One of the greatest frustrations our spinal cord injury clients report to us is their loss of independence. Transport and vehicles are an essential tool in redressing the balance between pre and post accident life, whether to attend social events, school/college, work, medical appointments or just a trip to the shops. A suitable means of transport is key.
Public transport is possible but will require forward planning. Not all busses, tubes, trains and taxis are wheelchair accessible. Assistance with journeys by rail can be obtained from http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/disabled_passengers.aspx and for the underground on 0845 330 9880 but not every station will have step free access or platforms that are level with the trains. A good tip is getting a contact number for the station so you can call and let them know you are coming!
Typically, having your own means of transport is the best option and gives the greatest freedom. In order to help you achieve the highest level of independence a driving assessment is an ideal starting point. If you are pursuing a case for compensation the assessment can form part of the costs of the claim. The assessment will determine which vehicle best suits your needs as a driver and/or passenger and identify any equipment or adaptations you may require. We have extensive experience in arranging these assessments and building the recommendations into legal claims.
The driving assessment will look at your personal needs in terms of instruction and equipment such as a wheelchair lift & ramp, specialised driving adaptations such as hand controls or electronic driving controls are available. The latter can be mounted anywhere in the vehicle and can be hand, foot, shoulder, elbow, etc, operated. Seating for family, friends and support workers will also be dealt with. Appropriate heating and ventilation are essential as well. Specialist disabled insurance is available, but this is often offered at a higher premium and needs to be considered as part of your legal claim. Likewise roadside assistance (AA, RAC…) gives security in case of breakdown and is also a recoverable cost.
Returning to driving or travelling as a passenger in a suitably adapted vehicle is key to regaining your independence following a spinal cord injury.
Helen Clifford, Solicitor - Leigh Day