For the first 18+ years of my life if I wanted to go somewhere away from my house I had two choices in how I was going to get there. My first option was to use my power wheelchair (or “electric chair” as I call it) so that I can get around on my own when I get to where I’m going. But as you can imagine trying to get a ride when you got a 300+ pound chair attached to your butt isn’t easy. So I had to have my parents drive me around in the family van. Oh and if we forgot to charge it the night before, well refer to option 2.
My second option, option 2 was to take my manual wheelchair (or “push chair” as I call it). It’s light, could fold up, and could easily fit in a trunk. That’s great right? Well yes, and no… Imagine being in a hospital wheelchair with your hands tied behind your back and a drunk porter is pushing you around, sometimes fast “for fun” ;). There are very few people that I can remember that did a decent job pushing me. Then there were the people who thought it would be fun to run and turn as fast as possible or not thinking they would face me away from people I would be talking to or the ones who forgot I didn’t have my power wheelchair and would start walking away from me… Argghhhh…
Thankfully when I was 19 years old I bought my first van and raised the $45,000+ I needed to have it modified for me to drive it. I was finally driving my own van and I was free! Currently I am on my 3rd van and each one has significantly gotten better and better.
You may be asking yourself, “how is this possible that you have no hands, short and and legs and can still drive”? Well the answer is easy…magic! No not really magic, just some really cool technology. First of all I have a ramp that extends from under the van, I drive up it, lock my chair into a special locking system, and transfer to the drivers seat. Once I’m in the drivers seat I have a control panel to my left that controls everything from heat/fan controls and turn signals to shifting gears. My pedals were designed by me and are extended to reach from the standard pedals to my feet. I have no modifications to the steering wheel at all although I did have what’s called “vacuum assisted steering” added which is like power steering on steroids.
There does come times where I don’t feel like driving or I go out with my wife and have a few too many…beverages and I can’t just call an accessible cab, especially not in Detroit (that’s a whole-nother blog post). But for the most part I drive everywhere and love having the freedom of being able to just jump in the van and go anywhere I want!