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Behind the Wheel: Blake Learns to Drive with Marianjoy’s Driver Rehabilitation Program

An active wheelchair basketball player, Blake was relying on fellow team members and family to drive him around. He watched his twin sister get her license at 16, and he was determined to get his, too. With Marianjoy’s Driver Rehabilitation Center, Blake is realizing his dream of learning how to drive, himself. “I was the first one my sister drove after she got her license,” says Blake. “Once I get my license, I want her to be the first one I drive. I want her to see that I’ve made it.”

Driving is not only a convenience, but also a rite of passage into adulthood. It is a marker of independence that helps people get to work, socialize, run errands, and remain active in the community. However, for some people with physical or visual limitations, such as those affected by disability or injury, driving comes with obstacles that can make the task daunting. Fortunately, Marianjoy’s Driver Rehabilitation Center can help.

At 16 years old, Blake watched his twin sister begin to drive. However, for Blake, born with spina bifida, driving would have extra challenges. That’s where Marianjoy came in.

As Blake’s senior year in high school approached, he told his mother that getting his license was a top priority for him before graduating. Driving would enable him to get to his wheelchair basketball practices and football coaching without having to rely on family members. A fellow team member told him of his own success with Marianjoy’s program, so Blake signed up right away. Now 1/3 of the way through the program, Blake hopes to get his license before his 18th birthday.

“I was the first one my sister took for a ride after she got her license,” says Blake, “and she drives me all the time, whenever I need it. Once I get my license, I want her to be the first one I drive. I want her to see that I’ve made it.”

Blake is just one of many people who have been helped by Marianjoy’s award-winning Driver Rehabilitation Center and certified driving school. Many school districts often refer students with disabilities to Marianjoy’s inclusive program. “There are other driver rehabilitation programs in Illinois, but they are not as comprehensive as ours,” states Anne Hegberg, Occupational Therapist, Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist and Driver Instructor. “We’re able to evaluate and train people with a wide range of disabilities right here.” Marianjoy has a fleet of vehicles with adaptive equipment, and it is the only facility among Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa to have a state-of-the-art, high-tech evaluation van.