Richard from Pirate FM's Pirate 2 visited us last week to record material for the Pirate 2 Health and Wellbeing Show, which we feature on every fortnight. Richard spoke to Ron from our Driving Department, Steve and Kieran from our Workshops and Shawn from our Independent Living department, learning about what happens during a driving assessment, how we fit adaptations to vehicles and what equipment is available to help people stay mobile at home and out and about. You can listen to the broadcast by clicking 'play' below.
Richard: Thanks, Isha. Well, I’m here outside Cornwall Mobility at the North Buildings on the site of the Royal Cornwall Hospital - about to go in and meet Edward to find out what it’s like to visit Cornwall Mobility and see the services they have to offer. So let’s go inside and meet Edward. So now I’ve just walked through the doors, I’m entering into reception. Hi, is this Brenda?
Brenda: Yes, it is.
Richard: Hi, Brenda. I’m here to see Edward to have a look around Cornwall Mobility.
Brenda: Oh, OK. Welcome! And I’ll just go and get Edward for you and let him know that you’re here.
Richard: So I’m just seeing Edward and Ron, who are arriving now. Hi, Edward.
Edward: Hi Richard, nice to see you again.
Richard: Fantastic, great to be here at Cornwall Mobility. We’re joined by Ron as well.
Ron: Hello, Richard. Welcome.
Richard: And I know you’ve both been on the show before so we’re going to have a look around the buildings and see the facilities you’ve got to offer, and meet some of the staff.
Edward: Yeah, great.
Ron: Should we start in our driving department?
Richard: Driving department sounds good. Let’s go that way. So which department are we in now?
Ron: So we’re in the driving department, and in this department, we can actually assess individuals for their basic driving needs. We have here a static assessment rig, which we can use to look at things like steering strength, breaking strength, reaction times. It’s also fitted with some adapted controls so drivers can actually have a play with adapted controls before we take our life in our hands and put them in a real life car on the road.
Richard: So just looking at it now, for the listeners, this looks like I’m standing outside of a car. We’ve got everything here. We’ve got the driver’s seat, we’ve got the console and the steering wheel. So it’s kind of like a simulator, one would imagine.
Ron: It’s exactly like that. Although we don’t have a screen with a road scene or anything like that on it, it does have all of the working components - the accelerator, the brake, the steering - it all works. And also, as I said, we’ve got adapted controls which override things like the accelerator and the brake. So for example, if somebody needed to drive using a hand-operated accelerator and brake, they would use a lever such as this. So if I was to pull this lever towards us, that would override the accelerator pedal, and if I pushed it away, that would override the brake pedal.
Richard: So that’s a lever just underneath the steering wheel. You just literally pull or push forward, very conveniently located there.
Ron: Absolutely. That’s one form of adapted controls for somebody who couldn’t use conventional driving controls, and there are lots of others. We actually assess, in this department, for the use of the controls. We can then put them in the car so that they can drive live using the controls. And then further down the line, if they need it, we can actually adapt either their own vehicle or a vehicle they have acquired through Motability, as an example, in our workshops, which we will actually take you over to and you can have a look at shortly.
Richard: Okay. What other facilities have you got within this?
Ron: We’ve actually a swivel-seat mechanism on it as well, so if somebody is having difficulty accessing the vehicle, we can actually swivel the seat around to make getting in and out of the car easier.
Richard: That’s brilliant - so the actual seat has rotated 90 degrees, facing now the driver’s door, so if someone was having mobility issues, they can sit down and twist the seat back into driving position.
Ron: Indeed. And what that does is gives them easier access in and out of the vehicle. The limitation with this is still, though, that somebody needs to be able to lift their feet off the ground. The seat will be able to swivel the body around 90 degrees and make stepping out of the car and stepping into the car a little bit easier, but doesn’t help if they can’t actually physically lift their feet.
Richard: So as far as the driving assessment process, if I came here into Cornwall Mobility, what would be the process that I would undergo?
Ron: Well, people come here for various reasons, and we have several levels of assessment. If we start off with our sort of basic level assessment, where somebody is perhaps getting a little bit older, losing confidence in their driving ability and that sort of stuff, we work in conjunction Cornwall Council Road Safety Division, and we can do things called Drive Safe For Longer assessment. That is purely we meet in and greet, check the driving license, check eyesight, go out for a drive, very often in the client’s own car, drive for about forty minutes, stop and have a chat, chat about any improvements that they might be able to make to their basic driving skills and then drive a little bit further and then just have a debrief at the end of that. Moving on from that, we can assess people who have limb impairments and can’t use one or more conventional driving controls, and we can bring them in, use this rig or use the car, and they can actually then have some practice at using adapted controls, and where necessary, they can do a course of tuition to actually make sure they are safe in the use of those controls. The higher level assessment is where there is some doubt about someone’s driving safety, possibly because of a medical condition or head injury or something like that they’ve received in which case we might use an occupational therapist and do some cognitive screening to make sure that from a neurological point of view, there is nothing that is going to affect their ability to judge speed and distance and that sort of thing, and that again would include driving one of our cars round a pre-determined route.
