Reposted from a stroy already online by CBC News Posted: Jul 20, 2015
Sarah Mercer, seen here holding up her driver’s licence in her Ottawa apartment, says getting it has been a long process with financial barriers. (Andrew Foote/CBC News)
An Ottawa woman wants to make it easier and more affordable for people with disabilities to get their driver’s licence after continuing to face her own challenges.
Sarah Mercer has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. The Algonquin College student says she has spent the last five years trying to get her own vehicle cleared for driving, but financial barriers keep her from getting behind the wheel.
“I wanted to get the word out,” she said. “Nobody thinks about this unless they know someone.”
Mercer has set up a crowdfunding campaign to pay for a process she said able-bodied Canadians don’t have to face once they get their driver’s licence.
“When you pass your written test, there you have the right to start driving at that moment,” she said. “But I don’t.”
First, Mercer said she will need $850 for an expert to assess what she needs to modify in her van to allow her to drive, such as hand controls instead of foot pedals, extensions for turning signals and a lift to get her chair into the van.
Then, she’ll need approximately $8,000 to do the modifications and an additional $900 for driving lessons in a modified vehicle.
Insurance doesn’t cover costs
Mercer hopes to raise $10,000 to cover the costs, which she said her Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) insurance doesn’t cover. If Mercer doesn’t use all the money, she said she will pass the remaining funds on to other people in the area who need similar modifications, she said.
Mercer said the most frustrating part of her experience is the $850 assessment fee.
“I have to pay to have the exact same right as the person beside me,” she said. “I think that it should be covered under OHIP to make everything equal opportunity for everyone.”
“When the money became an issue, I felt really defeated,” Mercer added. “It kind of brings down your spirit, because I was really excited when I passed [my test].”
“People who are disabled, it takes them so much longer to get something so simple,” she added. “The government says, well, you did the test but this group over here, you’re different, so [pay] $850. It’s just a lot of money for people who just want to get their licence. People save up for their cars, for insurance, but I have to save up for assessments and modifications.”
In an email, a spokesperson from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation said all driver’s licence fees are the responsibility of the applicant and the ministry doesn’t fund special assessments or modifications.