Today was a big stride towards more independence for Tan. In perhaps what is one of the biggest steps we’ve taken on this journey to buying a new hand-accessible wheelchair van, Tan met with Jim, a Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) from the Shepherd Center, for a physical evaluation of his abilities to determine his eligibility to drive a vehicle on his own. On top of having to pass drivers requirements of rules of the road, signage, and the new alcohol and substance abuse courses that are required of Florida drivers, persons with mobility impairments that require adaptive equipment also have to meet certain criteria. This evaluation is a pass fail situation and several things are considered including range of motion, flexibility, reach, physical and mental condition, cognitive ability, agility, and reflexes to name a few.
Once the physical and mental evaluation has be done, and the necessary criteria are met, the CDRS then works with the client to determine the best steering equipment to fit their needs and a test drive begins. This is much like you’d picture–the client, along with the CDRS, work together to drive the adapted test vehicle on a test track, parking lot, or residential neighborhood. This test helps the client to learn what driving with adaptive equipment will be like, and helps the CDRS to determine the kind of equipment that the driver will need and what set-up will ultimately work best for the client’s needs.
Many would expect that this would be a nerve wracking experience for all those involved. The CDRS and auto-adaptive dealers that we worked with today certainly expected it to be anxiety inducing for us–for Tan as a “new” driver being closely watched over and given instruction by a testing expert, and most of all for me as the doting wife who’s only ever been the chauffeur in this scenario. As I watched the tail lights of the testing vehicle fade on the horizon from my spot standing in the parking lot, a few joked and cheered that I was being the hovering momma bird, but the truth is, I never once doubted Tan’s ability to drive.
It never occurred to me to question Tan’s ability to drive. Why would I? He can feed himself. He can write. He can draw. He can steer his electric wheelchair. To me it’s only logical that he would be able to drive. From my perspective, it was never about whether or not Tan could drive, it was about whether or not the professionals had the right equipment to make the van driving ready for Tan. My next leap was, if they don’t have the necessary equipment, how do we get it. As I stood in that parking lot watching Tan drive away, I wasn’t hovering in anxious abandon, I was proudly watching him control that van like a pro. I was imagining all the ways that Tan was impressing the CDRS professional sitting in the passenger seat. I was imagining all the trips to the grocery store I’d get to farm off to my husband!
Tan passed with flying colors. The CDRS will be righting up a prescription with the adaptive equipment and vehicle specifications that Tan will need of a new vehicle to drive. There are also a few modifications that will have to be done to his wheelchair in order to make it safe for driving that will be done in the near future. But I know what you’re all waiting for. You want to see Tan’s driving skills in action. So here it is: