Mobility is a right, not a service
Every year, for the past few, the ‘Mobility Roadshow’ has been held at Donington Park, on the Derby/Notts border, and Iain Robertson has been an ‘interested bystander’ but, for 2015, a fresh focus has drawn his attention.
My next door neighbour’s wife informed me of a fairly frequent occurrence the other day. Attempting to make the self-service till at a local supermarket spark into logical life, a technical glitch was barring her progress. Her husband, in an inevitable rush to get out of the retail environment, asked her what was the problem. Not being a electronic cash register engineer, she highlighted that she had not the foggiest, to which he responded gruffly and carelessly, “Oh, come on, you ‘spaz’, get it paid and let’s get out of here!”
As humans, we tend to speak first and think later; it is a popular trait. I am not pointing fingers, because I have stepped in the doo-doo personally in similar circumstances and casting stones has never been my prerogative. However, it might have been beneficial for her husband to have been a tad more circumspect. Standing at the adjacent till, experiencing similar payment issues, was a young chap wearing shorts and a single ‘bionic’ limb. While the young fellow was mildly bemused, my neighbour’s husband was appropriately embarrassed by his chuckaway insult.
No harm was intended. None appeared to be taken. Yet, guilt reigned supreme. In many ways, this is the notional equivalent to your granny arriving home in a wheelchair, after several weeks spent recuperating post-operatively in hospital, to be greeted by other family members asking questions in the third-party…”Is she okay?”…”Is she still eating well?”…and so on. Of course, the alternative treatment is for the old man with walking sticks propping himself up at a Belisha beacon, only to be guided unquestioningly across the road by a willing (and able) youngster, even though he was only taking a breather and wanted to remain on that side of the road.
The simple and basic truth is that very few of us know how to react to other humans with impaired mobility. We are afraid to be seen to be too eager to help, as a rebuttal can often be shocking; we do not wish to be ‘intrusive’, for similar reasons and communication suddenly proves awkward. Yet, we need to be aware that, while young people can be afflicted with mobility issues, we do live in a fast-aging population, where longer life expectancy, regardless of health problems, regardless of any disability, can mean that there is an increasing number of those bloody annoying mobility scooters and buggies providing a degree of independence to people, who might not necessarily be out and about otherwise.
Yet, just because I have no requirement of a perambulator, push-chair, buggy, or other means of mobility aid, should not mean that I ignore them for the sake of my personal sanctity. The Mobility Roadshow aims to address many of those issues for people. Yes, there are all manner of electric pavement vehicles, hoists, lifts and innumerable aids on show but there is an all-pervading desire to provide the ultimate mobility of the private car to the individual, who might not normally be enabled access to one. As a means to providing the most accessible modes of transport and removing even more barriers, charities such as Motability, Motability Choice and DMUK have worked tirelessly to improve services and enhance the opportunities.
Yet, there is more taking place at Donington Park this summer, as the ‘Get Going Live!’ test-driving event will be taking place within the confines of the renowned racing circuit. A totally free event, it is aimed at people aged 15 years and over, who are keen to get behind the steering wheel of an accessible or adapted vehicle. Each vehicle will feature dual-controls and a specialist instructor, to assure parents and guardians of their offsprings’ safety, while major players like Ford Motor Company, Hyundai Cars and Vauxhall Motors are providing suitably converted models.
I have long believed that every school curriculum should have space for ’driver education’, just as they do in North America, Japan and China. However, young people with disabilities can obtain a car licence at the age of 16 years in the UK, a full year prior to their able-bodied friends. Imagine how popular they would be at their local school, or club, if only they realised it. As an ideal means to driving independence, I applaud the organisers for making it happen.
However, being present in this motor racing haven is something with which Aaron Morgan, the UK’s only disabled racing driver in the Production BMW Championship, is highly familiar. He is the Ambassador for the Show and is keen to encourage all young visitors to participate in the test programme. I can only mirror his enthusiasm for the event. Potential ‘test drivers’ are asked to pre-register their interest on the show’s website (mobilityroadshow.co.uk) not least because the demand on the days it is held is sure to be high. Alternatively, contact NFE Group, which is sponsoring the event, on: 01332-810007 and it will provide you with more information and booking details.
The Mobility Roadshow and Get Going Live! are being held at Donington Park Exhibition Centre, just off the M1 motorway, from Thursday 25th to Saturday 27th June 2015. Access and parking are free of charge.