Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's not that simple.

My post for the July Disability Blog Carnival. Considering I was not home and did not have access to a computer for the majority of the month, I am amazed that I can actually get a post in for this month. I am awesome. Onto the post!

Recently I've been working on a huge milestone for me - learning how to drive. This will be an extraordinarily difficult task for me, but in light of a few recent paratransit fails, I feel it's necessary for me to know how to drive in order to have any sort of independence at all as an adult. But I tell people that it's going to be difficult for me to drive, and I get well-meaning, but idiotic comments like "fill-in-the-blank random person with completely unrelated disability drives, so you can too!" or "You can just get hand controls!" It's not that simple, people.

OK, so I might need hand controls, but that's not what I'm worried about. The thing about CP is that it has some visible, evident parts to it, such as the whole my-legs-don't-work-that-well thing and my obvious spasticity, especially when I'm tired. And it also has a lot of non-evident parts to it, especially in my case.

Partially because of weak eye muscles causing my eyes to drift in/out, partially because I think it's part of the brain damage that caused the CP, I have major problems with depth perception and directional skills. I always had trouble with left and right - even now, I have to think for a second about which hand is my right and which hand is my left. It took me a very long time to grasp the whole "when I'm facing you, your left is my right and vice versa" concept. That alone could be catastrophic when driving, when you have to make split second decisions about which way to turn, or who has the right-of-way. Even studying for my permit test was difficult, because it was hard for me to visualize the scene when they talked about left and rights. I was infinitely relieved when none of the left/right stuff was on the actual test (I passed with only one wrong!).

On top of the directional stuff, though, is the perceptual stuff. They're kinda related and I usually group them together as perceptual/directional issues. Problems with depth perceptions mean that I have trouble seeing in 3D. For years, this had absolutely no impact on my life whatsoever; all I knew was that I couldn't see the fly pop out when they asked me at the eye doctor's office. Then as I grew older and more aware of my surroundings, the loss of depth perception started creeping into my "real life". I have trouble seeing things on top of other things if they are the same color or pattern. For instance, if there's a puddle on the ground, I don't always see it because it blends in with the ground, and I don't always realize how deep it goes. I've stepped in many a puddle this way. Also, if there's a step that's the same color/pattern as the floor, I don't always see it, and I've had a few scary moments where I've almost fallen down the stairs because I didn't see the step. This could also seriously impair my ability to drive.

Now after reading that, you probably think I'm crazy for even considering driving at all. Most of my friends and family seem to think so. But the thing is, if I don't drive, there's a very good chance that I won't be able to go anywhere independently when I'm living on my own. I can't take public buses because if the bus stop is more than like a block away, I can't walk to it and if the bus stop doesn't have a seat, I'm seriously screwed. I can't take the scooter because who knows if the bus will have a working lift, and then I have to worry about if the place I'm going to is accessible. I can't get to a train station on my own if it's even remotely far away, and I can't stand waiting for a train. Not to mention with my directional issues, I'd be petrified to be in a big train station by myself (I'm thinking of a few in NYC...). And again, separate issues arise if I bring the scooter - will I be able to get it onto the train? Off the train? Will there be a spot for it on the train? And will my destination be accessible? And paratransit is so ridiculously unreliable that it's barely even an option. So unless I drive, I'm looking at a fairly bleak future limited to the few places I can walk/roll to.

I'm not saying driving is completely impossible for me either - I know I can do it, it's just going to be difficult. I'm realistic with myself, and I know that driving isn't going to be easy. Which is why it annoys me when normies, even normies that are close to me, act like just because my physical issues are relatively mild, that driving is going to be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. That's not the case at all, because as much as the evident aspects of my CP are going to complicate driving, the non-evident aspects are going to complicate driving even more. But I have faith in myself. I should be getting a driving evaluation before the end of the summer and from there we can move forward onto actual driving. So watch out for Spaz Girl on the road everyone!


Adelaide Dupont said...

Hope the evaluation goes well.

Thanks for pointing out the depth perception aspect of driving: the fly and how it comes into 3D.

I would also say: "It's not that simple", in fact, driving is probably one of the hardest physical (and mental) tasks you can do.

The theme is "Evidence", isn't it?

Cara Liebowitz said...

yup, theme is evidence, submissions are due july 26.

codeman38 said...

Here via the Disability Blog Carnival.

I'm struggling with this as well. I have difficulty telling where other cars are on the road, which is... rather dangerous. (Several times, I've misjudged which lane a car was in.) I also have trouble judging just how far the car extends beyond me. And let's not even start on judging how far in front of or behind me other cars are.

Oh, and to make things even worse? I actually had an evaluation done, funded by the state Vocational Rehab agency, by an organization that works with traumatic brain injury patients. Apparently they weren't sure how to deal with perceptual issues like mine. That's... not exactly confidence-inspiring.

I really wish transportation alternatives were more widespread. Honestly, I wouldn't mind walking places if roads were remotely pedestrian-friendly and things were close by!

Cara Liebowitz said...


Yeah, I'm having an evaluation done next week funded by a similar vocational rehab service. Really nervous. Thinking about bringing up the perceptual issues and seeing what they say. I'm not entirely sure how the evaluation works but I'm hoping I get some time beforehand to sit down with someone and go through my concerns about driving before they just throw me into a car....I will definitely be updating this blog with my continuing driving saga....

Adelaide Dupont said...

Codeman, no, it isn't confidence-inspiring. And, yes, to the pedestrian-(un)friendly roads.

Spaz Girl, best wishes about talking with someone. Hope it goes well.