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Motability’s Road to 45

Motability, the Charity with a vision that no disabled person shall be disadvantaged due to poor access to transportation, today marks its milestone anniversary of 45 years. 

Before Motability was established in 1977, only disabled people who could drive themselves received any government help with transport, usually in the form of a small distinctive single-passenger blue trike which was unable to take passengers. As a result, many disabled people were housebound for long periods and dependent on others to get around.

motabilitys road to 45 infographic

The introduction of the Mobility Allowance by Government in 1976 allowed recipients to choose the best way to meet their mobility needs, whether that be driving a vehicle, using taxis or getting a mobility scooter. Although the new benefit was a positive advance, it soon became clear that it was not enough to buy and run even the smallest of cars. The Secretary of State of Health and Social Services at the time invited the late Lord Goodman to consider how disabled people could affordably obtain a vehicle using this allowance. He enlisted the help of Lord Sterling and together they established Motability, the Charity, in December 1977 when the formation was announced to the House of Commons. From this, the late Lord Goodman and Lord Sterling devised the Motability Scheme to provide a simple way of leasing a new car, Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV), scooter or powered wheelchair without the worrying of owning and running one.

The Motability Scheme delivered its first vehicles to customers in July 1978 in a ceremonial presentation at Earl’s Court, London. Since then, over five and a half million vehicles, scooters and powered wheelchairs have been delivered through the Scheme to help disabled people and their families. Today, more than 640,000 people benefit from the Motability Scheme by exchanging their qualifying mobility allowance to help gain more freedom and independence. Around two thirds of Scheme customers drive, but those who do not can still lease a car and travel as a passenger. Similarly, parents or carers can also apply to join on behalf of a child aged three and above.

Overseeing the Motability Scheme continues to be the main method by which the Charity strives to achieve its vision. Its Scheme-related Grant Programmes continue to provide financial support to those who want to join the Scheme but who need help with the cost of an Advance Payment and the adaptations they may need. Investment in this area continues to be a priority, with the Charity awarding the highest ever number of Scheme-related grants in 2021/22, supporting thousands of beneficiaries in leasing a vehicle. 

The Charity has further increased its grant-making by offering support that reaches beyond the Motability Scheme to have even greater impact on the lives of disabled people. Its steady investment in innovation activities and research, combined with its oversight of the Scheme will help to enhance the transportation needs of disabled people in the years to come.

This year, the Charity launched a new portfolio of grants to provide support to other charities and organisations in areas where its research and insight has shown opportunities to have the greatest impact. A total of six new programmes have been launched in this area to address the challenges disabled people face accessing transport right now, while Motability continues its research and innovation work into longer-term solutions to make all transport accessible. 

Last month, Motability hosted a Parliamentary reception at the House of Commons to mark the launch of a new British Standards Institute (BSI) standard, sponsored by the Charity and the UK Government Office for Zero Emissions Vehicles (OZEV). This world-leading standard sets out best-practice for making public electric vehicle (EV) charge points accessible, and was created with disabled people’s involvement. Now work is underway to encourage adoption of the standard, as the Charity is keen to work closely with Government and site owners, such as local authorities and providers, to ensure the standard is implemented to make EV charging accessible for all.

Barry Le Grys MBE, Chief Executive Officer of Motability says:

“Motability has grown from strength to strength over our remarkable 45-year history. We have a strong vision and sense of purpose, which has been at the foundation of our growth. We have supported disabled people with their mobility for over four decades, and we aren’t stopping here.

“As the world of transportation advances, we too are determined to evolve and further support Motability Scheme customers and our beneficiaries to ensure they aren’t left behind. As well as focusing on their transport needs now, we are also looking at the longer term and next generations to grow and expand our purpose, ensuring we continue to make a real difference well into the future.”

Throughout its 45-year history, Motability has had the honour of having the presence of its Chief Patron from inception, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, attend notable milestone events. The most recent event was to mark its 40th anniversary and over four and a half million vehicles, held at Windsor Castle in 2017.

To see an animated roadmap of Motability’s Road to 45, including key moments from its history, please visit Motability’s YouTube channel.

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