When I lost my hands and legs to meningitis at the age of 22 it was like my entire world had been completely turned upside down. After a year recovering in hospital I was finally able to go home but my life as I’d known it was never going to be the same again.
Before I was ill I had been studying for a PhD at the Hammersmith Hospital in London but there was no way I could return. I therefore found myself jobless and as the rent hadn’t been paid on my flat, homeless. Fortunately my parents were there to help and I was able to live in their living room until their garage was turned into a bedroom for me.
They say that time is a healer and this was certainly true for me. However, it was when I got back into the driving seat and drove myself that my life started to return to some kind of normality.
The ability to drive meant I could now find employment and I was lucky to be offered a job with ITV Anglia News as a trainee journalist. The only issue was that this was based in Norwich, so I had to move out of my parent’s house in Cambridge and live on my own.
I really enjoyed working for Anglia News but after eight years I was becoming more involved in campaigning for better rights for disabled people, so I left Anglia News to work for a campaigning charity for disabled motorists. Through my work here I learnt a lot about the Blue Badge scheme and driving and the barriers that disabled people face when trying to get mobile.
However, with the arrival of my son I decided to become self employed and now have what is known as a portfolio career. I do some work as a journalist, writing articles for websites and magazines, I sit on a number of committees including the Disabled Person’s Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) where I lead on personal mobility and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) consumer panel, and I work with a number of companies one of which is BAS.
I’m really delighted to be working with BAS as they make some very ingenious products for disabled motorists. The product that I would recommend disabled drivers have a look at is the BAS Push/Pull Brake/Accelerator.
Like many disabled drivers I have had pretty much the same hand controls since my very first vehicle and I’m now on my fifth car. I have always stuck with the same controls as I never saw any reason to change – but now I do! The Push Pull controls launched by BAS earlier this year have been designed to allow for full movement of the steering wheel. This means that with these controls anyone driving can set the wheel at the best and safest driving position for them. This is one of the complaints my husband has about driving my car, as my steering wheel is clearly set up in the best position for me, which puts it in completely the wrong position for him.
As I drive with a prosthetic arm, I like a tubular type grip, as this is easiest to hold. These hand controls come with a range of handles and handle bars which makes them suit most customers whatever their unique requirements.
My safety is of paramount importance to me, especially since I do a lot of motorway driving. The design of these controls means that the vehicle’s airbags do not have to be removed or interfered with when they are fitted so the driver’s safety is not compromised in any way.
An added bonus of this design is that on 95% of vehicles, there is no cutting or reshaping of the vehicle’s trim or components when fitting. This means they are really easy to remove, which is important if you are a private owner wishing to sell.
These hand controls are on the Motability scheme with nil customer contribution, so when your vehicle is next up for renewal, I would strongly recommend looking into these controls further. I will definitely be having these controls on my next car.
If you would like to try out the BAS controls, they will be at all the Motability One Big Day events except Peterborough. I will also be with BAS in Exeter at the One Big Day, so if you want to speak to me about these controls or other driving questions do pop along.