As part of the Trailblazers ‘Access to driving’ investigation I thought I’d write a little about my experiences, Independence and how important it is.
It has been instilled into me from a very young age that it is important to be independent and to be able to rely on myself rather than others when it comes to getting about.
I grew up in the 80’s and there wasn’t much money around but if my parents had a spare ten pound note then that would get you a lot of petrol and therefore got us out. Four children across the back seat of the Ford Cortina and the whole of Britain was ours to be had through its fantastic ‘B’ roads.
This is a tradition that I have kept up with our girls, a few spare pounds and a Sunday could end up being a fantastic and very memorable adventure.
Sometimes though I have to lean on others to get where I need to be, where the car is simply not cost effective and I should be able to count on a public transport system that is here to help. Sometimes that isn’t the case as I found out on Wednesday 23rd October 2013.
I had been asked to attend Parliament with the Muscular Dystrophy Trailblazers and I’d also take it upon myself to visit the Muscular Dystrophy Headquarters and all the staff that work there. Whilst I was there I got to meet other trailblazers and I was glad to hear that I would be grabbing a taxi with Matilda, a fellow trailblazer and also someone who had the same condition as myself; Limb GirdleMuscular Dystrophy. A simple journey and a very short distance too.
The taxi arrived and to get into it we would need the driver to use the ramp on the side of the vehicle to get us in, here is our problem. The taxi driver had no idea how to operate the ramp that could get us into the vehicle, it was extremely frustrating for everyone and time was running out! We were meeting people from the sports and leisure industry as well as our constituent Members of Parliament and other parliamentarians. Luckily I used to be a motor vehicle engineer and realised what the driver needed to do to his vehicle to get the ramp to work and after fifteen minutes we were on our way. Unfortunately we had the very same problem when we arrived at the Houses of Parliament but luckily Police officers do not appreciate people or vehicles loitering in the area so we were given lots of assistance so the taxi could be moved on quickly.
I thought that it was great that the taxi had this facility but very frustrating that the operator didn’t know how to use it. I’m quite glad that this is a mode of transport that I do not have to use daily.
Driving is a very big part of my life, it allows me to travel to football at least once a month and that’s a 330 mile round trip but this brings me social inclusion, everything changes for me on the terraces, for 90 minutes I don’t feel disabled. It also allows me to show our girls so much of Britain just like my father before me. An example of this is the fact that I know exactly where to park in Swanage in Dorset, Leeds in West Yorkshire and even the best place to park right outside the science museum in Central London. Also with this comes appreciation from our 8 year old who says that it’s great that we usually end up somewhere different.
As I previously said I think it is imperative that people become independent and drive as soon as they possibly can. I also realise that this isn’t easy or financially viable for everyone. We have three daughters and our eldest passed her driving test and obtained her licence at the age of 20. We are planning to save for the other two girls to get this opportunity and we see this in a similar way to a university savings account. I personally believe that a driving licence is as important as a passport and a big factor on a Curriculum Vita too.
You can read my blog at http://martinhywood.blogspot.co.uk/ also you can follow me @HywoodMartin The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign @TargetMD and the MDC Trailblazers @MDCTrailblazers on Twitter.