Driving again and next steps

What has happened over the last 12 months?

It’s been 12 months since our last website update on Ben’s VW Multivan. At that time, the Space Drive Technology modification process was about to commence at the modifier’s Hornsby Heights premises in Sydney. An integral part of that process involved custom fitting Ben’s power wheelchair to the control system  positioning so he could comfortably access existing VW controls.

The process was finally completed at the end of October 2018 and Ben successfully re-applied for his driving licence at the local RMS testing centre in early November. 

The impact on Ben’s independence after six and a half years having to rely on others was significant. It’s been a fascinating experience observing Ben drive this highly modified vehicle from the comfort of the passenger seat. As a parent, this was initially a nervous experience however Ben’s driving style made me feel at ease.

Driving has been a bit of a roller-coaster experience to date and sadly the vehicle was involved in an accident in early February 2019. I was Ben’s passenger on that day on the NSW central coast. Luckily no one was physically injured.

The repair process was complicated, lengthy and expensive. Repair delays were frequently coupled with the fact that some of the replacement VW parts had to be sent to Victoria for  further modification, to be able to operate in a modified vehicle. We received the van back in early September with minor issues still outstanding, however this didn’t stop Ben from getting out and about.

Driving video

We planned to upload a video of Ben driving with the Space Drive Technology onto the Ben Lipski Foundation website in February 2019. Due to the accident, this has been delayed until now. Without this recently available technology, Ben wouldn’thave the capacity to drive again.

Stamp Collection Donation

In order to benefit Ben and to partly assist with the running costs of the Multivan, the family of a former neighbour have kindly donated a stamp collection from their father’s estate. These stamps are being  progressively sold and currently, around $350 has been raised and donated to the Foundation. The progress total will be updated overtime, depending on stamp sales. Thanks to our former neighbours and to the buyers of the stamps.

Next steps 

Independence is something that we all take for granted. Ben’s next challenge is to identify suitable residential unit accommodation to allow him to live independently. The supply of suitable properties is somewhat limited given Ben’s access. requirements. To name a few essential requirements – it has to preferably be a ground level unit due to property gradient / slope restrictions or in a unit complex with a lift, internal access width requirements, under cover parking access that suitably accommodates the Multivan side access, etc. 

Once a suitable property has been identified, some rooms will require significant modification to cater for Ben’s accessibility requirements, especially the bathroom and kitchen. The installation of assistive technology such as a home automation system, door openers, a temperature controlled environment, a height adjustable desk, rubber ramps, etc will also be required.

We thank everyone for their ongoing kind support and will keep you informed of developments during 2020. 

Please be aware that for those wishing to donate to the foundation these can be made via the www.blf.org.au website and are tax deductible.

Modifying the van for Ben to drive

Ben’s multivan finally went in for its 3 to 4 month driver modification process on Monday 14th May.  A lot more engineering work to come prior to the installation of the imported space drive technology.

Ben  will be required to visit PME within the next 4 weeks so that the modifiers can custom fit his power wheelchair to the control system positioning.

Once the mods are complete, Ben will undergo extensive training to master this leading edge technology, under the strict guidance of a driver occupational therapist.  Unfortunately we were unable to secure funding for this to date, estimated at $18,000.

In the meantime, Ben has been carefully monitoring the risks to his health with being out in the colder weather. In commuting to and from work in winter, finding a reliable Maxi taxi service especially mid-afternoons and for shorter distances has proven to be a significant challenge in the past.

Exposure to the elements have dangerous ramifications to many with Ben’s type of spinal injury and Ben is no exception.  Incidents in the past have resulted in Ben being hospitalised due to rapid increase in blood pressure and other symptoms resulting from taxi no-shows.

Roadblocks ahead

Permission to drive

Following his OT driving assessment and medical clearance, Ben was given the green light by NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) to obtain a learners permit (superseding his previous open license obtained prior to his accident).

Ben went out on the road, driving a prototype vehicle with space drive technology, supervised by the Occupational Therapist in the passenger seat with his own controls just in case. After a little tweaking of the technology, Ben was able to drive the vehicle unimpeded.

To see that rarely displayed beaming smile on Ben’s face was worth the trip up to Problem Management Engineering, the vehicle modifiers in Hornsby Heights. It was hard to put into words how warm inside we all felt witnessing this special event.


Back in December we were presented with an adjusted costing of $129,015 for the space drive technology to be fitted into Ben’s existing vehicle plus a further estimated $19,000 in specialised one on one driver training with the technology.

