Learning to drive

Learning to drive

DH co-editor Srin, shares an article about the early of stages of learning to drive and arranging the necessary assessments in order to find out about the adaptations he requires.

In May this year I started on what will undoubtedly be a long process in learning how to drive a car! Driving a car is something that I have wanted to do for a long time, but have put it off for one silly reason or another that probably had something to do with that irritatingly complex human flaw known as fear. Currently, I get around by being transported in an adapted van that is driven by my PA. While this system works well, I have always believed that nothing beats (where possible and practical) doing something independently for yourself.

So finally, it came down to biting the bullet and simply starting the process!

This very first step involved attending an assessment centre in Harlow, Essex, organised via the Motability Scheme to determine the car adaptions I require in order to drive. Seeing Martyn’s car and by virtue of having a very similar level of physical impairment to him, I knew for a fact that these adaptations were going to be extensive and complex, so it was  important that my needs were carefully and accurately assessed.

The first assessment ended up being a total anti-climax. I couldn’t use any of the adapted cars that were available as I didn’t have sufficient strength in my arms to move the controls. I came home disappointed and feeling quite dejected! However, I was assured by the assessor that the car could be adapted and that I would simply need to return for another assessment and try out another vehicle that would be ordered from another test centre. This car was to have ultra-sensitive joystick control.

I went for the second assessment a month later. This time I was able to drive the van. It was a nerve-wracking process. Controlling the vehicle wasn’t easy, but I did drive the van on a road in a quiet area just outside the test centre. It was one of the few times I had sweaty palms! Every time I saw another car driving in my direction my heart missed a beat and I had to resist the temptation to pull over the van to one side, even though the other car coming in the opposite direction had plenty of space to drive by me!

Even though I was able to control the vehicle, one of the major problems I discovered was that whenever I drove over a pot-hole or a bump in the road I lacked the stability in my upper body to keep upright. However, through such an assessment I realised that upper body padding or a similar restraint would be needed to provide the necessary stability.

It was satisfying to be able to drive. The high tech controls were extraordinary and I did feel very luck to live in a country where such vehicles were available.

The next stage will be actually buying and adapting the vehicle. Due to work reasons and various other commitments, I’ve temporarily put the process on hold for a while. I have “vehicular” mobility in that I have PA’s who can drive my car, and do currently drive me anywhere I need to go and, therefore, this is no particular urgency.

There is a long way to go before I will be let free on our roads (and even a longer way before I am racing an F1 car…haha!) but I hope to restart the process early next year, and hopefully (!) this time next year I will be learning to drive, so watch out!

By Srin Madipalli

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  • Go for it, I’ve been driving for 20yrs with SMA! The equipment out there is perfect for little weaklings like us;))

  • I am so pleased you understand the value and importance of the assessment centre, our local centre work so hard to help people who had thought that they may never drive again get back behind the wheel and regain their independence. We recommend assessments to all of our customers. Best of luck Srin. You can do it!