A dream drive

It took a few tweaks for the Mercedes-Benz B-Class to fulfil a wannabe driver’s lifelong ambition

Born without hands, Beatrice Seropo knows that nothing comes easy for her and everything takes heaps of patience and perseverance. She was born with a condition called amelia – where parts of her body never grew properly. Her arms are short, and she has no hands.

When she first started trying to get her driver’s licence and to buy a car, she encountered one obstacle after the next. Living in Rustenburg, she struggled to find a driving school to suit her. The adapted cars of most driving schools accommodate people who are unable to use their legs; but she has normal legs.

While looking for a vehicle to buy, with the guidance of Rolling Rehab, she decided on the Mercedes-Benz B-Class. The banks, however, will not give vehicle finance to people without a licence and Beatrice only had a learner’s licence. So it took many formal motivations and hard work from a very supportive team at Mercedes-Benz Centurion, who assisted Beatrice to find a bank to support her – and Beatrice got her finance.

She had a list of requirements that would make it possible for her to drive, and the B-Class turned out to tick all the boxes. It is available in automatic, but it was the electronic features that made it an ideal choice: electronic wipers switch on automatically if the car senses water on the windscreen and the headlights turn on automatically when it is getting dark. The car just needed a few minor adaptations, which Shoprider fitted, making them a seamless part of the car. The push-button start meant no key to turn – it just needed to be slightly extended so that she could push it with her knee; and the electronic park brake was fitted with a longer lever, again to enable her to apply and release it using her knee.

The gear shift (also without buttons) was positioned behind the steering wheel and extended to make it easier for her to reach, as were the indicators. A cuff was fitted onto a steering spinner into which her left arm could slip, giving her control of the steering wheel. A couple of levers were added to the door handle and window opener for easy operation.

Thanks to these few ingenious adaptions to the perfect car, Beatrice’s dream – to be totally independent through driving her own vehicle – can soon be fulfilled. She is now waiting to go for her driver’s test. More good news: once she has her licence, she will be eligible for a promotion at work!

For more info on Shoprider, visit www.shoprider.co.za; Mercedes-Benz Centurion, www.mccarthymotors.mercedes-benz.co.za; and Rolling Rehab, www.rollingrehab.co.za

Caroline Rule (B.Sc. OT UCT) is an occupational therapist, specialising in driver rehabilitation and wheelchair rugby. email: rule@global.co.za

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