Finding and Hiring a Driver If You’re Blind or Visually Impaired by Stephanie Stephens Van

Head shot of Stephanie Stephens Van

Guest blogger Stephanie Stephens Van has lectured nationally on adapted crafts and leisure activities; adjustment to blindness and low vision; functional vision skills; and activities of daily living. Stephanie is a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, a Low Vision Therapist, and an adjunct instructor at the Salus University College of Education and Rehabilitation.

She is the author of A Day on the Road with Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Stephanie Stephens Van and Setting Up a Craft Area: Some Ideas to Try If You are Blind or Have Low Vision. Stephanie has a Master’s degree in Blind Rehabilitation from Western Michigan University.

The Driver Problem: A Daily Frustration

My husband and I are legally blind and are raising two boys. We have no car. We have chosen to live in an urban area for the benefit of transportation, but we have also faced the challenges of living in suburbs and small towns. We are continually reminded of our transportation challenges by family and friends who will ask, “Why don’t you move back home?” or “Why don’t you come visit more often?” The answer is simple. We need a driver.

Assistive technology has put me on a more-or-less equal playing field with my sighted counterparts. Despite all of these impressive technological advances, however, what continues to frustrate me the most in my daily life is the stress and anxiety of being at the mercy of public transportation systems.

Getting a driver sounds simple, doesn’t it? It sounded simple to me when I was in my twenties. In my naiveté, I thought this would be easy. But over the past thirty years, I have learned it is not that simple. Transportation options have declined, due to lack of funding. Fewer persons are available to volunteer as drivers. Medical facilities and shopping areas have sprawled far outside the city limits. Transportation options and related ease of mobility have decreased significantly.

My Early Driver Experiences: It Was So Much Easier “Back Then”

When I first began working as an itinerant (or field-based) Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (VRT) in the 1980s, the private, non-profit agency that hired me provided a corps of volunteer drivers. Work problem solved! The need to get around to shopping, medical, and social events was also less problematic back then, when taxis were prevalent, reliable, and accommodating.

My work friends and church friends were available to drive on an “as needed” basis. I made sure not to ask the same person too often, so that none of my drivers felt “used or abused.” The notion of “not going back to the same well” too many times is an important point that not only applies to drivers, but to other sources of support as well.

Over the years, however, transportation funding was steadily reduced, along with bus routes, schedules, and transportation flexibility. The health care system spread out its specialties and testing areas. There was no more “one-stop shopping,” so to speak. In addition, my current employer required that I hire my own drivers for my field-based work.

Learning to Find a Driver: Lessons I Have Learned and Want to Share

What all of this meant was that I had to learn a variety of effective ways to hire my own drivers for both my work and personal lives, in order to ensure a reliable and consistent means of transportation. Here are some lessons about hiring a driver that I have learned along the way.

Read on for Stephanie’s Top Ten Lessons for Finding and Hiring a Driver. They’re practical, useful, and … brilliant, even. Thanks so much, Stephanie!