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Toyota Helps Blind Man Relearn How To Drive A Car

Offbeat / Comments

And he wasn't just cruising at five mph either.

People with disabilities can find driving a car a challenge. Those that are confined to a wheelchair are able to drive using hand controls. But what if you've lost your ability to see? Surely driving isn't possible. Well, apparently it is.

Dr. Amit Patel lost his sight in 2013 and with it one of his greatest pleasures in life - driving a car. You'd think there would be no conceivable way Dr. Patel could ever drive again but with a little help from Toyota, he was able to get behind the wheel of a car at one of the most famous tracks in the world.

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Dr. Patel was once a first-response medic for the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom who was trained to drive safely in emergency situations. Even though he no longer has his vision, Dr. Patel still has the skills to be a very talented driver. This effort was done as part of Toyota's Start Your Impossible Movement, a global campaign to help people "overcome their hurdles to mobility and personal achievement" in partnership with the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees.

"It's been six years or so since I've been behind the wheel of a car, but it's funny how things come back to you - the sound of the engine, the gear changes, the clutch, and the brake. But then driving, and not knowing where you're driving, that's the insane part," Patel said.

Mark Watkins, a performance driving instructor who is experienced in teaching blind and partially sighted people, said, "Amit was immediately natural behind the wheel. What impressed me all the way through was how he was just so smooth."

"I focused on the instructions, concentrating on what Mark was saying," said Patel. "I tend to forget that I can't see, it was crazy to think that I was actually doing this. Being on the test track, driving the GT86, it was a dream come true."

You may recognize the test track as Dunsfold, the home of BBC's Top Gear. After some practice laps in a Toyota Yaris, Patel graduated to a Toyota 86 which he used to set a 1:46.58 second lap time (which would have put him in fifth place among the celebrities who have driven the track).

"Blindness is always going to be in my life, but I don't wake up in the morning and dwell on it; I just get on with it. That's easy to say now, but five years ago it wasn't. I have a wonderful wife who helped me out when I needed it and gave me the motivation, and we have an amazing two-and-a-half-year-old son. In my head, I can see a smile on his face and I'm hoping that he's proud of what his dad's achieved."

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