How Driving Assisted in Me Regaining My Independence

Posted by Garrison Redd in Life After Paralysis on April 05, 2022 # Lifestyle

Driving is one of the many ways a person can regain their independence after sustaining a spinal cord injury. It played a crucial role in my recovery. I was injured at 17 years old. Many people my age were getting behind the wheel for the first time. Although I was lucky to get my license when I turned 17, I was injured shortly after that (not from a motor vehicle accident). I didn’t have a long history of driving experience, so it was a bit depressing at first to think about driving without having the ability to use my legs.

While I was a patient at NYU Rusk Rehabilitation, I learned about hand controls. They had a simulator where it was similar to driving in an arcade game; however, you were using a push-pull and hand control to accelerate and brake the virtual vehicle. I realized that driving would be an option in my future. I felt a sense of satisfaction and joy knowing that I would have the opportunity to drive again.

My first time back behind the wheel took place about six months after I left rehab as an in-patient which meant I did not drive for two years. The driving school instructor was very patient as far as with me transferring and dissembling the wheelchair to put it in the car. At the time, this was one of if not the only adaptive driving school in New York. I remember my mom telling me to take my time and not to rush. It felt like it was my first day driving all over again. As I started accelerating out of the parking lot, I said to myself, “this is actually easier than driving the able-body way.” Thirty minutes later, my lesson was complete. The driving instructor was amazed because he stated, “I was the first person he saw that needed one lesson to operate a push-pull hand control fully.”

Finding an adaptive driving school can be difficult, but there are schools out there. At the end of the blog, I will list a few in the New York and New Jersey areas.

INDEPENDENCE!!

I personally find it to be easier to independently transfer in and out of an SUV versus a car. Being that I am a low-level paraplegic, I am able to use leverage, momentum, and my strong biceps to curl the vehicle frame into my SUV. However, there are tons of adaptive driving options, such as ramp vans and others, that are made accessible so that quadriplegics can operate a vehicle independently as well.

Driving is one of the major keys to achieving independence. Once I was able to safely operate my car independently, I was able to go back to school, which led to me getting a job and being able to get to work every day on time. It was also a sense of liberation, being that I no longer had to depend on anybody or feel like a burden to someone when I had to ask them “if they can make arrangements so they can take me somewhere.” Below you will find a link to how I get in and out of my vehicle. Please take note this process will be different from person to person.

How to Get into your Vehicle

How to Get out of your vehicle

Adaptive Driving Schools

Car Modification/Hand Controls

My name is Garrison Redd. I am a T-12 paraplegic born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I am searchable under Garrison Redd on Youtube or @GarrisonRedd on Instagram and Facebook. As well as you can visit my website thegarrisonreddproject.org and you can send me a message on Reeve Connect Garrison Redd or email. I hope everybody stays safe and strong.

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.