Blogger Sarah Alexander, from Sarah Lex, has been a Motability Scheme customer for over ten years. Sarah has multiple chronic conditions, including Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and has found that as her needs have changed so has the vehicle which suits her best. Here, Sarah reflects on her experience on the Motability Scheme.
Let me take you back to my first ever car; I passed my driving test at age nineteen, I’d learnt in a manual car so wanted my first one to be a manual. I’d only driven two hours a week during my lessons and never even considered any other option. I was happy driving a manual, I enjoyed it and I was desperate for a Ford Focus.
My mum came to my local dealership with me, we had an appointment with their Motability Scheme specialist and I test-drove my dream car. I fell in love with it right away and signed the contract there and then. I had that car for three years and loved it. Well, that was if I didn’t drive it for longer than a couple of hours. My pain and dislocations happened a lot more regularly after I had been driving for a while and I didn’t realise that shifting the gearstick and the constant moving of both feet whilst driving was putting a lot of pressure on my joints. My knees, ankles and shoulders suffered quite a lot and when it was time to get a new car, I wasn’t sure what to do.
When it was time to choose my next car I went back to the same dealer; I had a great rapport with the Motability Scheme specialist and explained the difficulties I had with my car. I was worried that they’d advise me not to drive or drive less, which wasn’t an option as I was at university at the time. However, they suggested I try an automatic car with cruise control for longer journeys on the motorway. I’d never considered an automatic before but it certainly seemed like it’d help with my driving issues.
The night before I picked up my automatic, I had a nightmare that I was going to crash my new vehicle because I’d only ever driven an auto during the test-drive and surely I couldn’t do that all the time, without supervision. Upon picking up my new Ford Fiesta, the salesperson asked me if I was excited and I explained that I was but that I was also really nervous as I was used to driving a manual. She took me straight out to the car, showed me all the gadgets, rearranged the mirrors and seat, and took me for a twenty minute drive to get me comfortable behind the wheel of my new car.
After I dropped her back off at the dealership, I felt so much more confident and couldn’t wait to get home and show everyone my new wheels.
Driving the automatic was so much easier. I couldn’t quite believe the difference.
Albeit, my health declined; I couldn’t use my crutches anymore as my shoulders weren’t stable enough and would dislocate. Pain and fatigue meant that I was spending more time at home because I couldn’t go out using my walking aids.
With help from medical professionals it was decided that I would start to use a manual wheelchair that would require someone else to push as I wasn’t strong enough to do it myself. I found this helped me get out more but it caused me a lot of frustration as I always relied on someone else.
After talking to my medical team, a powerchair was suggested and I thought all my prayers had been answered. I could go out, I could do it alone, I relied on nobody else and it wouldn’t cause me pain.
I called the Motability Scheme and explained that I was getting a powerchair but it wouldn’t fit in my current vehicle, and I asked them what I should do. They gave me a lot of advice and after some research it was apparent that I would need a boot hoist.
The hoist worked well for about a year or so but then I was diagnosed with a new condition that affects the nerves in my arms and hands. I lost all strength in my hands and couldn’t use the carabiner clips on my hoist. I remember sitting in my living room crying because I’d lost my independence again. I didn’t know what to do and I had a year left on my contract with my current car.
Again, I called the Motability Scheme and they were fantastic. They introduced me to Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs). I had an assessment of my needs and we decided that a Citreon Berlingo with a ramp would be my best option. The straps and belts (tie-downs) that are used to lock my powerchair into place when I am transporting it in my vehicle were all adjusted to make things as easy as possible for me.
I have had my WAV for about a year and it’s fantastic. I find it really easy to get my wheelchair in and out of, I enjoy going out and I feel confident doing so on my own.
Every step (or wheel) of the way, every time my condition has worsened or I’ve needed advice, the Motability Scheme has been there and supported me one hundred percent and I am extremely grateful for how they helped me keep my independence.
Read more from Sarah at www.fromsarahlex.com