Disabled driving event held in Norwich

A Norfolk-based charity has launched a new campaign to encourage disabled youngsters to learn to drive so they can enjoy greater independence and increased opportunities.

Disabled youngsters can learn to drive a year before their able-bodied peers, and an event was held in Norwich today to raise awareness of the options available to them and to help them into the work place or take up further education.

The 'Get Going' event was organised by Ashwellthorpe-based UK disabled motorists charity Mobilise and held at Open in Bank Plain.

Among those urging disabled youngsters to learn how to drive was wheelchair-bound Hen Freeman, a 17-year-old originally from Milton Keynes, who is training to compete in the javelin and discus competitions at the 2016 Paralympics games.

She has sent off for a provisional driving licence and aims to learn as soon as she receives it.

She said: 'I have always been very outgoing and I'm lucky to have had the opportunities I have had, but other people are not so lucky. I'm here to tell young people that they can learn to drive at 16.

'My mum acts as my taxi driver at the moment, so I really need to drive. If I could, I would go out with friends and to training and be even more independent than I already am.'

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The event was also attended by Richard Fox, who is training for the 2012 Paralympics games UK seven-a-side cerebral palsy team. He said his new adapted car was a 'fantastic thing to have. If I could inspire someone in the room to learn how to drive, that would be brilliant'.

Driving inspector Rob Sweeting specialises in teaching disabled youngsters and believes that learning to drive can empower youngsters to improve all aspects of their lives.

He said: 'Too often disabled youngsters hear the word 'no' and as a society we have to change that perception, creating 'yes's' where previously there were only 'no's'.

'Disability is not necessarily a bar to driving and learning to drive can teach a level of independence which can be lacking within the general education system, whilst also opening doors to a whole raft of new experiences including further education and employment possibilities.'

Disabled motorists can take advantage of a range of automatic and manual transmission vehicles, featuring an assortment of alterations. The automatic includes electronic controls, a steering spinner and can effectively be driven with one hand and one foot, or even with no feet at all.

There are 770,000 disabled children under the age of 16 in the UK, which equates to 1 child in 20.

• Do you know a disabled person who has achieved something remarkable? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk.