Driving While Disabled

My father believes that acquiring a bachelor’s degree crystalizes my knack for effective driving. Although I’ve protested that college and driving not analogous, he believes I’m just fussy.

But then, he’s unaware that my heels behave like spaghetti straps—plantar fasciitis—and my back exists as a piece of laminated construction paper. It’s hilarious to me when people tell me about my body, and I’ve been the person doing the leg work to keep myself at my best. It’s always harder for me to take advice about CP from someone who I never feel I can talk openly with.

Driving requires a specific posture, a posture that changes from vehicle. If I’m in a wider vehicle, I constantly readjust my posture if the seats are made to swallow me whole. This happens even after I’ve made adjustments so that I might drive the best. Driving a luxury car isn’t something I like doing. The idea of a family car seating six, that has a V-6, conjures up its own version of hell that I must suppress as I’m working diligently to keep the car from careening into oblivion.I have fussed and struggled with a full-sized car since I’ve had the responsibility to drive.

And I get the same “there’s nothing wrong” response.

It’s not driving that I hate because I drove my cousins to church Sunday morning and I wasn’t the bundle of nerves I am usually. I laughed and talked and drove and made comedy of the traffic. But the idea of maneuvering a submarine across the road is a bit terrifying. Maneuvering means to move with difficulty.

And herein is the problem: When a person with Cerebral Palsy moves in a shuffle, where is the guarantee that driving won’t be a similar experience? That’s the block I face when handling a car that resembles a cloud. I have surprised myself, though

I know commoners are going to say I’m being unreasonable, but these critics didn’t see me haul it in my Toyota Tercel on the interstate. I felt safe enough then to drive across the freeway to a huge library although I was confused the parking situation, and the library was still undergoing construction.

Depth perception and linear reversing somehow are more urgent tasks in heavier, bigger cars. I’m always obsessing that I will break something or scratch something. I’m fortunate that my feet reach the pedals without a problem. Some disabled people need different accelerator and brake functions in their cars. Again, I’m lucky.

Those things are not fun or “peaceful”, they agitate the hell out of me. This is infuriating to imagine when the vehicle I drive isn’t my own. Many say that riding a bicycle helps us understand the relationship between the road and the wheel, but I’ve never had enough balance to ride a bike successfully. And my father gave up teaching me to do it.

When you’re a disabled driver, you’re concerned about judgement a tad more. Are you in the right lane? If you weave just a bit, are the cops going to assume you’ve been drinking? Has someone taken the handicapped spot in the lot? Will you be criticized if you  park away from other cars, because you suck at parking?

Do you have your “disabled” placard, when are you going to get it? Do you have a disabled plate?  The questions are enough to make me regret receiving a driver’s license and question the “over-rated” American-ness of the driving experience.

Disabled drivers are separate their non-disabled counter-parts. We have enough details to be aware of when we’re in traffic. The last thing we’d like is to be told that what we desire for our safety is all in our heads.

But I suppose my experience is much like that of the elderly. The elderly are shamed for being too old to drive. The disabled are shamed because people think they should not drive.

So what should you do before you assume that a disabled person is full of absent-minded concerns. Have a dialog and stop telling us what to do with our bodies. If we can talk to you and share things, let us talk. Here us out. You’ll be surprised what we actually know about what we live through everyday.

I can drive. But I need more space in a larger car. I usually need peace and quiet because the radio doesn’t always help me concentrate. I also need to ride with someone who isn’t prone to nervous outbursts. I also need to know that if traffic is heavy, I can count on my passenger to either help me look for clarity and not criticize me if I’m moving too slow.

I love my father much. So I’ve learned to laugh at many things he concludes about me. Disabled means for me that I am capable differently. There are just some tasks that I do differently, and no amount of emotion can change that fact.

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