Leighton Buzzard pensioner has independence saved thanks to charity’s adapted car

Christine was helped by HAD at the Disability Resource Centre, Dunstable.
Christine was helped by HAD at the Disability Resource Centre, Dunstable.

A determined Leighton Buzzard woman received “the best 70th birthday present” when a charity made sure she wouldn’t have to hang up her car keys for good.

Christine Simmonds has lived with the genetic muscle disease myotonia congenita since childhood, which causes her muscles to contract and release at the wrong times.

However, when she developed peripheral neuropathy five years ago it looked like the addition of this condition, that hinders movement and flexibility in the ankles and feet, would mean her driving days were over.

Not to be defeated, Christine contacted the charity HAD, of Welwyn Garden City, who arranged for her to learn to drive an adapted car and take a DVLA test - which she recently passed with flying colours.

Christine said: “I can’t wait to jump into my own car and visit friends and family who live further afield. It is so important to me and will make such a difference.”

Christine started her journey at HAD with an initial assessment in October, including strength exercises and an eye test.

She then had a go at driving an adapted automatic transmission Vauxhall Mokka fitted with push/pull hand controls, mounted on the right hand side of the steering column.

Driving assessor, Mark Thackeray, explained: “The hand control lever was fitted with an integral switch for operating the indicator signals and Christine steered left handed using a steering ball, mounted at the ten o ’clock position on the steering wheel.”

Christine then had further tuition in the adapted car before meeting a driving assessor and occupational therapist for her test.

HAD provide a number of services for older and disabled people including:an equipment centre with a huge array of mobility products, a driving centre providing lessons and assessments.

Call: 01707 324581 or visit www.hadnet.org.uk