When David Loeb became paralyzed 57 years ago, what he had difficulty accepting was being dependent on others. A diving accident in 1953 left David's body paralyzed, but his zest for life was as strong as ever.
At the the time of his accident, there were few manufacturers of adaptive driving equipment and even fewer driving schools to help him re-learn how to operate a car. David found someone who worked in the automotive industry, and together they designed a system of hand controls that would allow him to regain his independence. "I can't tell you what a delight it was for me to be able to get out of the house and go where I wanted," recalls David.
As a quadriplegic, David altered his career plans and readily accepted that he would have to re-think his dream of becoming an industrial designer. "It was just as well," jokes David who went on to become a highly successful investment advisor. "I really didn't have that much talent."
When David heard about MossRehab's Driving Program, he became an eager client. "I used to have to keep my wheelchair in the back of the car, but when I met MossRehab Driving Instructor Dan Basore, he helped convert a van so that I could stay in my wheelchair and drive," says David. "That gave me even more independence." His own frustrations fueled his desire to help others achieve self-sufficiency. He and Barbara, his wife of 52 years, are enthusiastic supporters of the Driving Program.
Today, David, who still manages his investment practice, likes to travel, read and spend time with his three children and six grandchildren. His generosity has made it possible for hundreds of people to regain their independence and achieve their potential. "I think the most important thing for any paralyzed person is being independent," says David. "I want to do everything I can to help other people who are in my situation have access to the adaptive devices and driving training that can give them that freedom."
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The Road to Independence
Seventy-five percent of us will become disabled at some point during our lifetime.
Although this information is hard to swallow, it is clear from this statistic that there is a good chance that we, or someone we love, will have to deal with a disability at some point in time. As Americans, we take pride in our independence, mobility and freedom. One area of our lives that provides us with this feeling of independence on a daily basis is our ability to drive.
As a leader in rehabilitation programs and services, Einstein addresses this issue head-on with its MossRehab Driving Program. Each year, throughout the tri-sate area, more than 750 persons with a physical or cognitive disability, as well as senior citizens, turn to MossRehab Driving Program to learn or re-learn how to drive.
Students of all ages, and with a wide range of disabilities, learn to drive using one of MossRehab's four cars and three vans. One of the vehicles is specially equipped with the Scott Driving System. These single-lever driving systems allow the driver to steer, apply gas, and brake with the hands rather than the feet. Other vehicles contain voice recognition capabilities and power headrests that control vehicle functions like lighting and turn signals.
As with any sound educational approach, the MossRehab Driving Program begins with evaluating the students' needs. "We conduct a screening to make sure candidates are seizure, drug and alcohol-free and that they have the vision and cognitive skills necessary to safely operate a vehicle," explains Dan Basore, Director of the Driving Program. "We also conduct a clinical evaluation to test each person's range of motion, perception and reaction time. If the candidate qualifies, we go to work teaching them how to drive," says Dan.
The next step is helping each individual who gets behind the wheel feel comfortable and competent. Instruction is highly individualized to the student. "Teaching a teenager who was born without a limb and is learning how to drive for the first time is very different from teaching an adult who has lost a limb to relearn how to drive using adaptive equipment," Dan emphasizes. After that, the drivers are coached and encouraged by their instructors until both feel ready to take the driving test. "We don't let anyone take the test until we know they can pass," Dan says proudly.
After the student is approved for his/her license, the MossRehab driving staff writes a prescription for the adaptive equipment the driver will need for their own vehicle. They follow up by checking to make sure the equipment has been installed properly.
"Our driving program is an essential element of MossRehab's overall commitment to helping those with disabilities achieve as much independence as they can," asserts Dan, "Being able to drive is a vital component in bringing freedom and self reliance into a person's life." It allows that person to work, go grocery shopping and even visit family without relying on others.
Success builds upon success. Once a person achieves independence in the area of mobility, there is often no limit to what he or she can accomplish.
Dan recalls one of his most memorable "thank you" letters from a young man who was born with no arms and only one leg. The man learned to drive a joystick system with his foot. Today, he is married with two children and has a doctorate in zoology. His letter thanked MossRehab for teaching him how to drive and giving him the opportunity to pursue his dreams and lead an independent life.
Dan says this is one of the many thank you's they receive from former students. It is clear that the MossRehab Driving Program is effectively steering those with disabilities on the road to independence.