Gift puts visually impaired Penticton woman in the driver’s seat

Gail Riddall celebrated her 63rd birthday by taking a test drive with Medallion School of Driving

Instructor Bill Sawkins of Medallion School of Driving gives Gail Riddall directions prior to her first time at the controls of a vehicle in the parking lot of a city business. The lesson was actually a birthday present for the local woman who is visually impaired.

Instructor Bill Sawkins of Medallion School of Driving gives Gail Riddall directions prior to her first time at the controls of a vehicle in the parking lot of a city business. The lesson was actually a birthday present for the local woman who is visually impaired.

Crossing another item off her to-do list was an unexpected birthday present for 63-year-old Gail Riddall last Sunday.

After she and good friend Kyle Anderson had lunch instead of going to their original destination, she found herself in the Moduline Industries parking lot where friends and family were waiting.

Blind since birth, Riddall had often talked about wanting to one day drive a car.

Thanks to Anderson, Sunday was that day.

The well-known local musician had earlier arranged with Bill Sawkins of Medallion School of Driving to make his friend’s wish come true.

“Oh no,” were the only words Riddall could say when she realized what was happening after arriving at Moduline.

A short time later she was sitting in the driver’s seat as Sawkins gave her a brief overview of the controls, and then it was off to the races.

With the driving instructor’s voice guiding her, she did several laps of the lot in the bright red Kia Soul to the cheers and applause of the spectators on the sidelines.

When she finally exited the vehicle, the broad smile on her face as she held on to Anderson’s arm summed up her experience.

“I really can’t put this into words, I’m just blown away,” she did manage to say afterwards. “I’ve always wanted to do that for as long as I can remember.

“I’ve been in a car but never where I am creating the movement or I am controlling the movement and touching the pedals. It doesn’t feel anything like I thought it would.”

She was actually surprised at not being more worried about the test drive, and felt if her life circumstances were different she might have been a good driver.

According to Riddall, to her speed is a visual thing which she doesn’t really notice until the vehicle she is in slows down.

“But it was interesting to feel when you touch the gas the car move forward. I could sense that going on, which was really interesting,” she said.

“I used to have a dream — a nightmare — and I knew where it came from because I used to sit on my dad’s knee (in the dream) and I could just barely see over the hood of the car and my brain in the dream goes you can’t drive, you can’t see. So doing that today is really interesting because it’s totally different than I felt in my dream.”

Riddall had nothing but praise for the calmness of her driving instructor, who she credited with “making her day.”

And according to Sawkins, who donated his time and vehicle, his student was actually one of the better ones by doing as she was told.

Anderson first got the idea while watching an episode of the television show MythBusters about a visually impaired person driving by simply following instructions.

“In the five years I’ve known her, Gail has always joked about being the designated driver and ‘Yeah, you drive worse than me,’ and jokes like that,” he said. “So what I just told her when we got here is she always talks about being on a journey, and I said this will help, here are the keys. But really this is a special birthday for a special person.”


And it is one birthday present his friend will never forget.



Just Posted

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club in Oliver will golf from sunrise to sunset to raise funds for ALS on June 29. (Submitted)
Golfing from sunrise to sunset in Oliver for ALS

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club have taken up the challenge June 29

Jann Arden will embark on Canada-wide tour Spring 2022 with a stop in Penticton at the South Okanagan Events Centre on June 13. (Contributed)
Jann Arden coming to Penticton in 2022

The Jann Arden Live! tour has been rescheduled for 2022

A storm watch has been issued for the Okanagan, Kootenays and Columbia regions of B.C. (Calvin Dickson photo)
Another severe thunderstorm watch issued for the Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for thunderstorms that may produce strong wind gusts, hail and heavy rain

The South Okanagan Tim Hortons raised over $4,000 through the three day orange doughnut promotion with 100 per cent of proceeds going to to the Residential School Survivors Society. The owner of these locations matched the amount. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
South Okanagan Tim Hortons raises over $8K for residential school survivors

More than $4,000 worth of doughnuts were purchased over three days

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

Most Read