What do you write about as a mobility ambassador for Ford when you are stuck inside during lock down? I have thought about this long and hard through my 11 weeks in isolation (to date) whilst trying to balance work, family, exercise and a suspected case of Covid 19. But it was only when on one of my daily wheels around the estate to get some exercise, with our one year old on my knee, that it came to me. In passing, at a safe distance, a neighbour asked my how I was coping with the lock down. My reply came before I had really had chance to process it – “I’ve been stuck in a wheelchair for 24 years and now I am stuck in the house”. It was a strange response for me but as I wheeled back home and into the drive it was with renewed hope and a sense of calm. This feeling came from the sight of my Ford Tourneo Connect sitting, gathering dust, on the drive. For, whilst I am stuck in lock down for now, I know that my freedom, mobility, and hope lie on the drive. The ability to throw my chair into the car and travel wherever I like is so close. Just knowing that, and that its ready to go if there is an emergency, is enough to keep me motivated through the lock down and to give me hope that it will once again become my lifeline when restrictions ease.
I have been an ambassador for Ford now for 20 years and never in that time have I spent this long without driving. For 20 years my adapted Ford has been my vehicle for so many things, allowed me to go to so many places, meet so many people, and to create a wealth of experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.
Ever since my accident in 1996 I have believed that this was not the end of one life, but the start of a new one. A new lease of life. Getting my first Motability car was exactly that. The new life it gave me, and opportunities it opened, were incredible. I must have tried every sport from crown green bowls to midnight sledge hockey, visited so many friends and places, took holidays I never imagined possible and driven to places and races with carloads of equipment and people. When I look back at that early exploration into my new life, nearly every memory involved my car. Not all the memories of that early vehicle are ones I cherish. It was too small; I exceeded my mileage limit and it cost me a fortune, and my fuel bill went through the roof. I learnt so much in those first 3 years after my accident and that first car allowed me to do so much that I can’t hold a grudge against it. However, what I realised is the importance of getting the right vehicle on the Motability scheme. Not just from the outset, but with a view of how your needs may change over the 3-year life of the lease. No one has a crystal ball but there are certain things you can make allowances for – children, wheelchairs, sports equipment, passengers…. the list goes on. This list is also different for each of us and our needs vary greatly.
My second car was a Ford Mondeo estate. Suddenly life took another leap forward and more possibilities opened. The practicality, comfort and range of the fuel tank meant I could now do more sports, travel further without having to stop to refill the tank, and carry friends and family. Racing chairs, throwing frames, physio tables, physios, friends, family and furniture all went into the Mondeo and moved from place to place. It allowed me to set up my new home, move to a new house, train and compete in sporting events and to start to rebuild my relationships with friends and family. It was a breath of fresh air and a lifeline for me.
As I was now in the lucky position of being an ambassador for Ford I had the opportunity to help other people with their first Motability car choice, or to assist those who were changing vehicle to give them the benefit of my experiences and knowledge of both the Ford range and disability. So, the journey with Ford began. Over the years there have been some incredible experiences as a Ford ambassador. Each year I have been able to make a difference to peoples lives, through their choice of vehicle and the help the team at Ford have been able to offer. It amazes me that some 20 years later Ford are the only forward-thinking manufacturer to have people with disabilities on their stand at the Motability events. It seemed ground-breaking 20 years, but now it just seems like common sense. I often ask myself if I have made a difference to the event, to what Ford offer, to the help we can provide. Every year the answer is “yes”. It may be just one person whose life is significantly improved through helping them into the right vehicle, or just avoiding them ending up in the wrong one. I love it when people return to the Ford stand and thank me for my help in previous years. This is what makes it such a great journey to be part of.
On our daily wheels my 1 year old has taken to waving at people as they pass by. Mostly to drivers of lorries, buses and delivery trucks in the hope they will wave back, or even better still, give us a beep of their horn. At first, I was little self-conscious and reserved about waving at strangers. However, as the days have gone by, I am embracing that greeting and the toot of a horn. The best one so far was the vibrant parp that came from the friendliest looking chap driving the most magnificent vintage Ford. The following day we found the same car parked around the corner from where we live so we decided to capture the magnificence of this vehicle and the moment.
As the lock down has gone on, I have realised how kind Ford have been to me and how privileged I am to be able to help others with their Mobility and freedom. At Ford Mobility matters and people rely on their vehicles like I do to give them their independence and freedom. When we are finally able to get back in our cars and enjoy the open road again, I will raise my hat, or give a wave, to my fellow Ford drivers as we celebrate being part of the journey of life.