Amber Bosseleman is a 17 year old high school junior from Cheyenne Wyoming. Like most of her peers she is looking forward to graduation and has begun applying to colleges. Amber was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 2 when she was 18 months old. She has used a power wheelchair for mobility since the 7th grade and transfers in and out of it only with assistance. Other than having SMA Amber is your typical 17 year old girl. However, because of Amber's limited strength driving a car in its original manufactured way would be impossible and basic mechanical hand controls would not do. As Amber realized that the college of her choice was a 9 hour drive away she was motivated to figure out how she might be able to drive independently.
Amber was in a tough position in that Wyoming doesn't have a local Certified Driving Rehab Specialist (CDRS) that provides High Tech Driving Evaluations.
Amber's family contacted Driving To Independence in early March 2012 inquiring about their ability to assess and provide training for out of state consumers. Funding for the Driving Evaluation and Training would be provided by Wyoming's State Division of Rehab Services. Amber was scheduled to spend a week in Tempe with Driving To Independence in April over her spring break. An entire week was committed to helping her in her pursuit of independence.
She describes that she "was unsure of the evaluation process and what it would be like. But, [we sat] down and talk about what I need to do in the future and what this vehicle needs to do. We talked about my strengths and the abilities that I have. We made a plan about how I would learn to drive, the equipment I would need to drive and how we can get that in a vehicle suited for me." Amber will drive using a joystick to brake, accelerate and steer and electronic controls for gear shifting and secondary controls like her turn signals.
Amber spent a week with Driving To Independence's Jenny Nordine, OTR/L, CDRS not just learning to use the equipment but learning basic rules of the road. Amber describes that she has always sat in the back of her parents "gigantic 9 passenger van" where she is unable to "communicate with the other passengers in the van or see the road." Because of limited view and communication in the vehicle she was unaware of many of the roads rules, signs and procedures. Jenny describes the significance of Amber being a fast learner, "Because Amber was coming from out of town we were on a pretty limited schedule. It is not uncommon for those training on high tech equipment to have 30 or 40 hours of training before we even talk about modifying their vehicle. We had to get that initial training done in a week. We were lucky that Amber picked things up fast, committed herself to it and above all she had a great attitude about everything." When asked what advice she would offer to others pursuing adaptive driving Amber describes "I would definitely make sure you find the right evaluation place for you... and keep an open mind through the whole process, don't get discouraged, it's easy to do that but there is always going to be a way to solve your problems."
Amber successfully completed her Drivers Training and is currently in Wyoming working on the next steps in her vehicle modification process. Driving To Independence hopes to see Amber again to complete her licensure once her own vehicle is modified.