My Biggest Achievement
As we get older, there will always be certain dates that stick in our minds. One that I will never forget in particular, is the day I passed my driving test!
I often think about that day now and 7 years on, it still brings a smile to my face. Not only because it was a gloriously sunny day (which of course is a rarity in Cornwall!), but it was the day I grabbed hold of my independence.
Being able to drive is the “norm” for most people, but for me it was a different kind of achievement. I never thought it would be something I could physically do, let alone be pretty good at (did I mention I got zero minors?! haha)
Due to the muscle weakness in my legs, I drive using a hand control system in a specially adapted vehicle. I remain seated in my wheelchair, which has also had alterations in order to fit.
Both my ramp and doors are controlled via electric buttons, alongside a computer steering system.
Most people are confused / nervous of my hand controls when they first travel with me. My accelerator and brake are on a fixed lever, alongside a miniature turning stick.
Basically, I can drive without touching the main steering wheel - I mean what’s there to be scared of?!
On reflection, learning to drive was definitely an eventful experience for me. The week before my test, the electronic steering system malfunctioned during one of my lessons. After losing control, the car was written off and I had no other choice than to cancel my test.
I can still remember the exact moment of panic and helplessness during the crash. Luckily there were no cars coming towards us, as we swerved on the opposite side of the road into a crash barrier - protecting us from a large drop.
Not only had this knocked all my confidence, but it was also the ONLY local vehicle that was adapted for me to drive.
To say I was devastated would be an understatement. But don’t worry guys, I eventually gave myself a little pep talk and started the process of applying for my own car.
Obviously due to the amount of high tech equipment and adaptions, I would never be able to afford a complete purchase. I therefore joined the Motability scheme and have never looked back since.
A year or so passed and I eventually had the car of my dreams (a VW Caravelle, Nevada). I took some refresher lessons and on 19th June 2012, I passed my test on my very first time.
It’s not very often I pat myself on the back, but I’m so proud of what I have achieved! The ability to drive is something that we all take for granted, but it means so much more to me than just getting from A to B.
It brings me independence and a whole new level of freedom. I often jump in the car now and just go for drive - windows down, music blaring! I would honestly be lost without it.
I have since renewed my contract on this car, which will take me up to the year 2022. I will have then had this beast for 10 whole years!
If you’re thinking about learning to drive, then my only advice to you would be this… GO FOR IT! There will always be bumps in the road (no pun intended!), but don’t let my unlucky start put you off. If anything, it gave me the confidence and determination to see it through. My experience was extremely rare, so I don’t want you thinking that this is a common occurrence.
Driving has played such a massive part in my life, enabling me to live as independently as possible. It has also played a key role in helping me maintain my employment and most importantly, my social life!
If you’re after any advice or information on driving with a disability, feel free to drop me a message anytime. Or if you’d like to see what other adventures I get up to, please check out my blog: www.alifeonwheels.co.uk
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First published 10th July 2019