Jewish peer Lord Sterling has described setting up Motability, the charity that provides vehicles for people with disabilities, as “one of the most significant things I have ever done”.
The charity, which makes specially adapted car or scooters and powered wheelchairs available for lease, was founded 40 years ago this week.
“The scheme currently has over 600,000 vehicles on the road and has provided 4.5 million vehicles to date,” Lord Sterling said.
The peer, along with the late Lord Goodman, announced the project in Parliament on December 6 1977.
He said: “Motability has helped millions of disabled people to maintain their ability to get to work or college, attend a medical appointment, meet up with friends and enjoy the freedom and independence that so many people take for granted.”
The 82-year-old, who chairs charity, is the former executive chairman of P&O and organised the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002.
He is a three-star Vice Admiral in the Royal Navy, making him the highest-ranking Jewish officer in the armed forces’ history. He is the current president of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women.
The peer said Motability had “changed millions of people’s lives. You or I may take getting into the car for granted but I have had the pleasure of seeing the difference it has made to people over the years.
Hearing from the people who had benefited from the charity was a moving experience, he said.
“If you have empathy you want to help and improve someone’s situation It is amazing to know you have done that.”
Paul Barrett, a Royal Marine veteran, sustained life-changing injuries when he was the victim of a bomb attack while serving in Afghanistan.
He said receiving a Motability vehicle fitted with a specially adapted accelerator steering wheel aid, had changed his life.
“It has provided a sense of self-esteem and self-confidence to me as a father and husband,” he said.
Lord Sterling, who said: “Hearing Paul’s story makes it worthwhile it sums up why this scheme is so important.”