Learning to drive has been my greatest accomplishment. If I’m not at work or school, you can find me cruising around town in my Toyota Sienna. Being independent has given me the freedom to spend time with friends and visit new places.
My van is adapted with joystick hand controls. Similar to my motorized wheelchair, I can maneuver the entire vehicle with the electronic system. Accelerating, braking and steering the vehicle is controlled through the joystick.
There is also a touch screen that allows me to control the gear shift, turn signals, windshield wipers and other secondary controls. I use a wooden spoon as a mouthpiece to tap the buttons on the touch screen while my hand is on the joystick. It feels like I’m in an airplane cockpit when I’m driving. My friends call my van “The Spaceship”.
I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my newfound freedom without going through adapted driver’s training. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to see the process of adapted driving.
The Learning Process
I spent many years being evaluated to determine if I had the mental and physical strength to handle the demands of driving.
The Shepherd Center, a spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, has a rehabilitation driving program. I spent over forty hours of on-the-road training with the driving specialist before I could get my driver’s license.
Once I received my license, it took several months to get my vehicle adapted for me. Handicapped Driver Services of Marietta, Georgia installed the joystick system in my vehicle.
Even though it took several years before I could drive independently, it was well worth the effort.
Check out this video showing how I drive my van: