What is a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist? | Derrick Scott

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on October 02, 2019 # Mobility

America's century-long love affair with the automobile is as strong as ever. Despite the inherent risks of traffic accidents and the relatively high costs associated with owning a car, the desire for motoring independence continues to grow. For many, including individuals living with paralysis, having a car represents an extension of self, a machine that serves as a virtual embodiment of one's status and quality of life. However, the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) built into every automobile is, for the most part, designed for non-disabled people. As a result, many individuals sharing the same desires and need for motor independence find themselves stranded upon society's margins.

That said, the spirit of necessity has indeed become the mother of countless inventions giving access to drivers with limited physical function. Moreover, technological advancements in vehicle modification and vehicle conversions provide a continuing growing platform for adaptive solutions.

If you have a medically related condition and wish to explore the possibility of driving, a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (DRS) is the professional who can help you navigate the process. A process that includes:

  • Identifying the best alternative transportation options
  • Assistance with the State licensing agency
  • Provide resources for organizations providing financial aid

Driver Rehabilitation Specialists are trained professionals employing expertise from the fields of driver education and or health care services. Driver Rehabilitation Specialists generally work with individuals of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.

A DRS drawing from a background in health care therapy uses evidence-based clinical tools to assess a client's vision, visual, and cognitive function. Furthermore, adaptive solutions such as hand controls, left-foot accelerators, steering orthotics, and secondary control systems are readily available for individuals with a limited physical range of motion, strength, and proprioception.

The range of services offered by Driver Rehabilitation programs differ. The Driver Rehabilitation Specialist's professional experience, knowledge, and equipment determine the scope of the services provided.

The principal elements of the Driver Assessment process consist of:

  1. A Pre-Drive Clinical Screening, consisting of tests to measure vision and visual processing skills, motor skills, hearing, and cognition
  2. A Behind-The-Wheel Test, assessing driver knowledge, habits, and behaviors, as well as operational, tactical, and strategic skills

Driver Assessments are documented in the form of a written report and provided to the client, and the referring physician. When applicable, the Driver Assessment Report shall include a Vehicle Modification Prescription, used by the Equipment Modification Dealer for vehicle modifications.

Many DRS are members of The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (ADED). The ADED is a 501c corporation comprised of members from a broad vocational spectrum of individuals and organizations dedicated to the democratization of transportation mobility through rehabilitation. Members include vocational and rehabilitation professionals, equipment manufacturers, vehicle modification dealers, technicians, education specialists, occupational, physical, kinesio, recreational, and speech-language therapists.

Just one of the many essential responsibilities of ADED is the certification process of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists. The CDRS certification requires considerable professional field experience and successfully passing a rigorous examination of the industry's best-practice standards.

These standards include recognizing the corollaries between clinical tests and the in-car experience, knowledge of vehicle control adaptation, vehicle egress/ingress modifications, privacy laws, and ethical business practices.

Advances in technology require a commitment to continuous learning; The CDRS must also earn thirty hours of educational units for every three years of recertification. For these reasons, Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists are widely considered by people in the industry as "the gold standard" of driver rehabilitation. Presently there are roughly 392 CDRS professionals in North America. The ADED website provides a regional list of Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists as well as other useful information relating to driver rehabilitation.

Many of the active members of the ADED are also members of The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA). NMEDA established the first and only industry-wide quality standard accreditation for vehicle conversion and assistive equipment installation procedures known as The Quality Assurance Program (QAP).

Due to the dedication of organizations, technological innovations, and trained professionals, like the Driver Rehabilitation Specialist, we are living in the golden era of accessibility to the world of driving for persons with special needs.

Derrick P. Scott is a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist and Licensed Driving Instructor who's passionate about the Art of Learning. Derrick's mission: finding creative solutions that improve accessibility for people with mobility challenges desiring to drive. Derrick is the founder of A-Safer Driver Inc, Fit2 Drive Rehab Services, and Apex Driving School. In over 30 years of service, Derrick has assisted and collaborated on projects with The American Heart Association, California Department of Motor Vehicles, National Highway Traffic Safety Agency, Buck Institute on Aging, and The International Society for Low Vision Research and Rehabilitation. Derrick is currently serving as an Ambassador for the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialist.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.