Given Ben’s level of disability, this technology and services cannot be provided by any other organisation within Australia. We are therefore dealing with a captive market however have no other choice if Ben is to drive again.



Ben’s driving assessment

Ben had his long awaited OT Driving Assessment in October 2016, and it went really well.


Ben is behind the wheel in the photos on this page. The photos also show Ben driving on the open road. You cannot see his face as the windows are closed but you imagine him smiling!  Ben was behind the wheel with the OT assessor operating separate overriding controls from the passenger seat just in case.

This particular vehicle is used to determine what modifications Ben specifically requires. We have submitted an application to NDIS to fund at least part of the huge cost to modify the vehicle. Ben will require specialised driving lessons which cost more.

Driving means independence and a new outlook on life for Ben.


Ben’s modifed van ready

Thanks to the generosity of family and friends, in late May 2015  we were finally able to fulfil our dream to put Ben in the front seat of his own modified van.Ben Van 5

Stage One: Ben in the front seat

Twelve months after the VW multivan was ordered from Germany, Ben’s new wheels arrived in port in December 2014. Max  then drove the van from Sydney down to Dandenong, Victoria, to undergo extensive modification for Ben to be able to use it as a passenger.

Somehow, nothing ever goes smoothly.  The three month modification process took six months with a number of setbacks. There are still some minor issues to resolve, however the good news is Ben has been using the van since the end of May.

Ben’s vehicle has already made a huge difference to his quality of life.   He no longer has to endure long waits for a Maxi Taxi.   As a result of his spinal injury, Ben feels variances in temperature much more severely than most of us.  Waiting in the winter cold and rain for a taxi impacts on his health. The van allows Ben to travel long distances or in peak hour traffic without the anxiety of an expensive taxi fare.

Stage two: Ben behind the wheel

Ben loves cars.  The Ben Lipski Foundation is now working towards the ultimate dream of Ben being able to drive his own van. Driving independently will be a huge boost to Ben, giving him more of the independence, flexibility and freedom we all take so much for granted.

How is it possible for Ben to drive?

First, Ben needs to undergo assessments.  He needs to demonstrate he can control the vehicle safely, comfortably and predictably.  We need to determine what driver modifications will be needed for this dream to become a reality.

Second, the van will need be modified.  We will likely use Problem Management Engineering (PME), specialists in the field of customising vehicles, to perform the work needed.

To our surprise, a preliminary assessment indicated that the driver modifications required for Ben would cost approximately $110,000. The high technology  components are sourced from suppliers in the US, Israel and parts of Europe.

We are planning another fundraiser, details to be advised. Despite the wonderful success of the October 2013 fundraiser, it would be unrealistic to expect that we could raise anywhere near the amount needed to finance driver modifications.  For this reason, we would be grateful if you could review the attractive items still for sale on our website and make an offer.

Also, with the financial year end fast approaching, please remember any donation over $2 to the Ben Lipski Foundation is tax deductible.

Your support and kind contributions are very much appreciated.



Ben is Finally Home !

Ben left the Royal Ryde Rehab Centre to finally return home on Thursday 22nd May 2014. This is more than 13 months since Ben’s horrible accident.

The home modifications needed to make Ben’s home compliant were largely completed in May 2014. The building work included a number of special requirements such as ramps and railings, modified bathroom facilities, regulated air conditioning, special auto doors, security systems, other electronics, etc. The logistics are currently being worked through such that Ben can operate many of these by himself.

Aranac, the building company, have done a sterling job to ensure that Ben could be home as soon as possible.

Other people and organisations have kindly assisted in providing some goods and services (either at cost or donated) in areas not covered in the initial building modification costs. We thank them all for their generosity and kind hearts.
Paul of Barrenjoey Timber (Brookvale)
Victor Morales of Dulux Trade (Brookvale)
Adam Wilson of Eden Brae Homes
Tom Reiher of GWA Group (Caroma)
Gavin Budd of Harvey Norman Superstore (Gordon)
Gary Rudnick of HIA
Peter Desbury of Hudsons Building Supplies
Rob Grant (chairman) of Mark Group Australia
Alan Bortz of The Sales Club
Adam Callender and Darrin Ede of Fujitsu General
The Goodman Foundation together with the Bestest Foundation funded Ben’s power assist wheelchair.

Ben leaves Ryde Rehab and arrives home, May 2014.

Ben inspecting the works while in progress, April 2014.


