Injured Romford rugby player discovers hi-tech driving independence with Herts Ability
Kevin Hartie, 46, from Romford, has attended a new hi-tech assessment service at a Hertfordshire Driving Mobility centre, to regain driving independence following a life-changing sporting injury.
Kevin received a C5 spinal injury playing rugby in 2000. Now a full-time powerchair user, he has not driven independently since his accident despite previous assessments to ascertain how he could safely drive with additional vehicle adaptations. As the strength in his upper body has improved over the years, Kevin recently decided it would be useful to be reassessed again.
Kevin explains: “I actually had my first driving assessment back in 2008 and another before the pandemic. They were helpful and recommended equipment that would be useful to me at that time. However, I was still unsure and held back. I have a carer who can drive me if needed, with ramp access to the vehicle for my powerchair. And I’m fortunate that I have good public transport links, so I can use the train and bus for work. However, following the pandemic, and after a bit of research, I contacted Herts Ability who told me they had a new hi-tech driving assessment which would be ideal for my spinal injury.”
Herts Ability, based in Welwyn Garden City, is a charity providing driving and mobility assessments, driving tuition and guidance on how to access public transport through their Mobility Hubs Service. They are accredited by Driving Mobility who oversee 21 similar organisations nationally and 70 outreach facilities in England and Wales, ensuring consistent service and standards. Clients can self-refer or are directed from the DVLA, Motability, Police and healthcare professionals such as GPs and Occupational Therapists.
In March 2022, Herts Ability added a new high-tech wheelchair accessible vehicle to its fleet of adapted vehicles, which is now enabling more people with a limited range of movement in multiple limbs to drive safely. The vehicle features a Paravan Space Drive system, which means the brake, accelerator and steering wheel can be activated by driving aids controlled by microprocessors, transmitting signals in nanoseconds. There is also lightened power steering, push/pull hand controls, an Autoadapt wheelchair hoist and an electronically adjustable driver’s seat.
Kevin comments: “I attended Herts Ability’s Harlow Centre and the team were very welcoming. I was met by Sean Lawrence, CEO, and Sarah Wright, Occupational Therapist, who explained the assessment would include a discussion of my physical abilities, a cognitive screening, and then an in-car assessment on the road.”
“I was told that the new vehicle featured advanced technology but actually, if I’m honest, my expectations weren’t too high beforehand. However, I’m really pleased that I went. By the time my driving assessment began, the staff had a thorough understanding of my physical mobility so were able to make personalised recommendations. They suggested I trial driving controls using both arms to begin with, and this actually went ok. Then we tried the joystick control, which I also felt worked really well and this will probably be the way forward for me.”
“This hi-tech driving assessment was so useful and has given me a clear understanding of what new vehicle adaptations are out there. These have really progressed over the years, so it was definitely worth me going for another driving assessment. This time I can see a way forward. Herts Ability were excellent and have provided me with really useful information. I will need a lot of driving lessons, but I can now consider a Motability car and I know independent driving is a viable option.”