The car on the track
Charlotte being guided to the car

As a blind person, I never thought it would be possible to drive a car. But last year, I received a voucher from my parents for Christmas. It was for a Racetrack Experience through an organisation called AbleNet.

I ended up driving a scarlet Ferrari at top speed. And, while there was an instructor sat in the passenger seat, I was the one turning the steering wheel and controlling the brake and accelerator with my feet. It was amazing. I enjoyed it so much that I have since rebooked for another event, in which I will be driving not one but three supercars: a Lamborghini, Porsche and Ferrari.

If you haven’t heard of AbleNet, they offer adrenaline activities for disabled and visually impaired people of all ages. I spoke to the founder Paul Ashurst to find out more about the company and about what customers can expect…

Charlotte smiling in the drivers seat

Q: Why did you start AbleNet?

A: I was diagnosed with MS when I was 35 and eventually became a wheelchair user. One day, I started searching on the internet for experiences. I wanted to do something amazing, something different. Before the MS, I had driven supercars a lot, so I was looking for a similar experience. Unfortunately though, I couldn’t find anything of value for people with disabilities. There were plenty of accessible events out there such as museum tours and theatre shows. But not adrenaline activities. I phoned up Virgin Experience Days and BuyAGift, asking what they had available. Whilst they were really helpful, they both said there was absolutely nothing they could do, as their experiences weren’t tailored to disabled people. I was fuming. We’re living through an age where people need to make changes for those of us with disabilities. And I just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to drive a supercar around a racetrack like anybody else. Yes, I’m in a wheelchair and I can’t use my left leg, but I have a full licence and a load of experience with supercars. It was this frustration which led me to set up my own company AbleNet, employing other disabled people who shared the vision. We officially began working with suppliers just before the pandemic.

Q: How do you make your driving experiences accessible to blind and visually impaired people?

A: Our cars are automatic and our super skilled instructors are trained to guide you around the track, providing audio description. They also have access to a footbrake should it be necessary. In terms of the cars themselves, you can choose from a Lamborghini LP560, a Ferrari F430 Spider/California, Aston Martin DB9, Audi R8, Nissan GTR, Porsche 911/997 or the McLaren 650s. After you have driven the car, you will get the opportunity to have a thrilling, high speed passenger ride.

Q: What other activities do you offer?

A: We have sky diving, skiing, Bear Grylls Adventure, and a flight simulator. You can also fly a plane yourself. One of my colleagues is pretty much completely blind and he did the experience, taking off and landing the plane.

Q: Where are AbleNet events held?

A: We have locations all over the UK, for example Abingdon, Bicester, Loughborough and York.

Q: How do you book an AbleNet experience?

A: You can book through the AbleNet website, where you will find regular discounts and deals. Alternatively, you can now buy AbleNet vouchers through mainstream companies such as Virgin and BuyAGift, and then they will send you through to our booking form.

Q: What is the best part about AbleNet days?

A: It’s such a fun day. Everyone has a blast. The instructors are fantastic. And it’s just such an incredible feeling to do something you never thought you would be able to do.

Leave A Comment