So, you've checked you're allowed to drive and you've found out about any adaptations you might need to help you to drive more easily. Now, it's time to actually learn to drive! Excited? I spoke to Chris Kingsley, a specialist driving instructor from Queen Elizabeth's Foundation for Disabled People
about his career, and about the extra challenges that disabled people can face when learning to drive. Chris is an ADI lead at QEF Mobility Services
and is based on Carshalton. I started by asking him what made him interested in teaching disabled people to drive.
I enjoy being a driving instructor, for that reason I’ve always attended training courses to improve my skills. When I went to QEF for the three day course to teach people with disabilities I was amazed at how little I knew and how the training fitted nicely with the teaching I was already doing. I became keen to learn more. Luckily for me I lived close enough to offer to take on some of their pupils.
What challenges do you think disabled learner drivers face that non disabled learners do not?
Many driving instructors fear disability and the challenges can be numerous for example: For some, even deafness seems an impossible and specialist task, for others they can be a little gung ho and not consider the reason their pupil is deaf and any other impairment that might be associated with deafness so they might not ask the right questions. Because driving instructors who have had some training are often far apart there can be implications with travelling time for the instructor which they often pass onto the pupil in terms of cost. The person with a disability also needs to prepare for their first driving lesson better as they may need an assessment to find out which controls they need. Finding a driving instructor with adaptations can be difficult and if anything more than hand controls or a left foot accelerator is needed then tuition may need a weekly trip to a mobility centre or learning from their own vehicle which has cost implications. Cognitive difficulties may require particular teaching techniques which is not part of the statutory training for becoming a driving instructor.
There are many different types of disability and impairment. How does your training equip you to work with people who could have any condition from deafness to paralysis?
I’m extremely lucky at QEF, we have a team of occupational therapists and very experienced driving instructors to ask questions of, we hold regular meetings to review our work and consider our pupils' needs, there are opportunities for someone to sit in on a driving lesson and the progress of pupils is monitored to make sure people continue learning. Also, I have attended and continue to attend various training courses and meet people with a range of disabilities on a daily basis.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I enjoy the variety of my job. Mostly, I am a driving assessor and we are looking to enable someone to drive either for the first time or to return to driving after an illness or trauma. Driving is a life skill and can be an important part of someone’s rehabilitation, a return to normal and it can be a help in finding employment.
What is your experience of teaching disabled drivers like? How would you describe it?
For the most part it’s fun. I have had one or two hairy moments however, once someone is sitting down and driving you mostly don’t notice any impairment. The smile is just as broad on test pass for those who are learning to drive for the first time and for experienced drivers who are returning to driving, the relief you see on their faces makes this a very rewarding job.
For further information about Queen Elizabeth Foundation for Disabled People, visit their website