AT driving, Disable driving, Wheelchair driving, wheelchair vehicle

My Journey to Driving with Assisted Technology, Part 3

I had my first assisted technology (AT) driving lesson yesterday! Yippee! This has been several months coming. It did not go smoothly. I only made it a few houses down the street. I did not even finish the driving at my driveway. But we made a lot of progress you can’t measure with distance.

We figured out how to get me set up in my trainer’s vehicle. First, the usual things you normally take for granted. It took some logistics to get me into the driver’s seat. It also took time to make sure the seat and I were adjusted for best driving sight range.

Then an orientation on the assisted technology began. There are several options and vendors for each type of AT function. I will discuss the few my trainer pre-screened for my training.

Brake and gas AT lever. Pic edited from "Mobility Express" store website.
Brake and gas AT lever. Pic edited from “Mobility Express” store website.

A stick lever gear was added to the left of the steering wheel. It has a button to push after starting the car to engage this device. Without pushing the button the car would drive with the brake and gas pedals. A hard push of the stick towards the dash is the AT means of applying the brake. To give the car gas, this AT device needs to be tipped down towards the driver. I practiced these actions as my trainer used the brake pedal in the front passenger area.

Next up was the steering wheel. We tried a spinner ball grip and a 3 peg grip. These were for my right hand. My weak hand. These both give you a way to move the steering wheel with one hand without needing to let go of the steering wheel. The spinner ball is gripped like, well, a ball. The ball spins as you move the steering wheel around without changing your grip. The 3 peg grip has a peg you grip and two pegs that you put your wrist between. The arrangement of the pegs allows you to spend less force in steering. Both of these can be popped off for a non-AT driver.

The spinner ball was first. I managed to steer to the correct side of the road and two houses down the street. It was very hard. It was like not having power steering. The spinner ball was popped off and the 3 peg control was added. I faced a bend in the road. After a little try, I found this control was also too difficult.

Unfortunately, my weak hand is too weak for the steering wheel. This was important to learn. It means I need the brake/gas stick lever on the right side so I can use my left, aka strong, hand to steer.

Ok, on to another driving control.

The gear shift. My trainer’s vehicle has the gear shift in the console. I was able to use it fine. However, handicap van gear shifts are on the dash. I raised my concern with the reach. After practicing a few reach ranges and discussion, my trainer agreed a gear shift AT was needed. There are options. My trainer will consider which is best before my next lesson.

So, while I only drove a few houses down my street, a lot happened in an hour. Another step towards independent driving again! Here’s hoping my next lesson includes driving back to my driveway.

3 thoughts on “My Journey to Driving with Assisted Technology, Part 3”

  1. Love reading these. I could not get past the part of just getting in the vehicle. I would cry or swear a little. You have the smartest left hand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wendy, getting into the driver’s seat was what concerned (ok, scared) me the most before my first lesson. The struggle getting in and out of regular vehicle seats is what drove me to wheelchair vans. When I saw the trainer drive up in a sedan, I did a mix of internal tears and swearing.


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