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Can I Enroll in Driver’s Ed If I’m in a Wheelchair?

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Learning to drive is a right of passage, but the process of obtaining a driver’s license is different for everyone. Most first-time drivers enroll in a driver’s education course to learn, but not everyone can practice in a trainer’s or parent’s car, especially if you’re in a wheelchair. If you have a physical disability that prohibits you from operating the steering wheel or pedals of a vehicle without modifications, you will need to take alternate steps to learn to drive.

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A CDRS is your alternative to traditional driver’s ed

If you ride in a wheelchair, you’re in a Catch-22 situation: You need a modified vehicle to practice driving, but that means you’d have to modify your vehicle before possessing your driver’s license, which can be costly and complicated if you aren’t registered to operate a vehicle yet. Plus, traditional driver’s ed academies don’t have custom-upfitted vehicles for you to practice with.

That’s why you need a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist to perform a driving assessment.

A CDRS is a trained, knowledgeable expert on evaluating driving needs, coordinating solutions, and training aspiring drivers on using those solutions. They’ve received an official degree from The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists and can determine what modifications your car will need and train you on operating them and driving the vehicle in general. They’ll also assess your visual acuity, reaction time, sensation, and endurance to ensure you’re safe to operate a vehicle.

To connect with a CDRS, start with a search of the American Occupational Therapy Association database. Its website will provide you with contact and location information of driving specialists in your vicinity that can offer clinical evaluations and in-vehicle training for new drivers. Depending on what your needs are and where you live, you may have to look outside of your town, as there are currently only about 350 active Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists in the U.S. and Canada.

You can also receive recommendations from your local rehabilitation hospital’s occupational therapy department or contact the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists who can direct you to someone in the driving rehabilitation and training field.  

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