Fulfilling Driving Ambitions

Unathi Mabovana
Sarah Nkgeng, paraplegic employee of Primedia

Fulfilling Driving Ambitions

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

Her story was shared with Wayne Duvenage, chief executive of Avis Rent a Car, by Simon Gear of 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.

Driving Ambitions is a School of Excellence, which 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, a specialist occupational therapist, to assist in providing professional and scientific support and expertise.

Unathi Mabovana
Lynn van Vuuren, First Driving Ambitions client

Rule has extensive experience in working with people with disabilities through her consultancy, Rolling Rehab. She will be applying the wealth of knowledge she has accumulated assessing the capabilities of people with disabilities 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. “This is an excellent corporate social investment initiative for corporates, many of which employ disabled people in various positions,” says CEO Barloworld Automotive, Martin Laubscher.

“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! I am confident that a school of this nature will go a long way to dispelling negative public perception and prejudices about disabled people as well as improving the quality of life for the disabled themselves.”

“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 Swartkops 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 will include a broad spectrum of people with disabilities.

Unathi Mabovana
Caroline Rule, Occupational Therapist, Disability Driving Consultant, Rolling Inspiration Journalist with Avis employee, Siyanda Manjanja

“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. The employment opportunities arising from the success of this project must also be acknowledged.”

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

The news of Driving Ambitions and the eventual Centre of Excellence will be brought to the attention of those who could benefit through Rolling Inspirations.

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 a new independence and open up opportunities and new dimensions of life for them.”

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