Disable driving, MS Driving, Wheelchair driving

Assisted Technology Driving Lesson #2

Yea! I had my second AT driving lesson! My last lesson was 4 months ago and ended 2 houses away. The usual setup my trainer sees is a left hand control for the brake and gas petals leaving the right hand to steer and work the dash options. However, with a weaker right hand, I need a right hand control wand for the gas and brake. It took time for the part to be made, shipped, and installed.

I made sure I was ready. I put on secure shoes that were not too grippy for transferring to the car. I also wore my “easy to slide on upholstery” bermudas with belt loops. The last touch was my cooling wristbands because it is summer. In my vehicle I will drive from my wheelchair, but to train I need to transfer to my trainer’s car. He has brake and gas pedals on the passenger side too.

Brake and gas AT lever. Pic edited from "Mobility Express" store website.
Brake and gas AT lever. Pic edited from “Mobility Express” store website.
Hand control wand for gas and brake. Pic from MobilityWorks.com
Hand control wand for gas and brake. Pic from MobilityWorks.com
Spinner ball steering AT device. Pic edited from RehabMart website.
Spinner ball steering AT device. Pic edited from RehabMart website.

The first hand control above is a push brake, pull accelerate style. My trainer has the second, wand style. To use the wand style, from neutral position, you push to the dash to brake and push down to accelerate. These pictures show the laeft hand position for these controls. For right handed use, these controls would be on the right side of the steering wheel.

My trainer arrived and put the hand control and steering spinner knob in place. I got in and adjusted, with help. Those belt loops came in handy. Then we were ready for me to try the new configurement. Adjusting to a spinner knob to turn the steering wheel takes a little time. Decades of two handed steering habit takes awhile to break. I even was able to try a steering attachment that looked like part of a video game controller. This one included a 4 way button for the turn signals, headlights, and windshield wipers. I think this was designed for larger hands than mine. The grip and buttons were too far apart for me. My trainer will try a different knob next time.

The right hand wand allowed me to push forward to brake and push down to accelerate. I could do the brake and the gas well. I really did the gas too well. Instead of a lead foot, I have a lead hand! I would need an armrest extension to keep my arm from pulling down, engaging the gas pedal after braking. Part of the wand was rubbing against the steering wheel. My trainer is going to explore the options. Otherwise, the wand use for pedals was easier to adjust to using than the steering knob options.

Then we had a chat about the audio and climate controls. These along with the gear shift are on the right side, my weak side, and can be difficult to reach. Maybe a touch screen mounted on the left? Maybe something voice controlled? My trainer is going to investigate options with a vendor.

I suggested my trainer prescribe a Tesla. He just laughed. Maybe that cute little winking car from the commercials during the Olympics?

Oh well, it was worth a try.

My goal for this lesson was to end at my driveway. I did that after making a loop and a cul-de-sac visit around my neighborhood. Once we have all the right equipment in place, I hope to leave the neighborhood. Maybe my next lesson?

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