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Jason Richards by a car

One Really Big Day

By Jason Richards

This One Big Day at the Harrogate Event Centre started out just the same as in previous years with a stream of people coming through the doors as they opened to see the latest vehicles on the Ford stand and to book their test drives in the adapted vehicles.

The B-MAX and new Tourneo Connect proved to be the real stars of the show.

Like most years there were a range of visitors of all ages and disabilities who we were able to help and advise on vehicles size and shape, performance, economy, adaptations and the pricing structure under the Motability Scheme.

With the new Ford B-MAX and Tourneo Connect being on display we had a large number of people keen to see the benefits of the sliding rear doors on both models and the benefits of the pillar less system on the B-MAX.

As the only motor company who had disabled ambassadors on the stand at the event we met a lot of interesting people and had the opportunity to impart advice from a practical perspective born out of experience.

This was particularly invaluable this year when I started to talk to a teenage girl and her Mum. As we started to chat about spinal injuries, cars and adapting to life with a disability it transpired that the girls Mum is the sister of one of my friends from 20 years ago. As ambassadors we always have an affinity with other spinal injured people but this brought things really close to home. As with many teenagers she had aspirations of a small sporty car and had been advised that she would need a roof box to transport her chair. However, small sporty cars are not the most practical vehicles in the long term for a wheelchair user and being so young and able there seemed no reason why she wouldn’t be able to dismantle and lift her own wheelchair into the car. This would be quicker and if done correctly would not impart wear and tear on her upper body.

It’s always useful to understand the life style of the person who will primarily be using the car and it soon became apparent that this young lady was very independent, would be driving the car on her own and would also want a vehicle big enough to share her life with family and friends. As we chatted about the practicalities of boot capacity I found out that she had never even got into a car since she had been in her wheelchair. I asked if she wanted to try getting into the driver’s seat to see how the hand controls feel and to try lifting her own wheelchair into the car. I explained that Ford were happy for her wheelchair to go close up to the cars on the stand and not to worry about anything. After I demonstrated how I do it and with a little hesitation she had her wheelchair alongside a B-MAX and was transferring across into the driver’s seat. The long opening doors and lack of the door pillar really helped with space to lift the wheelchair in and as she struggled to do it for the first time I recognised a determination and resilience I had felt 19 years ago when faced with the same challenge. 

As she sat at the wheel looking out I noticed an excitement on the young woman’s face as the realisation of what her future may hold and the possibilities set in. Being independent and maintaining your freedom in as a wheelchair can be a daunting prospect when you’ve suddenly found yourself in the world of disability. However, here was a young woman with the same courage and determination I had felt all those years ago. Some people are destined to cope with a disability in a positive, life expanding way and act as a role model to others. I saw so much hope that day for a bright and already successful individual and maybe a future ambassador for Ford. 

Days like these are the reason I enjoy working alongside Ford Motability as one of their ambassadors. Not only that but they remind me of the triumphs I have achieved over the last 19 years but what possibilities still lie ahead for my future. They truly are really big days.