Driving experience for people living with sight loss shows you can pursue your passions
Here our blogger Ben talks about his experience of living with sight loss and what it meant to experience driving for the first time at Galloway's Driving Day.
Hi, my name is Ben and I am a 17-year-old visually impaired person. I have a condition known as Retinal Dystrophy. This means that the retina (back of my eye) does not work as well as that of other people. I have very little peripheral vision and limited central vision. My condition is genetic and I have had it since birth. As you can imagine, this condition has posed me many challenges throughout my life so far, as I am sure has been the case for many reading this blog who are affected by sight loss. But this has not stopped me from getting involved in lots of activities and following my passions.
I attended a mainstream primary and secondary school and now attend a mainstream college where I am studying a level 3 Computing and IT course. Throughout primary and secondary school, I received lots of great support which included a laptop which I used for completing classwork. But as I still find it very difficult to type due to my reduced vision I also have teaching assistants in all my lessons, who have helped prepare work for me to ensure it is in the most accessible format and ensure that I do not fall behind in lessons.
Because of this support, I have been able to study a full set of GCSEs, which neither me or many of the people, who have and still support me, would ever have thought was possible.
The support I received while I was studying for my GCSEs and the preparation that was put in place ready for the exams, including a 100% additional time allowance and modified papers, meant I was able to achieve high grades and go on to follow my dreams.
My college has a work placement requirement and I decided to contact Galloway’s to see if they would be able to accommodate me. I believed they would be more understanding of my visual impairment than most other organisations. I thought others may feel a little overwhelmed at the thought of having to cater for someone living with sight loss.
While on my work placement at Galloway’s, I have had the chance to play an important part within the organisation in many ways. I’ve helped out at drop in IT sessions at the Preston and Morecambe centres, I’ve also helped to share my thoughts on how Galloway’s could reach more young people like myself.
Recently, I helped out at Galloway’s Driving Day at the Three Sisters Race Circuit in Wigan. This day gives people living with sight loss the opportunity to be driven around a race track in high performance cars, as well as getting the chance to drive cars round the track under the supervision of qualified driving instructors.
I also got to take part and I really enjoyed being driven around the track in the Porsches, as these were the cars of the highest performance and were therefore capable of the fastest accelerations, thanks to many having over 300 horse power. As well as having a love for IT, I am also a theme park enthusiast and many of the forces I experienced while being driven in these cars were similar to that of some of the roller coasters I have experienced. This is especially true in the case of one Porsche, that was capable of reaching 90mph on this circuit.
Being a visually impaired person, I really enjoyed having the opportunity to drive a car. Due to the nature of sight loss, driving a car is something that visually impaired people would not usually have the opportunity to do and therefore this experience felt very special to me.
Many of my peers at college are taking driving lessons and I feel that this experience has helped me to feel less left out. It proves that just because you are visually impaired, it does not mean that you cannot participate in everyday life and that there are always ways that activities can be adapted.
I felt quite nervous at the start of the experience because I was unaware of the responsiveness of the car and that I was worried that I might drive off course. However, I was able to quickly adjust to the controls of the car and after a couple of laps around the track, I was able to drive around it with very little assistance, reaching speeds of around 60mph on a long straight section of the track.
I really enjoyed this experience and would definitely like to drive a car again at some point in the future.
I would recommend that anyone living with sight loss should consider attending a Galloway’s Driving Day. I found the day to be really accessible and I think it is guaranteed to be enjoyable for all.