Martyn’s driving journey

Disability Horizons have recently covered a few articles on driving a ‘Wheelchair Adapted Vehicle’ (WAV). This is because in a world when disabled people are pushed out of many modes of public transport due to access, attitudes and financial barriers; a WAV can open up a whole new world. Co-editor Martyn Sibley follows the debate on, showing you why the long process of learning to drive is worthwhile.

I do not want to go into too much detail around getting my first car as this has been covered by Sirus and Srin’s articles. However, to set the scene, I was 16, aware I could drive a year earlier than my mates (17 is the UK age to legally drive) due to having a disability, but my needs seemed to make this impossible. I had an assessment and to my surprise it was actually possible. Having identified the equipment I would need, we were told that despite financial assistance I would have to contribute around £10,000 minimum (the total cost being £40,000+). To be honest I remember feeling this had fallen at the first hurdle – who has £10,000 laying around aged 16?! Fortunately for me, my local community have always been there since I was 3, fundraising for a wheelchair. Through my mums networks it was decided we could raise the money after all.

Over the next few years my beautiful home town of St.Ives, Cambridgeshire raised enough money through sponsored bike rides, swims and dinner auctions. Combining this with the Motability grant, I was on my way. I will add that the scheme now will differ, so check for yourself, but this was my experience around 10 years ago. Suddenly the wheels were in motion, so to speak. During my first year of university I went to various fittings for the car. It was a massive green Mercedes Sprinter!

I eventually received it in the January of 2003. I then received free lessons through Motability. I remember feeling very nervous of how to control this beastly tank. The instructor was also an old Coventry lad (where I studied) and he had taught many disabled people to drive, which was reassuring. Starting in a car park, over time I built up my confidence and was whizzing around Coventry, even the ghastly ring road they have. I was able to go out with someone who had a license too, not just relying on the lessons. Two times, with mum and then dad, I had a near miss, but we survived. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and all that!

Finally, the time came to take my test. I was a bit nervous, but actually felt very comfortable behind the wheel. Having everything just as I needed – handle bar steering, thumb accelerate and brake, beeper switch for many functions and freedom ahead – I enjoyed driving already. The guy who tested me had clearly never seen anything like it in his life. So we proceeded to drive around Cov (oh how I miss university days) and even passed the football ground. The whole time I’m chatting away to calm him down from wondering how the hell I am driving the thing. Anyway I passed with 2 minors and have never looked back.

I drove myself to and from university, did the weekly shop, attended football matches, music concerts and visited friends all over England. I love it! I have even driven to Scotland with mates to T in the Park and to Wales to see a uni friend where I nearly killed a sheep on a misty mountain. The thing is, so much of my life involves other people – to hoist me, turn me at night, help me wash, cook for me etc – that to get in my own car independently, drive it alone and get from A to B is so liberating. I also thoroughly enjoy singing badly!

Just over 2 years ago I was able to get a new car through Motability without the need for fundraising. As my oldest blog readers will know it caused a lot of issues, but it’s settled now. It’s better because its smaller and less of a ‘disabled persons car’. Please ignore the first few seconds of the following video, as its old, but you can see how I operate the car here.

If you have any questions on this topic feel free to get in touch here or on

By Martyn Sibley


  1. This is awesome to read 🙂 I’ve just been assessed for a WAV and will be getting a Mercede’s Sprinter in about 9 months to then start my lessons, very nervous but it gives me hope seeing others able to drive 🙂

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