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After a brain injury, some people drive with restrictions and may need vehicle modification. Many others find that they need (or want) to utilize assistive technology or public transportation. This section describes some of the options that persons with disabilities can use to get around.
People use many skills when driving, including attention, visual processing, reaction time, judgment, spatial orientation and motor skills. A brain injury may greatly impact the way the brain functions relate to many of these abilities. Persons with brain injury should use caution when deciding to continue driving after a brain injury and listen to recommendations given by medical professionals.
Assessing Your Driving Skills
Some service providers offer detailed driver assessment programs in which program staff work on and off the road to determine a person's ability to drive. Other programs offer individuals the opportunity to relearn driving skills. Your primary care physician can also advise you in regards to your ability to relearn how to safely drive. Call the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance at 612-378-2742 or 800-669-6442 for more information.
Modifying Your Vehicle
When physical limitations are the primary restriction of driving, there are several ways your vehicle can be modified. Vans can be modified to fit wheelchairs. Vehicles can be modified so that acceleration and braking controls are located on the steering column rather than the floor. A qualified professional needs to assess and recommend adaptive equipment. When choosing a company to modify or adapt a motor vehicle, be sure to ask questions to ensure that the company is qualified and reputable. Remember to shop around to ensure that you are getting a fair price.
Disabled Parking Permit and Spaces
Disabled parking is necessary for some persons with brain injury who are able to drive but lack the ability to walk long distances. To learn if you qualify and apply for a disabled parking certificate or license plate, contact the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Driver & Vehicle Services Division at 651-296-6911 (TDD/TTY is 651-282-6555) or write to: 161 Transportation Building, St. Paul, MN 55155. You can also download an application from the Internet by visiting www.dps.state.mn.us/dvs and clicking on Disability Parking. To apply for a disability parking space in front of your home, contact your local city hall.
Survivor ID Cards
Some persons with brain injury have motor and speech impairments that may be misunderstood by a police officer who is unfamiliar with the effects of brain injury. A driver who has a visible disability caused by a brain injury should be prepared to calmly explain his or her disability to a police officer. You can obtain an identification card explaining that you have sustained a brain injury by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: TPN, Attn: ID Cards, P.O. Box 121012 W. Melbourne, Fla. 32912-1012. You may also want to consider a medical alert bracelet.
All public transportation vehicles are required to be accessible to persons with disabilities. Some public transportation systems offer discount rates for persons with disabilities. Many cities also have programs where a van will pick you up at your door and transport you to your appointment for a reasonable fee if you call in advance. To locate a local public transportation provider, visit: www.apta.com/links/state_local/mn.cfm.
ADA paratransit service (Metro Mobility) is public transportation for certified riders who are unable to use the regular fixed-route bus due to a disability or health condition. Rides are provided for any purpose and are shared by multiple passengers. For more information about ADA paratransit services, call 651-602-1111 (TTY 651-221-9886) or visit www.metrocouncil.org/transportation/paratransit/intro.htm.
Minnesota Non-emergency Transportation
The Minnesota Non-emergency Transportation (MNET) program was developed for individuals in the 11-county Twin Cities metropolitan area who cannot get their own rides or who need unique transportation assistance. Individuals enrolled in the Minnesota Health Care Program may use MNET services for transportation needs. For more information, call 651-645-3982.
Volunteer Driving Programs
Many counties, community organizations, faith-based institutions and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) set up programs where people with disabilities are matched up with volunteer drivers. Call your county, local community organization, faith-based institution or VA to find out where such programs may exist. Click here for a listing of counrty phone numbers.
Transportation for Seniors
The Senior Linkage Line can help seniors in all areas of Minnesota explore their transportation options. Call 800-333-2433. The Senior Linkage Line can also refer callers to housing resources for seniors.
Bartering Services for Transportation
Persons with brain injury who are not ready or able to drive may need to rely on family members, friends and neighbors to help them get around. Friends and neighbors may be more willing to take you around if you are able to give them something in return or reimburse them for gas. For example, you may be able to baby-sit, do yard work, shovel snow, wash the car, treat the driver to lunch, or knit a sweater in exchange for rides. Be creative!
Long Distance Traveling Information
Plan in advance when traveling as an individual with a disability. Transport systems can usually provide printed or voice information about special needs. Services may be available at airports and train stations to assist you in locating and getting to the proper gate and concourse. There are some organizations that can help you plan your trip.
Airline travel is covered under the Air Carrier Access Act. For more information on
accessibility and airline travel, visit the Department of Transportation's Aviation Consumer Protection Division at http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/publications/horizons.htm.
There also are several Web sites with specific travel information for people with disabilities, including information, which modes of transportation, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, museums, and other places are disability-friendly – and which are not. A sampling of these Web sites includes:
For further assistance on transportation, call the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance at 612-378-2742 or 800-669-6442.
Continue to the next section, "Return to Work/Vocational Rehabilitation."