Tuesday, May 6, 2003
By Rachel Grace Toussaint
Some people are told that they’ll never be able to drive, or never drive again. But a program at Exeter Healthcare is putting the brakes on that disheartening news for many.
As part of the Drive Ability program, EHC offers a driver rehabilitation program geared toward those whose driving is affected because of their medical and/or psychological status, or because of a disability.
Drive Ability’s philosophy is "Disabled, not immobile." Using technological innovations, the program allows people of varying disabilities to operate a motor vehicle.
The program, according to Drive Ability Manager Staci Frazier, is the only one in the state that offers driver educators who are dually certified in both occupational therapy and driver education.
Educators, as part of the program, evaluate abilities, recommend equipment, teach new skills and develop strengths that help people recover or maintain independence.
An occupational therapist provides clinical assessments on cognitive and perceptual abilities, conducts a comprehensive interview, and tests knowledge of the rules of the road, motor skills, reaction times, and the vision of the driver-to-be.
Then, if necessary, the client will undergo classroom instruction and get behind-the-wheel experience.
"We’re not putting people on the road who shouldn’t be on the road," said Frazier. "We’re giving them a more thorough education so they are better, safer drivers."
According to Frazier, the program can help both a paraplegic who needs hand equipment to enable him to drive and a 17-year-old who can’t succeed in a regular driver’s education class.
"We’ve seen a lot of adults who were told they could never drive, and their self-confidence has been beaten down," Frazier said.
The program offers services for those with wide-ranging disabilities including acquired head injury, amputation, arthritis, cerebral palsy, cognitive deficits, dementia, learning disabilities, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and visual impairments.
When it comes to the types of adaptive equipment available for vehicles, Frazier said the sky is almost the limit. Some may need hand controls that manipulate the gas and brake instead of one’s feet. Others may need a left-foot gas accelerator.
There are also spinner knobs for one-handed steering, adaptive mirrors to increase peripheral vision and equipment that can reduce the steering effort by 50 percent.
"We also help a lot of arthritis patients simply by repositioning them," said Frazier. "They can learn to drive in a new way instead of having to get a new car, not driving, or getting adaptive equipment."
Hourly rates are charged for evaluations, training, driver education, equipment training and other services.
For information call, 773-4927.
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