The second Disability Drive and Thrive Exhibition took place at the SAAF Museum at the Swartkop Air Force Base on Sat 31st May. This was a fun and interactive day where people with disabilities were able to find out about vehicles and adaptations which are available and they had a chance to be exposed to a variety of sports and adventure activities. 

The day started with the roar of the Harley Davidson riders who arrived in support of their members who ride with disabilities.  They put smiles on people’s faces throughout the day as they got them out of their wheelchairs and took them for rides on their Harleys.

The Test Drive area had 13 vehicles lined up which were fitted with the Easy Rider portable hand controls to enable drivers with disabilities the opportunity to test drive a variety of new vehicles.  The two Jaguars were the most popular with queues of people waiting patiently for their chance of a lifetime to experience the trill of driving a Jaguar. The 2 Landrovers, Mercedes Benz G class and the VW Amarok also gave people the chance to test out these beautiful 4x4’s.

The Park and Show area inlcuded more than 40 adapted vehciles where people were able to come and compare notes and to findout what solutions other people had developed for themselves. Included in the Park and Show was Mathys Roets’ adapted caravan and Ari Serilis and Phil Case’s adapted side by side quadbikes. 

Ari generously took people for rides in his quadbike and they were amazed to see how a C5 quad is able to ride one of these vehciles. 

Sportsride and Hisun both provided test drive buggies which were also fitted with Easy Rider hand controls giving people the opportunity to ride these on the 4x4 test route and to discover for themselves the freedom of getting out of their wheelchairs and the fun that they can have while riding one of these versatile vehciles.

The outdoor exhibition area was strongly supported by the Bidvest and BB Groups, both bringing a number of their branches with a variety of brands of vehicles on display, including Mercedes Benz, VW, Toyota, General Motors, Nissan, Ford, Mazda, Suzuki and Renault.  This gave visitors to the expo an opportunity to look at new vehicles on the market, with the Ford Transit van, the Nissan NV200 and the lowered floor VW Caddy all drawing a lot of interest.  Jaguar Landover also gave their full support with the guidance of the advanced driving instructors from Landrover 4x4 Experience on all their test drives.

Jaime Vilela from VS Hydraulics had his superb Mercedes Benz SLS Golding on display – fitted with the hand controls that he designed for racing driving, and which he now sells commercially to assist other drivers wih disabilities.

The South African Institute of Driving Instructors (SAIDI) managed the driving school area which was represented by The Professional Driving Academy of SA, Driving Ambitions, Disability Driving Academy and Godfreys’ Advanced Driver training. All of these schools had their vehicles available for people who do not yet have their licences, to try out and see if they can drive and which vehicle was best adapted to their needs.  One of the driving instructors was deeply touched when client unleashed tears of joy when she discovered that she was still able to drive after suffering a severe disability.

The indoor exhibition area in Hanger 5 focused on wheelchair suppliers, with support from Shoprider, Chairman Industries, CE Mobility, Medop, and Sitwell Technologies, as well as many NGO’s who provide services and support to the disability sector.  The driving simulator from TMI Dynamatics showed the possibility of learning the basic driving skills on a simulator before heading out on the road.

The Samsung Sport and Adventure Hall in Hanger 6 surprised and amazed many people with the variety of sports and adventure activities that were not only on display but also open for people to try out.  The Ottobock Paragolfer wheelchair was available to be tested by shooting balls into the golf driving simulator, the hand cycling club had a variety of hand cycles on display with frequent demonstrations.

The Sitski along with video footage of Mathys Roets skiing at Afriski, left people amazed at what the possibilities are for getting out there. There were indoor nets where blind cricket was not only demonstrated but people were given the chance to experience playing cricket without being able to see the ball.  The wheelchair rugby team was in full force challenging anyone brave enough to take them on. The Handicapped Scuba Diving Association blew everyone away with their diving tank where they were able to demonstrate how people with disabilities are able to dive.

Van Tallum Boerdery, which is a riding school that caters for riders with disabilities, added a lovely touch with their miniature ponies that had an unlimited appetite for carrots. 

There were also two hand controlled aircraft on show – Arthur Piercy, who is a C6 quad after being shot down in the Angolan War, displayed his Seawind, which he is building himself to fly around the world with the Cuban fighter pilot who shot him, and Owen Sutton’sA22 Foxbat, which he flew in from Rustenburg for the day.

Strong man Luan Degenar amazed the crowd when he pulled a Mercedes Benz ML, weighing over 2 tons, 40 meters in only 51.2 seconds.

Jappie Thulo, who was born with almost no arms, astonished the celebrities DJ WEEZ (SA Rap Star) and his wife Chantelle Swart, First Princess Mrs South Africa, when he demonstrated how he is able to change the wheel of a car even though he has no arms. The crowds were astounded by Jappie’s dexterity of his toes. Hip Hop wheelchair dancer Harold and his sidekick Ernst also entertained the crowd at lunchtime.

A varaiety of new mobility products and vehicle adapations were on display, with the exciting and groundbreaking Segfree being lauched at the Expo.  This is a seat that has been designed by Mario Stoltz to fit onto a Segway to assist his paraplegic wife.  This idea has developed from a dream into a business where they even have a nappy code for this phenomenal mobility product, so it can be bougth through medical aid.  They have also developed the Scootfree which is a scooter which the front of the wheelchair is lifted onto and can be used to get around quickly and easily without the effort of pushing.

Shoprider also displayed some of their ingenious designs  to lift people and their wheelchairs into a variety of vehicles, with the Turney seats also getting a lot of interest. 

The radio control club took great pleasure on demonstrating their flying and driving skills as they demonstrated what can be done with remote controlled planes, helicopters and cars.  This is a great activity for people with mobility impairments as they are able to compete on an equal footing with able body people.

A new service this year, thanks to the support and sponsorship from Qasa, AVIS and Budget, included the complimentary wheelchair accessible shuttle service that ran every 20 minutes throughout the day from the centurion taxi rank and the Gautrain station.  This enabled people using public transport to get to the event.

One of the challenges of managing such a large exhibition area is the distance that people needed to cover to see all the activities.  The Scouts from various Scouting Toops around the Centurion area were on duty assisting anyone needing a helping hand, particularly pushing wheelchairs up and down the large exhibition area. 

The event was organised by Curamus and Occupational Therapist, Caroline Rule from Rolling Rehab, along with a committee of dynamic and willing volunteers, most of whom live with disabilities, and Rolling Inspiration supporting it as the media partner.

The Drive and Thrive team would like to thank every person that supported the day by exhibiting, volunteering or just attending the day and enjoying the fun.