Wheels for Ben

The process of trialling / researching vehicles that complied with Ben’s ongoing needs commenced some time ago. Choosing a suitable vehicle has been complex but ultimately Ben’s decision. Considerations including size, engine capacity, safety, comfort /suspension, ability to future modify for Ben to drive, passenger and luggage capacity, height restrictions, etc have meant that this process was going to take some time.

However an order for a VW mulit-van was placed in May, with estimated delivery scheduled between October and November 2014.

On arrival from VW in Germany, it will be extensively modified for transporting Ben but have the flexibility to be subsequently modified at some future date for Ben to drive independently, at an  additional cost.  The engineering organisation selected, Capital Special Vehicles, is located in Dandenong, Victoria and is one of the leaders in its field.

We were all surprised to learn that the cost of the modifications will exceed the cost of the vehicle itself.

Fundraising Auction

Our first fundraising event took place at Sydney’s Greengate Hotel on 20th October 2013.  The format was a fundraising auction of live and silent auction items kindly donated by some of Australia’s leading corporates and sporting identities from motor racing, rugby union, rugby league, cricket and from the English Premier League Club, Tottenham.   300 guests turned out to show their support who were well entertained by our guest speaker, Peter FitzSimons.  Our auctioneer, Ari Taibel, of First State Auctions, also entertained us with his excellent humour.

Through this fundraiser and subsequent donations received, the foundation has raised sufficient funds to purchase a suitable vehicle to transport Ben.  We are however slightly short of our target  for modifying the vehicle as this is more expensive than initially realised, and exceeds the cost of the vehicle itself.

To the generosity of so many amazing donors, to the many who attended the function and opened up their hearts through their generosity at the auction and to those who subsequently donated to the foundation so generously .. as a family we are overwhelmed by your kindness.

We acknowledge companies and individuals who supported the fundraiser with goods and services:

AAMI, Advanced Driver Academy, Alissa Breit (auction catalogue), Allan Moffat OBE, American Express, Athletes Foot (Hornsby), Audrey Wilkinson Wines, Australian Rugby Union, Avondale Golf Club
Bass Trading Corporation, Berrick Barnes (Australian Wallaby), Bettina Arndt, Betty Dykes, Big W (Macquarie), Blooms the Chemist (Gordon), Boab Boats, Brenda Coleman, Breville, Bunnings
Cairns Plaza, CBA (Gordon), Charleston’s Fine Art Auction, Chefs Gallery, Chugg Entertainment, Cisco Systems, Citibank, Coles, CPA Australia (NSW Division), Cremorne Orpheum, Cricket Australia
Daren Burney (UK), David FitzSimons, David Jones, Dymocks (Macquarie Centre), Dyson
Entertainment Book, Escape Travel (Burwood), Event Cinemas
Fiona Horton, Flight Centre (Lane Cove), Franks Hairdressing (Gordon), Fujitsu General
Gary Rudnick, Goldman Travel, Graham Gooch (former English cricket captain), Greengate Hotel, Greg McKenzie
Harvey Norman (Gordon), HIA, Howard William Steer
ICS Computer Service (Gordon), IGA (Nth Turramurra), IGA (Wahroonga), Intercontinental Hotel
James Willebrant, Janis Stein & Associates Optometrist, Jason Taylor (Assistant Coach, Sydney Roosters)
Kmart, Lance Armstrong, Lexus of Chatswood, Lilianfels, Lilly Blue, Lorna Jane, Lurline House
Marian Ashberg, Matador, McDonalds (Gordon), Metabo, Microsoft Corp, North Shore Synagogue (kosher catering)
Optus, Pablo and Rustys, Pampered Pets (Hornsby), Pet Town Store (Chatswood), Peter Boylan, Peter McKenzie, Pieroth Wine, Proskill Australia
Radio Rentals, Raymond Weil, Reece Plumbing (Gold Coast), RM Williams, Rocket Hair Salon, Roy Young Chemist
Samuel Breit, Shane Warne (former Australian cricketer) , Shelli Wallach, Shirley Eisenberg Brockwell, SIBI’S Restaurant, Skins International, St James Ethics Centre, Swarovski, Sybil Mervis, Sydney Lyric Theatre, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Theatre Company, Sylvia Lipski
Techtronic Industries, Temptation Bites, The Blushing Bride, The Boylan Group, The Formula Company, The Good Guys (Chatswood), Top Shop & Hilton Seskin, Telstra, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (London)
VEK Tools, Wesfarmers Limited, Westfield (Chatswood), Westpac (Gordon), Wild Women on Top, Winning Appliances, Woolworths (Gordon)