled children, who require additional postural assistance whilst travelling in a vehicle, can benefit from greater safety and comfort.
Rebecca Jones, OT, NWDAS, comments: “We are delighted to be offering our new specialist car seat clinics which will be overseen by a paediatric Occupational Therapist. We are unaware of anyone in our region offering such an important and unique service – we believe it will deliver peace of mind to many local families with disabled children. Referrals to use this free service can be made via the recommendation of a healthcare professional and we offer convenient times for children, parents and carers to visit our centre. We will discuss needs on a one-to-one basis and explain the variety of seating solutions available from specialist manufacturers such as R82, Recaro and JCM Seating. Our OT will be able to assess a child’s needs and recommend the most appropriate car seat and harness.”
As NWDAS delivers independent driving and mobility assessments for all ages, this highly established centre is now offering mobility scooter suitability assessments. Individuals with reduced mobility or walking difficulties can access this service directly or via medical referrals. To assess product suitability, a variety of mobility scooters from different manufacturers are available to trial with various options regarding features, speed and size.
Rebecca Jones comments: “The provision of mobility scooter assessments allows people to try before they buy – enabling the correct purchasing decision to be made. This is essential so users remain safe and in control of a suitable product. Trying out scooters in the presence of a specialist instructor builds confidence and driving ability for the service user. We are always happy to provide mobility advice and purchasing information as well. We firmly believe both of our new services will deliver greater highway safety and look forward to welcoming new service users to our centre.”
North West Driving Assessment Service at Warrington Disability Awareness Day (DAD)
Opens at 10am on Sunday 15th July 2018 and finishes at 5pm. Entry to the show ground is completely FREE and so is the programme.
North West Driving Assessment Service is delighted to be taking part in the Warrington Disability Awareness Day (DAD)
If you are going along to the Warrington Disability Awareness Day on Sunday 15th July please keep your eyes peeled for the North West Driving Assessment Service (NWDAS) stand.
The main event ‘DAD’ opens at 10am on Sunday 15th July 2018 and finishes at 5pm. Entry to the show ground is completely FREE and so is the programme.
The friendly NWDAS team will be there to help you with any questions you may have regarding their services. They will also have Driving Mobility leaflets available if you need to find out more about the charity and what we do.