East Anglian DriveAbility, part of the Driving Mobility national network of driving assessment centres, assists safe independent driving from a wheelchair

Part of the Driving Mobility national network of driving assessment centres, East Anglian DriveAbility (EAD) has assisted Gary Gray from Braintree to discover motoring independence with a disability.

Driving Mobility oversees 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 driving assessments, its Occupational Therapists and Driving Advisors provide several additional services including guidance regarding specialist paediatric car seats and mobility scooters.

Gary, 53 from Braintree, worked as a Mobile Tyre Fitter until he became ill with peripheral neuropathy in 2011, a condition which develops when nerves in the body’s extremities are damaged. He subsequently spent considerable time dealing with life-changing consequences and was unable to drive for several years. Before contacting EAD, he had attempted to test drive a WAV (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle), which resulted in damage to the vehicle and a serious dent to his already ‘rock-bottom’ confidence. By self-referring himself to EAD, Gary was determined to find professional and appropriate advice that would re-enable safe independent driving.

Gary comments: “This time a comprehensive assessment took place before I was allowed near a vehicle. This was to provide the EAD staff, including an OT and Approved Driving Instructor, with a true picture of my health, medical requirements and physical and cognitive abilities. It was very professional and completely different to my first experience elsewhere. When I began the actual driving assessment, I was accompanied by specialist staff and received guidance throughout. I tried different options for getting in and out of a vehicle and trialled new assistive controls, such as a steering wheel knob – all at a pace that suited me.”

Following the assessment, EAD provided a comprehensive report which advised Gary on suitable adaptations for safe driving and suggested further lessons would be beneficial. Once these are completed, Gary hopes to choose a vehicle with adaptations via the Motability scheme, based on EAD recommendations.

Gary concludes: “I would really like a drive-from-wheelchair vehicle as this would be easiest for me. EAD have been extremely helpful in showing me all the different aids and adaptations. I now know that a steering wheel knob and wheelchair ramp will be essential which I hadn’t considered before. I feel so informed which will definitely help me with purchasing and driving requirements. Thanks to EAD independent driving is now a possibility for me for the first time in over seven years.”

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