Andi wanted to know, “Do you drive?”
I kind of gave away the answer in the title, keep reading anyway.
Typically this is one of the few questions I don’t like to answer. In an effort to avoid answering it I dance around the answer like I’m an Irish dance champion. It’s one of those things that I’ve been lectured on so many times that I just don’t want to hear it from another person (or from the same person again).
As they say, timing is everything so I’m up for answering publicly because it came at a good time.
I don’t drive not because I can’t; because of the bureaucracy involved in getting a license if you have a disability (which varies by state).
I’ve been through Driver’s Ed (required by my state if you have a disability). I’ve had a diving evaluation (required by the state). I’ve had a few road lessons from a state appointed instructor (required again).
The last part is where the train went off the tracks.
The instructor assigned to me (there were 2 at the time) was quite honestly one of; if not the worst people I have ever met in my entire life. I tried to just suck it up thinking that this wouldn’t last forever, required road instruction for a non-disabled person is roughly 10 hours, so I was thinking 10 hours and I could take the test.
According to her I’d need 200 hours (give or take a few) before I was ready for my road test, and even then she couldn’t guarantee that I would pass. Did I mention that she told me this after my 1st full lesson? (She cut the 1st one short)
I thought this was a little suspicious so I made some calls while I continued with lessons. Her attitude, and by extension mine, didn’t get any better, and caused me to get increasing agitated.
One week I told her I’d have to reschedule my lesson for the following week because I had to prepare for a final exam.
“Well you need to make a decision. Which is more important to you? Getting your license or school? If you choose school and keep canceling lessons you’ll have to go back on the waiting list”
I (more calmly than she deserved) explained that I wasn’t canceling, that I didn’t want to cancel. I wanted to reschedule. Getting my license & my education are equally important (especially because I was 2 years behind my peers in getting my license, thanks to the waiting list, and I was hoping for a scholarship the next year to ease the financial burden of school.
I could not reschedule. I had to cancel my lesson for the next week and wait for my lesson the week after.
I went back to my room and considered my options, after venting to a few people.
“She’s supposed to help you get your license. It seems like she’s doing anything but that.”
I made a call to my assigned instructor’s supervisor. I was told she was incorrect about the rescheduling and he’d have a talk with her about my experiences. I could be assigned to the other instructor if that would make me more comfortable. I was also told I was welcome to file a formal complaint if I so chose.
Fast-forward a few weeks and the adaptive diving instructor supervisor & the other instructor were laid off due to state budget cuts.
I called the adaptive driving department at DMV headquarters & told them to put a hold on my file.
I’m not one to back down easily but I had to draw the line on the mental abuse the instructor caused (I call it abuse because I have no idea what else to call it). The whole system was biased & I refused to be a part of it. It’s not worth it to me.
I’ve gone back periodically to check on the situation but things haven’t gotten any better, in fact they may have actually gotten worse. Since the supervisor I originally spoke to isn’t with the department anymore I went forward with filing a formal complaint with the next supervisor (and every supervisor that’s followed).
I’ve pretty much given up on getting an acknowledgement of my complain(s) never mind a resolution. (Let’s not even get into the chances of an actual apology, no matter how hollow)
I won’t say I’ve given up being able to drive altogether. I’ve just tabled the project, at least for now. (However I wouldn’t turn down any leads that may prove promising if anyone out there knows of any)
Why don’t you get your license in another state?
I’ve seriously considered it, believe me. I’ve also lived in different states so it would be a real possibility, if I had access to a vehicle when I lived in another state. I’ve also considered taking lessons in a neighboring state but you need to be a resident in order to do so, and their diver certification process is pretty similar to my current residential state.
“Do you need any special accommodations/modifications or can you drive a standard car just fine?”
I wouldn’t be able to drive a standard car (meaning standard vs. automatic). I would drive an automatic car with hand controls, which I’m told is “impossible” on a standard (manual transmission). I learned to drive with hand controls, with the few lessons I’ve had, so it’s how I’m most comfortable.
Initially there was some concern over my startle reflex and how it could affect my ability to drive a car in the traditionally so “we” (the DVM people) opted for a hand control option. I just wanted to drive so I went with it.
Not everyone with CP needs adaptations to drive. I recently met another individual with SDCP in their late 30s who drives like able bodied individuals (I’ve heard of others as well) so there is no one size fits all when it comes to driving.
After having a few lessons I realized that my height (or lack of) should’ve been taken into consideration as well. Using hand controls allows me to sit further from the steering wheel. If I were to use petals I’d have to basically sit with my chest more or less resting on the steering wheel, an unsafe situation if I were to ever get an accident (the airbag would probably cause additional injury as well).
Hand controls are the only modifications I would “need” but I have a few others on my wish list, depending on the vehicle.
It should also be noted that hand controls are not one size fits all. This is where attending the Abilities Expo helps! I have an idea of which hand controls I like best, but it’s something you have to look into based on needs, availability, and other factors.
Do you have a question you’d like me to answer? Leave a comment or fill out the contact form.
*A similar version of this post was written on May 16, 2013