The freedom to travel where and when we want to permits freedom to seek employment, attend social activities and in general become involved in the main stream of life. The availability of public transportation that is accessible to persons with a disability varies greatly from state to state. Only the ability to drive a vehicle can make unlimited freedom of travel possible. This is particularly true for the person with a disability.
There have been many advances made in the area of adaptive driving equipment for persons with disabilities over the past few years. It is now possible for severely disabled individuals to operate a motor vehicle without leaving their wheelchairs. Such advances as reduced effort steering systems for persons with limited strength in their arms and head operated switches to activate headlight, horn, and other accessory controls for persons with limited hand function are now readily available.
However, many people do not realize the complexity of the driving task. It involves more than the physical ability to operate controls. It requires adequate vision and the mental skills to process what we see in a manner quick enough to insure safe, efficient decisions while behind the wheel for the driver, his or her passengers and other road users.
It is for this reason that it is highly recommended that an individual with a physical disability seek the assistance of a driver rehabilitation specialist. This is an individual who specializes in the field of driver evaluation and education for persons with disabilities.
The evaluation process usually includes tests of physical function, visual skills, reaction time, and mental skills in addition to actual driving performance tests. Based on the results of these evaluations, the driver rehabilitation specialist will determine what, if any, adaptive driving equipment you may need, whether you have the potential to drive independently and whether you require further driver training.
Once an individual has been evaluated and trained to use a driving system, licensing in the use of that equipment is usually required. This is true whether you were a driver before you became disabled or are learning to drive for the first time; what we in driver education call "rookies." Your driver rehabilitation specialist will be able to advise you of the licensing requirements in your area.
You can find an evaluation center in your area by contacting the Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists, better known as ADED, or contact Dennis Magrann at the MossRehab Driving School for additional information.
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