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Driving school for the disabled

Driving Ambitions is an organisation devoted to help teach disabled people to drive.

Driving Ambitions is an organisation devoted to help teach disabled people to drive.

Published Mar 31, 2011

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Sarah Nkgeng, a paraplegic employee of Primedia, could never have thought that from an emotionally painful experience in obtaining her driver’s licence, when she was faced with harsh discrimination, could arise a driving school for the disabled. Yet that is exactly what happened.

Her story was shared with Wayne Duvenage, chief executive of Avis Rent a Car, by Simon Gear of radio station 702, and it quickly became the inspiration to him to assemble a team of like-minded partners, including the QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA), Masterdrive and others, who could help those in similar situations to achieve their goals of mobility, and so Driving Ambitions was born.

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The school provides driver assessment and training for people with disabilities. The first vehicle, a Hyundai i20, fitted with permanent hand controls and a dual brake, was sponsored by Avis. QASA is running the project and appointed Caroline Rule, an occupational therapist, to help teach disabled people to drive a specially adapted vehicle.

Barloworld, which counts numerous people with disabilities in its corporate ranks, has already stepped up to the plate with a R150 000 contribution to start Driving Ambitions’ engines.

“Cars with specially adapted hand controls for the disabled are a normal part of our Avis fleet,” says Duvenage. “It seemed logical that Avis should be the driving force behind the initiative.”

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“This is just the first phase of a longer-term vision,” explains Ari Seirlis, national director of QASA. “As the project expands and more sponsors come on board, we intend establishing a Centre of Excellence at Zwartkops Raceway, where people with a range of mobility impairments can be fully and properly assessed and taught to drive using different types of hand controls.

“This type of Centre is quite common in Europe, but a first in South Africa, and it is definitely an excellent solution in assisting people with disabilities to integrate into mainstream society.

When the project reaches this stage, Masterdrive, a driver education company in South Africa, will bring its own expertise to bear, providing the safety element for the programme. “The track and skidpan at Zwartkops will provide excellent facilities for training across a spectrum of eventualities, including potential accidents and hijackings,” explains CEO, Eugene Herbert.

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Sarah herself was ecstatic that her experiences had led to the creation of a project that will benefit other disabled people. “It makes the hurt and opposition I went through worth it,” she says. “It’s wonderful to know that Driving Ambitions will give other disabled people independence.”

The driving school is based in Gauteng for now with a national roll out planned eventually.

For more information contact Driving Ambitions on 0860 Rolling (7655464) or visit their website on www.drivingambitions.co.za

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