Ste Purse is an actor and disability campaigner who spent many years working with Motability in his role at a nationwide vehicle breakdown and recovery firm. In this new article, Ste tells us about the home demonstration, accessing the vehicle and how the thorough assessment process determined which specialist adaptations he needed to drive comfortably in his new Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV).
At the end of my previous article Motability had agreed to an internal transfer WAV solution. Once this decision had been made Motability quickly arranged for a thorough assessment and demonstration of a Volkswagen Shuttle ‘Drive From’ WAV by Lewis Reed in May 2021. The WAV arrived along with a representative from Lewis Reed and an assessor from Motability.
The first task was ensuring proper safety protocols were followed for Covid-19. Everyone wore masks and the assessor wore a plastic apron and gloves. My ID and driving licence were checked and photographed and then I was shown the vehicle. The rear tailgate and lift were operated by a remote key fob and I managed to manoeuvre my powerchair into the back of the vehicle with ease. The space inside was far superior to the smaller Volkswagen Caddy I had tried previously, and already this was feeling right. I was then shown the adapted driver’s seat which was also controlled via a key fob. It moved back and swung round. I transferred to the seat with the aid of a foot stool, and I was reassured that a fixed step could be installed to aid my transfer. Once in the driver’s seat I could find a good driving position as the seat moved forwards and backwards, and up and down at the touch of a button. The assessor was fantastic and made sure that all of the driving controls were in reach. I was concerned about the seatbelt as I have limited reach, but the assessor reassured me that things like clips could be affixed to the driver’s door to hold the seat belt in a position I could reach.
Everything was thoroughly explained, from the weight of the power steering to the fact that there was an under-bonnet fire extinguishing system. It seemed that everything had been thought of, and everything could be tweaked, or solutions found to any issue. I felt very confident that this was the solution I needed , and it went above and beyond my expectations.
One issue I asked about (which was more of a wish than an absolute requirement) was the option of quick release driving adaptations. Currently my wife and I have to use two vehicles but ideally, we would prefer to run just one as this would be cheaper. The assessor surprised me by saying they had done a WAV conversion in the past for a man and wife where the wife had short stature, and both could drive the vehicle. I was delighted to learn that this was a possibility. He agreed on the spot that this would be requested. He also came up with ideas that I had not thought of, including a mirror inside the van to help me reverse my powerchair to the lift, puncture sealant for the tyres and a handy sunshade strip for the windscreen.
The assessor explained that the conversion would be in two stages. Stage 1 would be the conversion of the base vehicle to a WAV, installing the lift, the electric driver’s seat, and other bespoke fittings by Lewis Reed. Stage 2 would be the fitting of the driving controls (enabling me to drive) which would be done by Jim Doran Hand Controls, a company who had adapted three of my previous cars.
The tailgate and lift were operated by a remote key fob which meant I was able to get into the back of the WAV easily.
The final stage of the assessment involved me taking the assessor out in my current car to watch me drive and see if he could think of anything else I may need. He photographed the existing adaptations in my BMW, and we set off for a 10-minute drive. We agreed that we had covered everything, and we were both happy with the assessment. He advised that he would write up and submit his assessment to Motability and recommend we go ahead with the Volkswagen Shuttle ‘Drive From’ solution and that Motability would be in touch soon.
I was so relieved. As with all assessments for vehicles I always worry that the vehicle will be unsuitable or that compromises would have to be made in order to get me driving. This was not the case this time, and the solution certainly exceeded my expectations. I felt that real independence was a step closer.
After a few weeks Motability got in touch to say that everything from the assessment had been accepted and Lewis Reed would be in touch to ask me to choose a colour before they placed the order with Volkswagen (I went for Ravenna Blue!).
Due to the semi-conductor shortage the van took several months to arrive at the converters, but Lewis Reed kept me updated throughout. They completed stage 1 towards the end of 2021 and the van was moved over to Jim Doran Hand Controls. On the 20th December I had an appointment to be measured for the driving controls, which was when I finally got to see my new WAV.....and it looked great!