Specialist disabled driver lessons deliver priceless independence to Shari
Part of the Driving Mobility charity network, The Wales Mobility & Driving Assessment Service (WMDAS) has helped Llandudno’s Shari Elvins, 35, to gain independence through complete support from assessment to driving test.
WMDAS is a registered charity, partly funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, with four driving assessment centres across Wales. The North Wales centre is based at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Denbighshire and operates an outreach service at the Montgomery County Infirmary in Newtown, Powys.
Services include driver and passenger assessments that aim to provide safe mobility through the appropriate use of standard and adapted cars. Service users with restricted mobility can self-refer or are signposted via the DVLA, Motability, Police and healthcare professionals such as GPs.
Each Driving Mobility centre provides extensive information and advice regarding adapted driving and wheelchair accessible vehicles. WMDAS has added specialist driving tuition to its range of services which means it can offer a complete package of support including assessments and driver training, and can also work in partnership with The Disability Resource Centre, a neighbouring charity that specialises in vehicle adaptation and independent living services.
Shari Elvins, a recent service user, has just taken advantage of this comprehensive service, which has supported her from initial enquiry through to ownership of an appropriately adapted car and full driving licence. This has been critical for Shari, particularly as she is a regional assistant manager for a well-known high street clothing retailer which involves travel between stores.
Shari was given expert guidance by OTs and Driving Advisers from The North Wales centre who then worked in partnership with vehicle technicians from The Disability resource Centre to adapt Shari’s private car with a prescribed left-handed steering ball and secondary controls fitted to her door (horn, indicators and lights). As Shari has a partially compromised right arm with one finger, she is unable to operate a car with standard controls, hence WMDAS reviewed her needs and arranged for fitment of suitable solutions.
Shari has experienced a complete ‘journey to driving independence’ as she explained: “My time with WMDAS and The Disability Resource Centre has been amazing – they have really empowered me! Driving has completely changed my life, the first thing I was excited to do was my food shopping as I didn’t have to rely on taxis anymore!
“I also didn’t have to live my life around bus timetables or asking people to give me lifts. It has opened up a lot for me work-wise and will definitely help with my career progression. It’s also really nice to give back to all the people who have helped me by driving them drive around.
“After a thorough assessment with WMDAS, Tim Cowsill from The Disability Resource Centre came out and reviewed my car – he was amazing from start to finish, nothing was too much trouble and it was all about problem solving which he did very well. Everyone at the centre are just so friendly and helpful. Tim fitted the adaptations and when I picked up my car it just felt amazing.”
Once Shari’s car was suitably adapted, she began a series of driving lessons provided by Bev Stevens, a specialist driving instructor with over 20 years of experience and who works for WMDAS.
Shari added: “Bev my specialist driving instructor has been amazing and has given me so much confidence. It’s impossible to find instructors like Bev who understand driving adaptations and will teach you in your own adapted car, she’s unique. She made me feel at ease as she believed in my abilities. I learnt a lot from her in only a few lessons.
“Passing my test first time was so emotional, I couldn’t be happier as I feel all my hard work and patience has paid off! I totally recommend all the services from WMDAS and The Disability Resource Centre as they have allowed me to fulfil my passion for travel and spending time with family and friends.”
Gary Jones, WMDAS Centre Manager, concluded: “The fact that we can offer a holistic service to adapted driving is a real benefit to people with restricted mobility. They only need to deal with us for everything – delivered by a diligent and caring team.
“In particular, Bev is a fantastic specialist driving instructor and is a real asset to WMDAS. Her experience culminates in a calm and reassuring approach that supports disabled drivers – totally reflecting our overall ethos that is client-centric and understanding. The teams at WMDAS and The Disability Resource Centre are delighted with Shari’s outcome and to hear how much driving has already changed her life. This is why we take pride in the services we deliver and wish Shari well with her future plans.”