It has been a while since I posted anything about my training to drive with assistive technology. I bet you thought I was finished training, had the new devices installed in my vehicle, and was busy driving all over town. Well, I wish.
There were 4 months between my first lesson and the second. Then another 3 ½ months before another lesson.
For my last lesson, my trainer added a push (brake) and pull (accelerate) right-hand stick wand and another spinning steering knob with turn signals and windshield wiper controls.
That last lesson did not have me even touching any assistive technology. Why not? Well, I was not able to transfer into the sedan. It was probably entertaining to witness. A son on one side and the trainer on the other haul me up to stand. It was a bit too cold outside for me to stand by myself. Or pivot in the tiny gutter space between my wheelchair, the car, and my two helpers. We tried this move several times with different angles and different spacing. I finally called it quits when I landed almost in the wheelchair with a shin jammed against the car frame. When the wheelchair was backed up to free my shin I started sliding off the wheelchair.
After I was safely back on the driveway, fully seated upright, and feet back on the footrest, my trainer looked at the minivan in my garage. “Can you get into your van?”, he asked. The van I bought so I could roll into with a wheelchair? The van with an automated wheelchair lock-down box? The van I plan to drive from a wheelchair? The van with the dash gear shift I mention at every lesson? “Yes, I ride in the van with my other, approved for driving, power wheelchair.”, I answered. “Would you like to see inside the van?” He quickly identified my dash-mounted gear shift as an issue.
Watching me use my power wheelchair had my trainer brainstorm other useful devices like mini horizontal mounted steering wheels; joystick steering; and a large push button box for signals, wipers, and such. The ‘and such’ was vague to me as well, but there were 5 more buttons on the box. I tried to define these extra buttons. Gears? Mirrors? A/C? Locks? Windows? No clue. I am still hoping for voice controls. Here are some control options I may get to try:
To assure me he would get me driving, my trainer showed me a video of someone steering with their right foot. Really. Yes, using a regular steering wheel. No, not an option for me.
It is now understood that I require a wheelchair-accessible vehicle – a van for training. OK, major hurdle crossed. Well, there is a larger hurdle: a van ready for training. We don’t know exactly what specific devices I need as it is still trial and error. So, the van needs a passenger-side brake and access to a variety of devices. My trainer doesn’t have such a van. An effort is underway to see if he can borrow such a van and maybe devices. We shall see.
I started this journey to driving with assistive technology a year ago. With the right equipment, I have been told it should only take a couple of days of training to become road-ready. I will keep you posted.