Learning how to drive and getting an accessible van were extremely important goals for me. I started the process more than five years ago and have been through it three times. That includes working with Vocational Rehabilitation to get the van modifications covered.
The first time I went through this process, it was halted immediately because I was in college. The second time, I went as far as having an evaluation, training and eventually getting my driver’s license; however, I was stopped because I decided to go on and get my master’s degree.
The third time was the charm.
I started the entire process over again during the fall of 2014. I was working, which was the key, but I was relying on my dad — and sometimes my sister — to get me to and from work.
The goal of Vocational Rehabilitation is to make sure a person with a disability is as independent as possible with the intention of finding a job. For me, that independence meant being able to drive myself to and from work.
The paperwork was processed. I scheduled a time to meet with Anne Hegberg from Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital. I traveled to Wheaton, Ill., to complete a basic evaluation with Anne, in June, which was an overnight trip.
The video below is very similar to what I did during my evaluation.
Anne evaluated me on my vision, reflexes and physical stability. Once she declared me physically capable of driving, we scheduled another time in August to complete fifteen hours of training.
During the training in August, we worked on two main components. The first component was figuring out the logistics. Should I try to use a wheel steering wheel? How am I going to operate the gas and brake pedals? A lot of it was just figuring out the placement of things. Anne told me repeatedly that even a couple of inches can mean a lot as far as comfort is concerned.
The second component was practicing driving. Before August, I hadn’t been behind the wheel in five years. I had to relearn the rules of the road and gain better instincts as a driver.
After my fifteen hours of training, Anne wrote up a “prescription” of what I would require. The report was extremely thorough including, but not limited to, where the steering was to be mounted, how the seat belt was to be placed, an LED light shining on the ramp so I can see at night and blind spot mirrors.
I went with my dad to pick out the perfect minivan. Once we took care of the business side of things, United Access started on the van conversion, which took about two months. I stopped in every once in a while to check up on my baby.
And here’s the finished product.
Anna Corbitt is the Youth and Family Specialist at Paraquad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.