Since she was a teenager, Ame Barnbrook would tell anyone who asked that the “biggest dream in her life” was to learn to drive a car.
For most people, driving is a ‘rite of passage’, something we take for granted and try in our late teens or early twenties – another step on the path to becoming an adult.
For Ame, it isn’t that simple: her circumstances are something only a small group of people ever have to consider she was born with no arms, one leg and three toes.
Ame uses those toes for “absolutely everything” and until recently, “everything” was already a pretty impressive list that includes representing Australia in competitive sailing and playing the trumpet.
Ame also operates her wheelchair, phone and computer using her toes in the same way most of us use our fingers.
However, driving wasn’t among the challenges Ame has conquered and remained a dream unfulfilled.
When Ame first looked at the possibility a few years ago, assistive technology just hadn’t developed far enough. Move forward to today and the story is very different.
Ame is now on her way to a driving licence with the help of Total Ability’s High-Level Assessment Van equipped with some cutting-edge technology.
Ame enters the van via a ramp through the side door and drives from her wheelchair which is strapped into the van and secured into the same position most drivers occupy.
Ame is being taught to drive by Dean McMillan, one of Australia’s specialist driving instructors, trained to teach people with disability to drive.
Ame’s story highlights how many more people with a wide range of disabilities can now also love to drive and achieve more independence and freedom. The possibilities and solutions are almost endless.
Specialist Driving Instructors like Dean often have a range of equipment installed in the car they own and use for driving lessons, but it is impractical for them to have all the technology installed.
Some of the equipment needed really must be installed in a van like the one Ame is learning on.
Total Ability, the exclusive distributor of Fadiel Italiana products, now has three of these specialist ‘high level assessment’ vans touring Australia.
This allows a wider number of driving instructors and people with high level needs to try the cutting-edge technology that is enabling Ame.
Learning to drive was more than a passion for Ame, it was a burning ambition, and she isn’t disappointed. She loves to drive and looks forward to passing her test soon.
However, this has left Ame with one major problem: she now has to find a new dream!