Richard: Fantastic! Right, so let’s move on to our next site. Where are we going to next?
Ron: We’re going to go to the workshops where we can talk about fitting vehicle adaptations and service and repair of mobility vehicle, and that sort of thing.
Richard: Where are we now?
Ron: We’re in the Vehicle Adaptations Workshop. So when somebody’s had an assessment and they may need adapted controls, we can fit those controls either to our client’s own car or to a car that they have sourced through the charity Motability. This is one of our technicians, Steven, who actually fits and services the adaptations.
Richard: So Steven, it’s like being in a garage.
Steven: It is. We’ve got a ramp so that we can lift vehicles up, we’ve got four workshop facilities here. We’ve got a small welding and fabrication bay at the back there, if we need to make any equipment. And this, like Ron said, this is where we do all the vehicle adaptations.
Richard: So this is where a customer would bring their car in, and as you say you’ve got the ramps here and you’ve got all the facilities - you can lift the car up. So as far as the adaptations you would do here, what would be the main ones?
Ron: Mainly driving and controls. You’ve been over and seen the Driving Assessment Centre. So they would get an assessment, refer to here and we would fit the adaptations. Starting from the front of the car, we would fit basic set of driving adaptations - these would be hand controls - basically a lever that’s attached under the steering wheel, and you’d have a rod going to the brake pedal and a cable coming from the accelerator pedal. And you would push the handle forward to brake, and pull to accelerate. We can do away with the mechanical side of the acceleration and fit a little lever on the main attachment, and you can have an electronic throttle. Other things we do - we can fit a steering ball onto the steering wheel, which has a small keypad which will do up to eighteen functions, which will do the vipers, the indicators, the lights and any switching for people that have dexterity problems. There is a lot of cars nowadays, they will have multi-switches and that sort of thing - it’s just like a little texting pad on the steering wheel. We can fit electronic handbrake for people that can’t use a manual brake, although that is becoming less because a lot more cars are having standard electronic brakes. We can fit a variety of seating equipment, ranging from a manual swivel seat that will come out and turn. We can do an electric seat that will also come out and turn, but will also drop down to the floor, and sometimes attach to a wheelchair base. Moving to the rear of the car, we fit hoist to the back of the car to lift a wide variety of scooters, wheelchairs and powerchairs. These usually range from 40 kg right up to 200 kg. If you have a bigger vehicle - say you have a Volkswagen T5 or a van-based vehicle, we can also fit a hydraulic tail-lift to that vehicle if you’ve got a big power chair and you use the vehicle for access through the rear doors. So we do a wide range of varieties from front to rear of the car, and it’s all on our website and on our catalogue, so you can see what you get. As we said earlier, every client is assessed so that whatever they fit is fit for purpose.
Richard: The car you’re working on at the moment - this is a Ford...
Ron: This is a Ford Escort. We’re actually going to put a 120 kg hoist here because a client just got a large power chair. So we will fit the hoist at the back of the car, usually by a kit that is vehicle specific. We fit it in so it’s wired from the battery, and there’s not a lot of it to go wrong really. And it’s a four-way so the client has very little input. They can lift the chair up, put the car in - put the chair in the back of the car, rather, with very little input. The only disadvantage with something like that is that it needs quite a bit of space, so you may lose a few of the seats in the back row, hence, a lot of people buy quite a large car like this to get over that problem.
Richard: And you can fit to all makes of cars, can you?
Ron: Yeah, I would say virtually all makes. Most are manufacturers that we deal with - they will do a vehicle-specific kit. If not, we can have a universal kit that will fit in the vehicle. The same applies to driving assessment - we can do a hoist assessment so that we know that the client can buy the right car for their chair.
Richard: We’re only partway through our visit around Cornwall Mobility, but Edward, just remind people where you are if they want to come visit you.
Edward: We’re based on the Treliske site, just at the back of the hospital. You go past the helicopter pad and the windsock up there. And we’re at North Buildings. The best way to find us is to go on our website, which is www.cornwallmobility.co.uk. To ring up ahead is a good idea. It’s 01872 for Truro, 254920 - THAT’S 254920 - 01872 254920. We’re always delighted to see people. We can show people around, talk about what issues they may have or might perceive within their family, but I can’t emphasize enough the difference which our Centre makes compared to other outlets, is that we always do an assessment first - whether it’s in the field of driving, continuing to drive, that type of thing, or if it’s in independent living, and the need for provision of equipment such as a wheelchair or bathroom equipment. And an assessment is just a chat.
Richard: That’s great. And next week, we’ll look at the service, maintenance and repair area of independent living and mobility equipment, including wheelchairs and scooters. So that’s next week, but for now, Edward, thank you very much.