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I Can't Drive Because of My Disability, But My Life Is Still a Beautiful Ride

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Every time I need to go somewhere I can’t walk to, I get in the car. This seemingly ordinary task is what many people do each day. The seat I always sit in is the same, no matter which vehicle I enter. I sit in the passenger seat of the car. The visual perception part of my learning disability makes driving neither safe nor possible. Being seated in the passenger seat, though, has enabled me to have a unique perspective on life.

When most people hear about a person who struggles with visual perception, they think the symptoms start in the eyes. However, my visual perception struggles start in my brain. I struggle with depth perception, reaction time, and the coordinating mechanics that driving requires.

It wasn’t a surprise to me or my parents that driving would create difficulties for me. Having dyscalculia not only affects my ability to do math, but it affects my hand-eye coordination as well. I flinch whenever an object comes near me. People would tell me “not to be afraid of the ball.” I wasn’t “afraid of the ball,” but my eyes would blink at even the softest ball that came in my field of vision. I struggled to coordinate my body and play competitive sports. In school, gym class was a nightmare for me! I was always dropping objects and was forever tripping over things.

My parents wanted to wait a year before attempting to teach me to drive. The first try was not in a car, but instead, it was on the riding lawn mower in the green field. I didn’t make straight lines — I made circles. That summer, at least I figured out where crop circles came from!

My one and only time behind the wheel was when my mom had me drive up the long driveway at my childhood home. It was fine… until I almost hit the garage door. Thankfully, my mom was there to stop the crash.

I had a driver’s evaluation done at a rehabilitation hospital. I passed all of the tests — except the visual perception one. It was recommended that I not get my license.

Not being able to drive didn’t bother me. I knew that I was going to have to live life differently if I couldn’t drive. I realized that I would need people to take me places. I also knew that living in a central location where I could walk or take the bus was going to provide more independence than living in the country.

Sadly, my lack of driving ability has bothered other people. I have had people tell me that my not driving is “annoying.” I have also had people who told me I am “lucky” that I can’t drive. Once, when I broke up with a guy, he told me that he was tired of taking me places. He also said I “could drive if I wanted to.” Other people have pitied me for not driving.

Not being able to drive has caused inconveniences and has made me plan much more than most people, but my view from the passenger seat also has many benefits. I help my husband when we are traveling by looking out for signs and places we want to go. He loves having me with him, and I love being his traveling companion.

When I am not able to get a ride, I enjoy my walks. I am able to pick up on details that other people miss. I love taking pictures of flowers and other interesting things on my adventures. I also love getting extra steps in by walking.

I am forever grateful for those who give me rides. The passenger seat may not be for everyone, but it is for me. The world needs both passengers and drivers to work together. The ride may not always be smooth or be a journey that people who can drive may understand. Still, the view from the passenger side may be different, but it can still be a beautiful ride.

Getty image by Westend61.

Originally published: June 28, 2022
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