Getting your license and a modified vehicle (or, modifying your own) are great milestones to achieve! Regaining independence through having your own transport is essential in your recovery progress. I want to share with you the steps that I took to regain my driver’s license.
It can be simple and stress free.
The first step I needed to take was to undergo a medical assessment. This was far less invasive than any of the assessments that I had undergone during recovery. Just a simple function and eyesight test.
Once you've passed your medical you need to organise two things; to see an Occupational Therapist in your area (who would have done your medical test) and a driving instructor, with a hand control car. During the first appointment the Occupational Therapist will review and judge your ability to adapt to the use of hand controls. With a background in operating forklift trucks, I was fairly familiar with the spinner on the wheel, and the push-pat hand control came very easily to me. I went straight out onto the road, did my assessment and passed! Driving is a skill that we all really need to know how to do. The hand controls are quite simple. If you take it at a steady pace, combined with a little patience, it will just flow.
After recovery, we start to adapt everything we do without the use of our legs. This in turn makes it quite easy to pick up on driving with hands only. I understand the thought of driving with hand controls is daunting, but once you do a few laps in a big open car park, your confidence will quickly grow. Learning to transfer in and out of the car is also very important. I practised this a lot while I was in rehab at the Talbot. I can't emphasise enough how important it is to practise these techniques! It can become tiring once you do a few transfers within a day, going to school, the shops etc.
" The thought of driving with hand controls is daunting, but once you do a few laps in a big open car park, your confidence will quickly grow. Learning to transfer in and out of the car is also very important."
The challenge was then getting a car. Previously, I had only ever used a company car. However, most automatic cars can be modified with the basic push-pat controls, which are also the cheapest. I bought a car from Capital Special Vehicles (CSV), who unfortunately took over a month to release it to be shipped to Tasmania. This became quite a stressful turning point in the ordeal, but eventually I received the car. The next step is to get an automatic car suitable to your needs, and get it modified accordingly at your local approved technician.
Having your own transport is what we use to take for granted. It has improved my quality of life by 100%. The ability of being independent has allowed me to be able to have my kids 50% of the time. I can take them to school, sports and general activities, as well as have peace of mind, knowing I have access to a car if anything happens. My advice is, don't wait or don’t put off returning to the road if at all possible!