For most people, sixteen is a big birthday. Some teenagers get their first car and their license, because they’ve gone through the required driver’s education course. This is one area where my disability has made me choose a different path. Like I’ve mentioned before, I had to have some of every type of Cerebral Palsy (CP). One of the things that is most difficult is probably something that most people don’t think of. It’s not the tight muscles that cause me some of the biggest problems, I can go to physical therapy and improve those, but there is one thing I’ve never been able to change at all. A lot of my reflexes are hyper, especially my startle reflex.
When I was younger, some of my family thought it was fun to startle me and I was always good natured about it. I could see it coming and I would still jump. I jump when I hear loud noises, even noises on the television. My dog, Duke, and I make each other jump. I’ve accepted this jumpiness, as part of my experience and it doesn’t really bother me anymore. I’ve figured out how to jump safely most of the time. I make sure I have room to jump without knocking into anything, if I know that something is on the television that is likely to startle me. Picture me behind the wheel of a car and how many sudden things happen when you’re driving.
Can you imagine the implications of someone like me being behind the wheel of a car, jumping like Mexican jumping bean? I made the difficult, but safer choice, not to go through driver’s education. There are people with CP who successfully drive, but in this area, I am more cautious. I don’t want to put myself or anyone else at risk, especially in a situation which I can avoid. I am in no way criticizing those people that choose to drive, in fact, I support their right to choose. The Viscardi Center in NY and other related driving mobility organizations exist to help people with disabilities learn to drive and assist with adapting vehicles, so they can drive.
Although I don’t drive, I am lucky to have access to two working accessible vehicles and when my personal care assistant (pca) is available, she can drive me wherever I want to go. That leaves nights and weekends and her days off, when I don’t have access to my own vehicles. If I lived in a larger city, I would have access to the bus line, as all buses and trains have to be accessible. Para- transit can also be an option for more rural places, but in my case, the 15-page application and the required doctors visit are barriers. You have to make arrangements 24 hours in advance, but what if I want to get my chocolate fix now? I would have to wait 24 hours and get everyone in the van to agree to go with me!
Also, not having access to transportation, leads to a lack of access to other things like working and relationships. It’s embarrassing to have your mom drive you and your date, although I have done that before. Let’s not mention that it also leaves me at the mercy of whomever is behind the wheel. I mentioned already that I’m cautious, but not all my drivers are. Closing my eyes and praying only works so well. Knock on wood, I’ve not been in an accident, yet. Which brings to mind, that most wheelchairs and harnesses are not designed for high speed impacts.
My vans are equipped with specially designed seatbelts, but they lock in the wrong place, which means I can’t get out of it, so I don’t normally wear it. That is one risk I do take. My van has tie downs that attach to the four corners of my chair and are very safe, if they are attached properly. I’m told that if the van flips, I should be left hanging upside in my chair, although I’m not eager to test that out.
I’m very hopeful that a lot of these transportation issues will soon be a thing of the past for me and other people with disabilities, with the new technology of driverless cars, like Knight Rider’s car, KITT. Although, I don’t want to be the first to try relying on a computer, but I can see myself in the future (when all the bugs are worked out). It would be great to type in a location or give a voice command and just go.
States are starting to develop the regulations already, as they see it coming. It is predicted that autonomous vehicles will be road ready by 2020. That’s not far away. Unfortunately, so far the regulations will still bar some people with disabilities from using driverless cars, as it is required that a licensed driver be able to take over manually, if necessary. I might consider doing drivers education for that purpose, not that I would be able to drive anywhere, but I’d be able to meet the requirement or hopefully, as the technology improves, maybe those regulations will be changed.
Pardon the pun, but transportation has always been a driving issue of the Disability Rights Movement and is one of our successes, as seen by all the transportation regulations mandated by the ADA, but we still need to band together and make sure we maintain and improve access to self-driving cars, as they improve. We might lose access again due to society trying to protect us. That’s one of the same arguments used in eugenics and institutions, but let’s leave that for another day.
That’s how I hope to roll in the future.
- Posted by Bryan Dooley
- On August 15, 2016
- 0 Comments