wheelchair user Conor Smyth beside his car after he passed his driving testDisability Action's Mobility Centre is the only centre of its kind in Ireland and is committed to promote the independence of people with disabilities by offering advice and assessment on all aspects of personal mobility. The Mobility Centre has a fleet of automatic vehicles with various adaptations/modifications offering driving lessons throughout major towns in Northern Ireland. Connor Smyth tells us his driving with DA story.

When I started my driving experience in April 2013, it was an intimidating experience I had waited quite a while for adaptations, fittings and so on to be ready now I had a car and was about to meet a complete stranger who had never met me to start driving.

I was told he was from Belfast and his name was Andy he was nice, understanding and had no qualms or awkwardness around disability which helped and we got on great from the first minute.

Learning was quite difficult at times as I was going out after a 9 hour day to drive in dark and wet conditions more often than not but Andy was calm which in turn kept me calm and was always understanding I had low stamina at times which was great.

As with anyone, not just disabled persons learning to drive I was nervous, anxious, excited, worried and more.  Every week we made some sort of progress big or small and eventually the test came and all these emotions were there and ten times more so! Thankfully Andy calmed me before the test and I was relaxed going into it as he gave me great confidence, I was ready and I was lucky enough to pass with 3 minors first time!

When I passed it felt like the best day possible I felt like I had gained so much independence no waiting on lifts, needing lifted in and out of cars on relying on taxi services I could go to work, go out or whatever notion I took.  It’s very empowering and means I can socialise more and make the most of life now that I do not have to miss going out somewhere with friends or family.

The freedom is just excellent I have so much confidence on the road now and save so much money and effort not having to organise a taxi service, friend or family to collect me and I owe a lot to Andy my instructor for that.

For more information on Disability Action's Mobility Centre and all aspects of driving, visit the Mobility Centre web page