The desire to drive and be independent can become a reality for many people with disabilities. The range of wheelchair accessible vehicles and vehicle modifications available to those who want to drive makes it possible for just about everyone, even those with very limited extremity movement. But before you can get behind the wheel of a wheelchair accessible vehicle or modified vehicle, there are a few things you need to know.
The first thing you’ll need to do is receive a thorough evaluation from a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist. The specialist is a person who plans, develops, coordinates and implements driver rehabilitation services for people with disabilities. The evaluation process consists of few parts – a clinical or pre-driving section and a behind the wheel evaluation and training. If you need to find a certified specialist in your area, check with a local rehabilitation center or contact the Association For Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) for a list of certified specialists throughout the country.
The clinical evaluation generally takes about four hours and you’ll need a prescription from your doctor before the specialist can get started. The cost of the evaluation will vary depending on where you live and if affordability is an issue, there are sources such as Vocational Rehab that offer financial assistance.
In the pre-driving or clinical part of the evaluation the driving rehabilitation specialist will look at things like upper and lower extremity strength, coordination and reaction time, vision and visual perception, judgment and decision making, cognitive skills and the patient’s mobility issues.
Remember, there’s no reason to be nervous. The evaluation process is not a pass or fail test. The specialist is on your side and wants to help get you behind the wheel. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll talk about the second half of the driver certification process – the on-road assessment.
For more information on the Association For Driver Rehabilitation Specialists you can visit their website at www.driver-ed.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=1
The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) is an advocate for mobility and accessibility for drivers with disabilities. If you need help with converting or buying a handicap accessible van, car or truck, please consider one of our mobility equipment dealers.