I was nervous about my first appointment. I was not sure what to expect. No one really told me about this service, so I had no idea what we would do to get started. The only thought I had in mind is that I would learn the lessons fast, so I did not have to spend even more money on them than what I already planned to. Delete to All I knew at the time is that it felt good to know that my money was going toward something that would help me regain freedom. I had dumped a lot of money into surgeries that did not work, but this time I knew it was going toward something I knew would be successful.
Right on time at 8 am, the door bell rang and I invited in my instructor. After a few pleasantries, we got to work right away. The first part was the $800 evaluation. The evaluation consisted of simple math problems, cognitive responses to questions, memory assessments, coordination testing, and visual testing. I understood the reasoning behind the tests. It was to ensure that people who could not see properly or think coherently, would not be driving on the road. The company not only dealt with disabled people, they also dealt with people who suffered brain trauma, and they needed to make sure they were able to pass the simplest tasks. However, I knew that I was okay and I could feel the money sliding out of my pocket for nothing.
After a quick assessment and review of my results, we were ready to go practice. The instructor drove us to a vacant parking lot that was close to home to start the training. She went over the three major car parts that were involved in driving with hand controls. The first was the pedal block. It was a piece that attached to the floor of the car that blocked the gas and the brake pedal. This provided a blockade for your foot, so it does not accidentally hit the gas or the brake pedal while the car was in motion. The second was the steering knob. The steering knob is a round knob about two to three inches in diameter that is connected at 1 o’clock in the steering wheel. This bulb was to be used by your right hand to steer the car. On the left side, toward the driver window was a bar that stuck out from the steering wheel. Pushing this bar towards you with your left wrist was acceleration and pushing it down toward the floor board was the brake. It was as simple as that. I just had to get used to the controls and their response time.
It had been a very long time since I drove at all. It felt that some of the chains connected to me and my chair were breaking. I started slowly in the parking lot, making stops, starts, right, and left turns. Playing video games for years must have paid off because the instructor stated that I was the quickest learner that she ever had. She was so confident in my ability that she let me drive on the road and then out on the highway. I did very well, only mistaking the push down for brake for acceleration. After two hours passed, we arrived home. I thanked her and told her it felt good to get behind the wheel. She stated it would only need to take one more lesson before I was ready to test with Penn Dot to obtain my credentials for driving a vehicle with modifications. I was thrilled comma and Amanda was happy with the enthusiasm I showed toward the whole program.
The next day I had to learn how to parallel park. This scared me. I had never learned how to do it properly in the past. I flunked twice on my original driving exam, but the examiner gave my license to me anyway.
I waited in the car in the same empty parking lot by my house while the instructor set up cones to simulate a parking spot. After she was done she joined me back in the car. I think she sensed my nervousness, and told me she would work with me until I got it right, even if I needed to add another lesson.
After an hour of pulling forward and backing up, I was becoming very agitated. I needed to stop, we were not making any progress. I was extremely frustrated at myself. Something as simple as parallel parking was blocking me from obtaining my hand controls and freedom.
I entered my house in a very foul mood. Amanda knew that this lesson had not gone as well without asking a question, and being as smart as she is, she did not. I spent the night trying to find a tutorial video that was simple enough to understand how to park with ease. After an hour of searching I found a video from a driving instructor on YouTube that seemed to make it super simple. I was determined to try again with the new information I learned.
The next week, we were once again in the instructor car, with the cones set up. I told her,”Watch this!” I pulled up next to the cone as the instructor in the video said and backed up just a little. I then turned the wheel to the right one time and backed up until I could see the cone in the center of the window. I then followed the next step of turning the wheel all the way to the left and backed into the space while watching the back cone. Those instructions worked like a charm, and I was more than delighted. I could also see the astonishment on the instructor’s face. She asked, “How did you do that?” I told her I learned it from the video and showed her. After performing it four more times flawlessly, the lesson and training were done.
We drove to and visited Total Mobility Services. We went over everything I was going to need for my car and ordered all the parts I needed for installation. With everything in hand all that we had to wait for was the date Penn Dot would test me. The earliest option was three months later.
Life went on during those three months, nothing had changed and the only thing on my mind was completing the trial at Penn Dot and regaining some of my freedom. I couldn’t drive with a regular pedal due to complications with my right ankle, but if I could just pass this test, I would be able to drive with my hands. I was more than delighted by the thought.
The day came, and right on time the instructor was at my door. We were both excited and nervous. She stated that she believed I would pass the test. As we arrived at the testing center we put the car in line. There were only two others that were in front of me. I watched nervously out the window as I saw once one car having a lot of trouble parallel parking. Sensing my nervousness, the instructor told me, “That is not you. You know how to do it.”
After twenty minutes the examiner came to my car and the instructor left. The examiner never had seen hand controls before, which baffled me, but she stated if I could prove I could drive with them it would be good enough for her. So, with that statement the test began. I pulled up to the stop sign that was on the track and used my turn signal to make it to the area of parallel parking. It was time. I knew if I could do this, I could do the rest. I took a deep breath and followed exactly what the video showed me. I slowly pulled up, then pulled back a little from the cone. I whipped the steering wheel around like I did before in the empty parking lot, and to finish, I backed up a little bit. There it was, I did it. I centered the car. I was so relieved, and I knew my instructor was, too. The examiner stated, “Well I can see you know what your doing. Let’s go out on the road. road.”
We traveled on the road for five minutes and came back to the parking lot. For the first time in a long time, nothing went wrong. Nothing went wrong. I repeat nothing went wrong. It was a long time since nothing had gone wrong in my life.
After finishing the test I parked and we went inside to fill out the necessary paperwork to place the hand control restriction on my license. Both the instructor and I felt jubilant. I looked at her with sincerity and stated, “Thank you for giving me some of my freedom back.”
With those words we went home, and within the next two weeks the controls were installed on my car.
I would like the reader to take away from this entry about getting over your nervousness or doubts. I pushed off the hand controls for a long time because I thought I was going to get better. Once I realized I was not I doubted that I could pass the test again considering I never did. The only thing we can do is to keep pushing forward and try to regain our freedom that the obstacles in our life take away.
I was truly excited to get the hand controls. It meant that I did not have to depend on everyone driving me everywhere due to my right ankle being in pain all the time. I was relieved and joyful when the controls were put on. It was worth every penny.
I know it has been a long time since I made an entry. I will explain that later . . . just know I had been going and continue to go through a hard health struggle once again. I was having serious doubts about continuing this blog. I wanted to end this blog on a high note. Now I do not know if I can. However, I know more important than ending on a high note is that we keep fighting. That also means telling my story. If I can touch one life with my story, all of this was worth it.
This is the video on You Tube that taught me how to parallel park in minutes. It is good for anyone who has trouble parking or is about to obtain their license.