Mike is and always has been a car guy. His first ride was a 1980’s Chevy Malibu Classic and by the time he was done with it, the 355 V8 was shot, the floor boards were rusted and there wasn’t much paint remaining from years of over waxing. But the stereo was awesome. Really awesome.
Becoming disabled didn’t take Mike off the road, he just had to learn to drive differently. As a full time wheelchir user, he transfers in and out of a car and stores his disassembled wheelchair in the seat behind him. In his van, he rolls up a ramp and transfers into a captain’s chair. A set of hand controls and a steering knob replace the gas and brake pedals and facilitate turning.
Learning to drive again wasn’t easy but it remains fun. He took driver’s ed all over again and even had to take a road test to get his new license. In the years since getting back behind the wheel, he has had a host or cars and vans – some full sized and some mini. And one convertible, too. He loves to drive with the top down, pull into a handicap spot and get stares from people who don’t believe that a disabled driver can be behind the wheel of a sports car.
The mobility industry has evolved, too. When Mike first got back on the road, vehicle choices were primarily limited to full sized vans with lowered floors or raised roofs and bulky, clunky wheelchair lifts. Now, drivers with disabilities have the choice of cars, vans, trucks, off road vehicles, motorcycles and so much more. A trade organization named the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) oversees the safety, quality, service and reliability of the adapted vehicle industry that enable so many millions to stay mobile, too. You can learn about how to get back on the road, find a local dealer, check out the latest and greatest vehicle modifications and even enter to win a new, fully customized vehicle in NMEDA’s annual National Mobility Awareness Month campaign. As a car guy, Mike is honored to serve as a National Spokesperson, too.
Being a car guy has its “ups” and “downs.” The upside? “We get the good parking but it’s not always easy,” he says. “Let’s just say some times the general public doesn’t always follow the rules and we have to fight for our spaces.” The downside? “Try changing a flat tire when you can’t lift it from the trunk,” he shares with a smile.
Here’s a gallery of what it means to live a mobile, active lifestyle. And a few shots that show why parking can be a pain, too.