Millions of British people’s lives have been positively affected by the existence of the Motability Scheme. For 40 years, it has helped give back some independence to disabled people. This is thanks to the scheme providing mobility vehicles UK wide – such as wheelchair accessible vehicles.
The scheme was launched in 1977 by Lord Sterling of Plaistow (who is still chairman today) and the late Lord Goodman. With nearly half of all households in the UK owning a car, disabled people were woefully under-represented in this field. Despite the introduction of the Invacar in the late 1940s, a blue trike provided to all disabled drivers as part of their benefits, the cars were only for disabled people who could drive. It was also small and unable to accommodate any passengers. Rather than being a step forward for the rights of all disabled people, it was introduced as a way to mainly aid injured World War II veterans. While still forward-thinking, it still excluded many disabled people. In 1976, the Mobility Allowance was introduced as a way of allowing all disabled people to be more mobile. Despite this allowance permitting disabled people to choose their mobility car, rather than having a vehicle imposed on them (such as the eye-catching Invacar), the allowance was just not enough to buy, modify and run a vehicle. As a result, David Ennals – then Secretary of State for Health and Social Services – met with Lords Goodman and Sterling to consider options as to how they could help disabled people purchase these adapted disabled mobility vehicles. As a result of this meeting, the Motability Scheme was born.
A government-backed charity, in order to attract donations and make grants, Motability worked with vehicle manufacturers to allow disabled people the chance to afford quality mobility vehicles UK wide with a package that went beyond their allowance coverage. It is one of the key developments in British society thanks to it, literally, offering a whole new world to disabled people. Now the likes of employment, further education and the freedom to choose where to go were avenues that many disabled people had the chance to explore – not just those from financially privileged backgrounds. The first keys to Motability cars were handed out in July 1978. Since then, the scheme has continued to flourish thanks to a strong partnership between the UK government, the third/charitable sector, the motor and insurance industries and the banking sector. The Scheme has provided three million accessible vehicles to UK residents – many of which have been wheelchair friendly cars. But there are more than just three million people who have benefited from the scheme, as it has also helped many more millions of family members better support their loved ones’ needs without financial concerns. Today, the scheme has approximately 650,000 concurrent customers and the service has received an impressive 98% customer satisfaction rating from independent surveyors.
With the Queen firmly established as the Chief Patron of Motability since its inception, the Motability Scheme and mobility vehicles for all in need are here to stay. Today, it is not a privilege for disabled people to receive mobility vehicles UK wide, but a fundamental human right.