Professional offroad driving for power-chair user in UK?
February 25, 2011 3:04 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a professional offroad driving facility in the UK that caters - well and without fuss - for disabled people and particularly for power-chair users.

There are plenty of places, including I think some run by or linked with Land Rover, where you can go and drive a Landie or a Land Cruiser on rough terrain for a day. I'd like to do this and I'm sure they are excellent. But supposing you are, say, a power chair user (or a member of your family is) and your usual, or only, mode of driving is in a specially-adapted vehicle in which your chair takes the place of the usual drivers' seat and you just sit there and, well, drive? So what I'd be looking for is really quite a specialized place where they know all this stuff. Adapted controls might well be an issue and so might automatic transmission (can you even do offroad driving with an automatic gearbox?) but the real showstopper would be securing the chair - basically it's going to need a proper clamping system (humongous electronic clamp with V-jaws engages with monster pin on chair as it's driven in - big satisfying clunk and you're done) or it's not going to happen.

Does such a place exist in the UK? In Yurrup? In the world? I don't know, but would certainly like to.

My worry is that if you approach a conventional offroad driving school, they will have plenty of goodwill and enthusiasm but little of the appropriate skill or specialist knowledge. The last thing we'd want is to approach it on a cheerful have-a-go basis, where nice, cardiganed blokes called Jim try to tell you it'll be OK if we tie the chair down with baler twine and some climbing ropes, and work the controls with a stick. And they understand disability because they broke their ankle once. They will be lovely, motivated massively by goodwill and really trying to help, and it will be a complete and humiliating disaster, and I really don't want to go there. Believe me.

In the meantime, is the facility I seek actually out there somewhere? It will be wholly professional and will have a good knowledge of disability and vehicle engineering related to it. I would almost bet that the MD or the senior instructor or the chief mechanic or someone is themselves a power chair user, 'cos that's how they have the knowledge to make a really good job of it. Something like that anyway. There'll be no fussing, busking it, or baler twine, because they have the skills, knowledge and kit to just get on with it. And they don't tell you about their broken ankle.

Does this place exist? Where is it, please? :)
posted by vogel to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total)
I'm sorry if I sound pre-emptively hostile about the goodwill and Jim and his cardie and baler twine. It's just that I know how nice and willing people are to muddle through and help, but it just isn't always the right thing; and this is one of those occasions. I'm not looking for a place where they're willing to give it a bash because they're nice, but a place where they do it well, all the time, because it's their stock-in-trade. I know it might not exist, but I do want to try to find it!
posted by vogel at 3:05 AM on February 25, 2011

Maybe this company would be able to help.
posted by essexjan at 3:48 AM on February 25, 2011

BigBoysToys says that Virgin Experience Days offers rallying at a "the only fully equipped disabled rally driving school in the country". The Virgin Experience Days website is a mess to navigate, though, so I've not been able to find out further details. Not quite off-roading, but rough terrain.
posted by essexjan at 4:00 AM on February 25, 2011

More on the disabled rallying. The website for pararallying is down, but there's a phone number for the guy who started it.
posted by essexjan at 4:04 AM on February 25, 2011

Disabled Explorers are all about disabled persons going off road. They are US-based, but know people all over and might be able to hook you up.
posted by Harald74 at 4:13 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thank you all so much for your help. I have followed up on everything and sadly it has not really unearthed anything major, yet. The UK things are not what I am looking for and the US one has not responded to an enquiry, though to be fair his website does say he is trying to get out of the business and move to Australia, so fair enough.

I am of course going to go on looking but my preliminary conclusion is that what I am looking for does not exist in the UK. It was always a bit of an outside chance and you can see that economic and perhaps medical/safety issues would make it perhaps a difficult field to get into, and in which to prosper.

I am VERY VERY grateful for the responses. Thanks again.
posted by vogel at 12:30 AM on April 11, 2011

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