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I'm Not 'Lucky' That I Can't Drive Because of My Learning Disability

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When I tell people that I can’t drive because of my disability, I get a variety of responses. I have had people offer solutions to try to cure me or look at me in disbelief. I’ve been told “You’re so lucky that you don’t have to drive.”

I was shocked that someone would say something like that. I calmly told this person that not driving has its advantages and disadvantages. They continued to insist I was “lucky.”

I may not have to experience driving in bad weather and having the other responsibilities of owning a car, but not being able to drive creates a set of complications that a person who drives does not have to experience. If I want to go somewhere that I can’t walk to, I need to coordinate a ride to get there and back.

I’ve had to turn down jobs that paid well and I would have been qualified to do because the job required driving or traveling. Many jobs require a driver’s license, not a state identification card, even if driving is not required. I have gone into interviews and I was honest that I couldn’t drive. I had interviews where that went well and I got the job. I also had interviews where it did not go over well that I didn’t drive. I remember one where the interviewer asked, “How are we supposed to handle it if the bus is late?”

The stigma that surrounds a person without a license is that they are unmotivated and unreliable. Putting a driver’s license in the job description is a form of discrimination. Employment laws may prohibit an employer from not hiring someone based on a disability, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Putting the license requirement in the job description discourages people who don’t have a license from applying.

If I’m hired for a job, I will find a way to do it and I will ensure that I can get there. I’m honest about not being able to drive because if driving is an essential part of the job, I’m not the person they are looking for.

Shame is also part of the stigma attached to a person who doesn’t drive. I had a person come up to me and tell me, “You should be ashamed of yourself for not driving.” I explained to her that I couldn’t drive because of my disability. She was not aware of that and compared me to a man who wouldn’t drive because he didn’t want to be separated from his mother. I also had a partner tell me that he was tired of taking me around when we broke up. He also said I could drive if I really wanted to.

What many people don’t understand is that it is not my eyes preventing me from driving, it’s my brain. My visual perception difficulties involve my reaction time, eye-hand coordination and distinguishing my right from my left. I have learned to work on body awareness through exercise and that has helped, but I don’t feel comfortable driving and if my visual perception went out I’m afraid I may hurt someone.

Instead of telling me how lucky I was to not have to drive, I wish that person had said I was lucky to have a strong support system. I have friends and family that take me places. My support system has also grown to have a wonderful husband who takes me to work and on many adventures together. He likes driving and doesn’t mind that I can’t drive. I am also blessed with wonderful coworkers who give me rides home.

I am so fortunate to have understanding people in my life — many people who don’t drive don’t have this. I was hesitant to ask for rides because of ignorant comments in the past. I am so glad that I didn’t let the discouraging comments prevent me from reaching out to kind people.

I have accepted that driving is not in my best interest because of my learning disability. Other people in the past have had trouble accepting that I couldn’t drive. Many people won’t understand not being able to drive unless they have to go through it themselves. I don’t wish that on anyone, but there are ways to get where I need to go. Not being able to drive is neither lucky or unlucky. I simply have to find different routes to get where I want to go and not let my disability stop me from being successful.

Getty image by Penderev.

Originally published: December 28, 2020
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