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1978: Motability gets moving in the UK
A new scheme providing cars for disabled people has been launched in Earl's Court, London.

Ten specially modified cars were formally handed over as part of the new Motability scheme.

Julie Newport, disabled by polio, said: "I think it's marvellous," saying it gives disabled people the freedom and independence they really want.

The initiative to allow disabled people to use their mobility allowance to lease new, modified cars was announced by the secretary of state for social security last December.

It was officially launched in June by Lord Goodman, chair of the Motability charity which will run the scheme.

Wheels for teens

At the moment the scheme is being targeted at 16 to 19-year olds and 220 applications are already being processed.

Eventually the cars - mainly Minis and Fiestas - will be available to all 125,000 disabled people in the UK as drivers or passengers, so children are also included.

Lord Goodman hopes there will soon be no restriction on the type of car available and that cars can be bought as well as borrowed.

New cars can be leased for three or four year periods, including maintenance, in exchange for mobility benefits and additional charges, depending on circumstances.

British clearing banks have offered 100m to finance the scheme and an appeal will begin later in the year to keep it running.

Disabled drivers will also benefit from exemption from road tax from December this year.

The government introduced a mobility allowance - initially of 5, now 7 - two years ago when they began a five year plan to phase out invalid tricycles after tests found they were dangerous.

Only 600 of the 25,000 people applying for mobility help in 1976 chose the tricycle, but there are still 21,000 people using them.

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Photograph of Motability launch at Earl's Court
Ten specially adapted cars were handed over at Earl's Court

In Context
By 2002 Motability had provided 1.28m cars and powered wheelchairs.

In that year there were 390,000 people driving or using vehicles through Motability.

The charity operates four different schemes, including lease and hire purchase of new cars and hire purchase of used cars.

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