University Park, IL,
14:49 PM

GovState to establish Driver Rehabilitation Program

A professor showing four students how to use hand controls in driver rehabilitation

By Sarah Shoaf, Staff Writer

Looking to fill a gap to rehabilitate drivers in the Chicago Southland, Governors State University’s (GovState) Department of Occupational Therapy (OT) is seeking support for the development of a Community-Based Driver Rehabilitation Program.

“There’s nothing like it here in the state of Illinois,” said program leader Dr. Luther King (pictured far right) about the to be established program.

Currently, there are no driver rehabilitation services located in the Chicago Southland and no professional training program in the region to increase the driver rehabilitation workforce. The GovState OT department seeks to change that.

To be housed on campus, the Driver Rehabilitation Program will offer evaluations, training, and mobility planning to maximize access to important life functions, like jobs, health care, shopping, and socialization. It will also provide opportunities for training and educating future professionals in the region.

“We assess all of the underlying factors that can impede or facilitate somebody’s ability to drive,” said Dr. King, who is also a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist. This includes vision, cognition or brain processing, and motor function, like the ability to step on a car's brake or gas pedal and reach for the steering wheel, turn signal and horn. 

People that are often referred to driver rehabilitation services include individuals with physical disabilities, injuries or surgeries resulting in loss of limbs, strokes and traumatic brain injuries, neurodegenerative disorders, aging older adults, and teens with atypical neurodevelopment.

Unfortunately, not everyone returns to driving after being evaluated. GovState’s program plans to have additional resources for those individuals.

“One of the biggest pieces that we also want to include is what we call community mobility resources,” said Dr. King. “So, if someone lives in University Park, for example, giving them information so that they can still be able to get out of their house and they’re not isolated in their home.”

Isolation can have a big impact on someone’s health, especially considering that driving and community mobility are linked to personal freedom and independence. 

Offering these services through the program can open doors for GovState and the surrounding community.

“It will make us (GovState) a hub for community mobility services,” said Dr. King. “It will make us a model for what other occupational therapy programs could do and essentially help cultivate more driver rehab specialists of if not specialists, more people addressing community ability needs.”

At this stage, said Dr. King, the OT department is looking for funds to get the program up and running with all the necessary equipment. While they are still looking to get a car and a driving simulator to train and evaluate people, the OT department already has a space on campus in the G-Building Atrium that is currently being modified to accommodate the program.

No definite launch date has been set, though the team behind the program is getting the word out and actively making connections with potential supporters to hopefully establish the program as early as this summer.

To learn more about the Driver Rehabilitation Program, click here. To donate to the program, click here.