UWE student, blind for 12 years, takes driving lessons with Young Driver at Cribbs Causeway
Like many 19-year olds, Abdul-Azeez Balogun likes being behind the wheel of a car.
But, surprisingly, Abdul is completely blind in both eyes.
His dream of controlling a car is being realised thanks to Young Driver, which has been teaching Abdul at its Cribbs Causeway venue in Bristol.
Young Driver offers driving lessons to anyone aged 10 and over – including those with disabilities, which may mean they will never be able to legally drive on the roads. Because Young Driver lessons take place on private property, normal restrictions do not apply.
Abdul-Azeez, who is originally from Nigeria and is currently studying aerospace engineering at the University of the West of England (UWE), has already had two lessons with Young Driver, and plans to have more.
Losing his sight at age seven due to irreparable nerve damage as a result of glaucoma, Abdul never thought he would get to experience being a driver.
Abdul-Azeez explains: “Losing your sight doesn’t mean you don’t still want to experience the same things other people can do. I had tried driving in Nigeria, on private property, but it was an automatic car and just with friends. When I moved to the UK, it was something I decided to investigate further and I came across Young Driver through iCAN experiences, which organises activities for visually impaired and disabled people.
“The lessons have been great, I’ve really enjoyed them, and it’s been interesting learning how to drive a manual car. I do have some visual memories of road layouts and when people are explaining things it helps that I understand elements like shapes and colours. The instructors have been fantastic though. They’re very reassuring, and direct me accurately and calmly so I feel in control. It could be quite a scary thing for both of us, as we have to trust each other, but it’s actually just felt very natural. I hope to have quite a few more lessons before I graduate in 2019, and my aim is to start building up a little bit in terms of speed and to start moving up and down the gears more.”
Abdul’s second lesson was with approved driving instructor Martin Wood. He said: “It isn’t as complicated as you might think to teach someone who is blind – you just have to think slightly differently. As a driving instructor you have to be able to break things down into bitesize chunks for all learners, so for a blind pupil, you just have to break everything down in to verbal steps. It’s also important to find out what prompts they want for doing different tasks and then it’s remembering to use them as appropriate to give the pupil plenty of time to respond.”
Admiral Young Driver was set up in 2009, and has now given almost 500,000 lessons at 50 venues across Britain, offering lessons in brand new, dual control Vauxhall Corsas. As well as providing the chance to try driving to those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience it, the scheme also aims to reduce the high number of accidents involving newly qualified drivers by teaching youngsters from an earlier age and over a longer period of time. On average, one in five currently crash within six months of passing their test, as opposed to one in 10 Young Driver past pupils.
For more information, to book a lesson or to buy vouchers visit www.youngdriver.com or call 0844 371 9010