From the Press: Shepherd Center
Written by Kerry Ludlam
“For most people, the ability to drive means much more than just a way to get from point A to point B. It means convenience, opportunity and most of all — independence. Just ask Ben Elstad.
“Imagine not being able to drive independently or having to count on other people or public transportation to go anywhere,” says Ben, a U.S. Army veteran who sustained a C-4 incomplete spinal cord injury in a car crash in 1989. “Public transportation isn’t always reliable, and I didn’t want to inconvenience my family and friends by asking them to drive me everywhere I needed to go.”
Fortunately, Shepherd Center’s Adaptive Driving Program, which is part of the Assistive Technology Center, aims to help drivers like Ben remain independent while keeping them and other drivers safe. The adapted driving team, consisting of certified driver rehabilitation specialists, including a certified driving educator and two occupational therapists, helps clients evaluate, understand and use available transportation options while also addressing safety and accessibility issues after experiencing a loss in mobility.
When clients first come to Shepherd Center Adaptive Driving Program in Atlanta, they undergo an in-center evaluation, typically lasting three hours. The first hour-and-a-half is a clinical assessment of the client’s arms, legs, vision, cognition and balance for driving. The last hour-and-a-half is an on-road assessment.
“We begin by evaluating clients’ physical capabilities like eyesight, reaction time and brain function,” says Matt Abisamra, OTR/L, CDRS, the driving program supervisor. “We also look at their current level of function and how their disability may affect driving.””