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I Should Not Have to Apologize for Being Unable to Drive


Recently I was reading a book entitled “Worlds Apart.” It is about teaching world languages to people with all kinds of disabilities. As a French teacher with CP, I am of course familiar with my own limitations, but wholly unfamiliar with those of others. I was reading it for new teaching techniques; the intended audience is non-disabled teachers looking to make accommodations in their classrooms.

The author describes in detail how the nature of disability is not a deficit in the person, but in the society. It struck me right away. My lack of a drivers’ license is only a problem because American society is built on car ownership. As an adult, my inability to drive continues to be what holds me back most. Despite my long list of medical issues, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hydrocephalus and blindness, I do not qualify for money or services to help me along. My long list of accomplishments — walking, talking, finishing my college degree and teaching French — mean the state regards me as too capable to receive services.

I am in the “legally blind” category. I can see well, but my depth perception is terrible. I attempted drivers’ ed, and although I could cognitively pass the written test, I could not take the road test, because after attempted behind-the-wheel practice I discovered I could not perceive distances. At 55 mph, that is too dangerous for everyone. Every new job requires schedules, checking bus routes, and panic when I cannot make the time work out. Living in the Midwest, public transportation is limited, and I do not qualify for the specialty services for people with disabilities that are available.

I am in the middle of one of these uncertain times now. Lyft and Uber are a Godsend. But I struggle with the reactions from colleagues who don’t understand why I’m running late and don’t do fun staff activities. While I can walk to school, 2.25 miles in Minnesota in March; it’s not practical. I have lost much of my independence. Two years ago, I could walk to work, the grocery store and the bank. Now I rely on the generosity of a few friends and my husband. It’s taken a toll on my mental outlook. I should not have to apologize for not being able to drive.

Getty image by Levtony.