I had my assesement at Drive mobility in newcastle on wednesday to find out what adaptions i will need to be able to drive.
I was really surprised to find that i can mange to use the foot pedals and steering wheel fine without any adaptions in an automatic car. The only things i need are an easy release handbrake device and a panaramic mirror. The mirror is mega wide so I can see pretty much all of behind me without having to twist or turn around.
I do have to go back next week though becuase the big issue was seating. After only a couple of minutes of driving around thier little outdoor track my back was killing me and was spasming out of control. They tried various lumber supports and wedges but nothing really helped so they are looking into more specialist seating systems. It made me realise just how bad my back is and also why i find my wheelchair so painful to use.
The assessment itself was a loverly experience and the people were the most nicest people Iv ever had to have prod an poke me lol.
There were two OTs and one driving instructor/assesor.
First I had to go outside and read a number plate to make sure i could see enough to drive. Then we all went into a room where the main OT asked me loads of questions about my condition and my medical history.
She then did various things with me to test the usability of my body for driving. She did things like see how tight i could grip, find out the range of movemnet of my limbs, head and trunk, test the strength of my legs, feet and hands and much more. They went out to have a discussion about what would be best for m me then came back and asked if i would prefer a manual or automatic. I decided on automatice becuase there's less foot and hand work involve and also it means that in the future if i do need more adaptions they can be fitted eaisly (alot of steering and pedal adaptions only work in automatic cars).
Then the fun bit. The driving assessor took me out to the garage where i had a gorgous purple (!!) automatic car. First we looked at the seat height which was perfect in the car they had choosen. I could get in and out much eaiser than my dad's car. Then they looked at if i could manage to open and close the door from teh inside ok. Then they looked at the seatbelt. I couldnt manage to pull the seatbelt out from behind me because i had the seat pulled forward to reach the pedals and the stretch was too much for my recently dislocated shoulder so he fitted a little device that locks the seat belt so it doesnt pull back into its regular place but just hangs down by the seat so i could just pick it up from there easily (you can get them from halford for about Â£6 btw).
Then we looked at the pedals. At first he was thinking of fitting a foot support and pedal extension so I could use my left foot for the break to prevent any twisitng of the hip if i used my right foot for both acceleration and brake but after a few gos we found i could manage both with my right foot fine.
Then we looked at the steering wheel and found i can manage that fine too as long as i get a car that allows you to lower the wheel and change the angle of it.
Then we were off! Baring in mind i have never driven before in my life at this point, we, or should i say i, drove out of the garage and turned into the special track they had. He had me drive round it for about half an hour talking me through the basics of how to drive. I was really surprised how easy i found it to drive and i didnt have any bumps or any thing at all!. He had me do an emergancy stop to test my responses and strength n my leg for sudden braking.
that was fine too but the great thing was he said in teh 40 years he has been teaching, he has never seen an emergancy stop done as quick and as perfectly as i did!!
I even got a go of reverese parking and this is when we discovered that i could not turn around to look behind me and so the panoramic mirror came out.
After our drive he said i had done really well and he would never have known it was my first time behind a wheel. He said i must be a natural. I was really surprised because I thought i would be one of those that would keep bumping things, bunny hop along the road and be generally very nervous at driving.
He said when I go back he is going to take me out on the real roads!
It was after the drive that they had a real go at trying to find various cushions and supports to work but they decided in teh end i should come back and i can go out driving and test various ones as well as try some more specialist types of seating.
They also said they would be happy for me to do my driving lessons with them if i want to becuase then we can still keep adding adaptions and seating support if needed once im out driving properly.
IF anyone is thinking of driving or already drives but needs some kind of adaptions i would definaltly recommend having an assesment done becuase it was a great expereince and i am now very confident that i will be fine driving. Also if you are thinking of getting a car through the motabitliy scheme they actually pay the assesment fee for you.
I had mine done in newcastle which covers the north east. Contact motability for details of your nearest assesment centre.