Most of you will know I have fibromyalgia/cfs. I also have osteoarthritis, IBS, loads of allergies, chronic widespread tendonitis, bursitis… I’m in pain somewhere every day. I’m not fishing for sympathy, it’s just the way it is.
I recently underwent a reassessment for my entitlement to PIP and this time they accepted how difficult I find…everything, but especially standing and walking. I can’t stand for more than twenty seconds without my back screaming at me and my hips make walking very difficult. And when my arms/shoulder/hands are flaring, which is often, using my walking stick or walker causes more problems than they solve.
You can imagine how relieved I was to be awarded the enhanced rate of mobility payment which means I qualify for a Motability car.
I have driven a Fiat for years because they have the most wonderful feature called City Steering. At the touch of a button your car turns into a dodgem, capable of being steered using one finger. This is a godsend for someone with arm and shoulder pain.
I called a local Motability dealer and asked about a Fiat 500X: a little bigger than my Panda but still on the compact side. I explained about how important City Steering was to me but, surprisingly, they’d never heard of it. The superlight steering must surely be a huge plus for disabled people, I thought, but I was assured by the Motability salesperson that their Fiat specialist said that the car I wanted definitely had City Steering. So we proceeded and today I was supposed to go and pick up my new car. Until, that is, I got a call from said specialist to say that there was no City Steering button but that the steering was adaptive, making it lighter at low speeds that rest assured, I could still park using one finger on the wheel. Which isn’t what I wanted and isn’t what I asked for.
It took a few phone calls to make the sales manager understand that I wanted City Steering on ALL the time, not just for parking. They just couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to drive a dodgem 24/7. This is ableism at it’s finest.
I know these people have had training. They knew to ask about adaptations like a scooter lift, and whether I needed an automatic gearbox (while it would be nice, I can usually manage gears as my right side is hugely worse than my left). These are issues they can imagine themselves needing should they ever be in a similar position. But anything outside the tramlines of their training just wouldn’t occur to them.
And why should it? I’m not being overly critical of the people I dealt with. When they realised their mistake they couldn’t have been more apologetic and helpful, and they suggested viable alternatives, sending a video of each suggestion. What it does illustrate is that the car industry should be more inclusive in hiring disabled people to work in Motability. At the very least they should be talking more to disabled folk to fully understand what our needs are and what they can do to make informed choices available to us.
I am exhausted. I didn’t shower this morning because I knew picking up my car would tire me out. Nor did I shower yesterday because I wanted to edit and submit a story and I just don’t have the energy to do both. If anything, having to deal with the City Steering kerfuffle was worse than having to go and pick it up. All I want to do now is snuggle under my blanky and have a nap.
In the end I decided to go ahead with a Tipo. It’s nothing like as characterful as the 500X, but it DOES have full City Steering. And like I said, that’s the most important feature for me.