Friday, 30 May 2014

Cars, Driving and Motability

My Mum once said to me that driving was one of my biggest achievements.  At the time I can remember feeling disappointed that she didn’t rate all the hard work I had put in to get my degree in Health Sciences, though thinking about it, I can see she is right.

Driving for me requires a lot of mental and physical concentration.  So much so that I only drive places within 45 minutes of my house. That doesn’t sound far but this alone affords me so much more independence and opportunity from socialising with friends to shopping at Tescos!

 I started my first full-time working position in 2001 moving down to part-time in 2003.  Every day I would rely on taxis to take me to and from work and although I enjoyed the company of my taxi drivers who were both very nice, I became taken with the idea that I could be yet even more independent.  So in 2006 I applied to Motability to help me get an adapted car.

When applying for a Motability vehicle, it is standard practice to go to a car dealership, who offers Motability, and they will fill out the required forms etc.  However, because the vehicle I require is very heavily adapted I could not do this.  I had to apply to Motability directly.

The first the car that I had from Motability was a Renault Kangoo.  It had ramped access at the back which allowed me to drive into the back of the vehicle in my powerchair and straight into the driver’s position with out getting out of my wheelchair.  My wheelchair is then automatically locked into position and other car controls can be operated by hand.  I therefore have to do with two hands what most able-bodied people do with all four limbs!  I learnt to drive in my Renault Kangoo, and passed my test first time after about six months of lessons.  I loved my Renault Kangoo however, it did frequently let me down and the adaptations sometimes (regularly!) were not very reliable.

After five years my Motability contract ran out and I was faced with a choice.  Either I could extend my lease of my Renault Kangoo or apply to Motability for a new vehicle.  Because of all the problems I had had with the Renault Kangoo have and because it was showing signs of wear and tear, I decided to apply for a new vehicle.  Luckily Motability said yes!  I was even more pleased when they said yes to the car that I had been eyeing up on the Internet, the Citroen Berlingo duo. Berlingo duo link

My Berlingo has the same adaptations that my Renault Kangoo although I would say that there are significant improvements.  For example the floor of the Renault Kangoo was very steep to get my powerchair into and if it was wet outside my wheels would slip.  My Berlingo has largely flat access.  My Renault Kangoo would allow for an able-bodied person to drive it and for me to be clamped into the rear of the vehicle however, my Berlingo easily allows for an able-bodied person to drive it and for me to be clamped in as a front passenger, which is the much better position to be in.

Being a driver means not only that I can go to the cinema with friends and visit them in their houses, but to me it means that I can go to Tesco’s and do a shop with my mum, take my sister’s dog to the vet, pick my younger sister up from work, drop my older sister at her boyfriend’s house… etc etc etc…
It makes me feel like a valuable member of the family.  It will be a sad day for me when I can no longer drive. 

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