Cara Readle is 28 years old; she is a part-time actress and has Cerebral Palsy (CP). She has been a Motability Scheme customer since she was a child and kindly spoke to journalist Chloe Tear about her experiences of learning to drive on the Scheme. Chloe also has CP and had the chance to reflect on her own experiences.
When I spoke with Cara it was clear she had such enthusiasm for life. She spoke fondly of her acting career as a child and how she was even lucky enough to have a starring role in the CBBC hit show, Tracy Beaker. When Cara was younger her mum had a Motability Scheme car on her behalf, which had to be big enough to fit her mobility equipment into. As Cara got older, she learnt to drive, and the car became her biggest lifeline. Cara says that even though things may take you a little longer when you have CP, you always get there in the end.
I also have a Motability Scheme car, but this is driven by my parents or PA’s. Throughout life I certainly agreed with Cara’s mindset and her experiences resonated with me. Having Cerebral Palsy can mean things take longer and everything just takes that extra push. I believe this can make us treasure our achievements and it is worth it.
What was it like learning to drive?
“I was 16 years old when I started thinking about learning to drive because you can start earlier when you have a disability. However, I didn’t end up with the head start I had liked due to needing a lot of doctors notes and the initial belief that I would be unable to drive due to the way that Cerebral Palsy affected me.
Firstly, I had to go to an assessment centre where they had a virtual car that tested my abilities. After checking my acceleration, braking, and steering, it was decided I would be able to learn to drive! It still took a few months to find the right instructor and get everything finalised. However, with the help of a steering ball to support me, I was determined to make this work.
A year and a half later, I passed! Despite this, I did fail my first test. I didn’t feel like I was quite ready at that point, so I don’t know if I was sort of relieved to fail. By the time it came to my second test I felt ready, but I was so nervous. I knew I could do it, I just had to be able to do it under pressure.
You get two manoeuvres during a test and my last one was right at the end. I had to bay park in the test centre. I felt like I had done the test well enough to pass, I just knew I couldn’t fail on this last little bit. I made sure I did it perfectly. When they told me I had passed, it was such a relief.”
Has driving made a difference in your life?
“The ability to drive has really changed my life. I can’t drive for long distances because my muscles do get tired and tight, but if I’m going 10-20 minutes down the road, it makes an awful lot of difference. This is because I can’t walk to the shop or walk to the bus stop. To be honest, I don’t even know where my nearest bus stop is! Having the car there makes all the difference to me and I don’t know what I would do without it. It’s given me the freedom I need to just get out and meet other people.”
I know from my own experiences that Cerebral Palsy can have such a huge impact on energy levels. The ability to be able to leave the house and have a car to make those short journeys have also benefited me over the years.
“Also, it allows me to be able to get to places that other people would be able to walk to. A car and the ability to drive has not only given me the confidence to be able to leave the house by myself, but also to know I’ll be able to get home. By having my own car, there are no restrictions. I no longer have to rely on people to drop me off and pick me up, it is a real game-changer.”
How have you found the Motability Scheme?
“The Scheme has been great. It’s good to know that you’ve always got that new car, your insurance, and your tax. At the end of the day, you’ve got everything covered and if anything happens to that car, the the Motability Scheme will be there to help sort it out for you.”
Unlike Cara, I am unable to drive, but I do have a Motability Scheme Car which can be driven by my parents. The service I have had over the years has been amazing. I also have really appreciated that I have been included every step of the way. It would have been very easy to liaise with the person who drives the car. I believe it is this level of communication which has empowered me to still have that independence.
Lots of our customers don’t drive. That’s why the insurance with your lease is for up to three named drivers, so your car could be driven by a family member, friend or carer.
To find out more on named drivers click the link below.
“Over the years, it’s been very reassuring to have a car on the Scheme and to know how helpful they are. They will help you with anything you need. For example, I had a puncture in my tyre a couple of months ago and they just came to my house to repair it. Whereas I know I couldn’t have changed a tyre! They are always on hand to help you.
It’s not just the car, it’s the service you get with the car as well, and that’s what makes all the difference.”
The Motability Scheme enables you to exchange all or part of your mobility allowance for leasing a car, mobility scooter or powered wheelchair. There are also hundreds of different adaptations available to suit your needs. Find out if you can join using our eligibility checker and request an information pack.