So I finished my A Levels in June this year. It seems so long ago (although, being in mid-September now, that’s not surprising… Its a whole three months ago!) But for one of those months, I have been learning to drive. Since I turned 18, it’s something that I have really wanted to do. I’d seen so many people of my age going through the process of lessons and passing tests, and this year, I was itching to get started myself. I remember feeling a real buzz when I talked to people about starting to drive, and I can recall many times when I would want to book my first lesson straight away. But alas
its not that simple with CP……
|Source: East Anglian DriveAbility
I spoke to the driving school with whom I wished to learn, who recommended to me that I take part in a driving assessment, at East Anglian DriveAbility. Having never heard of, or seen anyone else go through one before, I had no idea what to expect. But if I wanted to learn to drive, this was just a step I needed to take. So, I booked an assessment for July 14th. My nerves were through the roof in the weeks leading up to it, and although I was very much aware that it was going to happen, I kept hoping and praying that I could just skip to the lessons. But of course the day came, and throughout the journey to the assessment centre they were now sky high – at that point in time, I couldn’t have felt any worse. And then, I arrived.
But the first stage of the assessment put me at ease a little. I had an initial interview so they could find out about me, in which I discussed my disability, tested my range of movement in my arms and legs and answered a few personal questions. Despite being less nervous now, I was still anxious about what was to come. What if the initial interview was enough to determine that I was unable to drive? Would my longing to drive be shattered? Would the next stage of the assessment determine by inability to drive? The answer to all: No.
The next stage comprised of a few reaction tests in a car simulator (which is operated in the same way as a car). This part helps to determine the type of car that would be best suited to you. For me, the most suitable car is an automatic car, but for someone else it could be a specially adapted car. It depends on the results of these tests. Some of the tests were simple, such as swapping between the accelerator and the brake. And some were more complicated, like pushing the brake down every time a light appeared on the screen. Scary right? But they all helped towards the next stage…..
|Yes, that is me!
Source: East Anglian DriveAbility Facebook Page
I went out in a car! That’s right. A real life car! This was the part of the assessment that I was probably most nervous about en route to the centre that morning. The car drew up, and I felt that familiar wave of nerves, It felt odd getting into the drivers seat of a car, as I’d never controlled any other vehicle before. I have a wheelchair, but how could that be compared to a metal machine? The minute I began driving, I almost forgot about the nerves and that buzz that I got when talking about starting to drive returned. I drove in the car with an instructor for about thirty minutes, but it was enough to prove to me that I wanted to take lessons. I was smiling the whole time, and the prospect of one day being able to drive in a car by myself was too much to bear. It almost made the assessment worthwhile. When I got out of the car, I realised how ironic it was that the very thing I had been worried both prior to and during the assessment was the very thing that I enjoyed the most, I held my breath as she delivered the verdict. Provided I learnt in an automatic car, I could take lessons! All that was left to do was to wait for the written report to come in the post. But there was one problem…. I couldn’t wait!
I managed to survive the wait though as it did eventually arrive. And I was finally able to book my first lesson, which I did in August. Despite the inevitable nerves prior to and during the assessment, I was so pleased that I did it. I was worried that my disability would have stopped me learning to drive, as I felt it had stopped me to do things before. But it hasn’t beaten me and now I am one step closer to being able to drive. If you are in the same position as I was a matter of months ago, do not fret! The assessment is scary at first but it opened doors for me and gave me the confidence I needed to get behind the wheel. I am thankful to East Anglian DriveAbility for giving me that opportunity and I would recommend them to anyone in my position. The staff are so kind, understanding and approachable. They put your nerves at ease straight away, which is just what I needed. If you need or know someone who will need a driving assessment, I hope that you will have an experience as pleasant as mine!
And now, although I’m still nervous, I’m loving driving! I’m learning something new every week (which is the point, I know), but its helping me to feel much more confident in myself – because I can control a car! And, most importantly, I’m not crashing! This can only mean good things, One day, maybe bigger things, (Not bigger vehicles though, I’ll stick with a car for now).
I’m writing this blog post having just finished another driving lesson feeling proud of myself. Not only am I now able to take lessons, but I stepped out of my comfort zone to take part in the assessment. And without doing that I wouldn’t be taking lessons today. Maybe try stepping out of your comfort zone and see where that takes you!
If you have any questions about driving assessments please feel free to ask me. Or, if you are stepping out of your comfort zone in a big or small way, I’d love to hear from you.