Dream of Driving Achieved (1971)

Disclaimer: The following was transcribed from an article in the Capper Foundation Archives published by the Topeka Daily Capital (now The Topeka Capital-Journal). The choice of words used at the time this was written may not reflect current Capper Foundation inclusive language and views.

Dream of Driving Achieved (1971)

It’s always a big day when a teenage boy gets his first driver’s license. But if he’s been riding around in a wheelchair all or most of his life, getting a license means having his wildest dreams come true. Two youths at Capper Foundation for Crippled Children have achieved that dream, and two others are nearing the time to take their driving test. The Topeka Police Dept. is sponsoring the project, with the help of Jim Clark Chrysler-Plymouth-Fiat.

Jack Malone, 17, and Clyde Grant, 19, passed their driving tests with aplomb last Friday, driving a car specially equipped with hand controls. Grant, a senior at Topeka High School, soon will own his own car.

Two other youths, Darrell Penry, 15, and Mike Burke, 18, will be taking their driving test within a couple of weeks. Sgt. John P. Leonard, a longtime driving teacher, is the instructor. The special hand control unit was donated by Jim Clark Chrysler-Plymouth-Fiat, which also supplies a classroom in which the youths get 30 hours of instruction before taking their written tests and receiving their learner’s permit.

As far as is known, this is the first time such a project has been tried in Kansas. Leonard said the aim has been not just to teach the handicapped youths to drive but “to teach them to be good drivers, better than average.”

Mrs. Judy LaRue chief of occupational therapy at Capper Foundation, said she believes the youths should have as much independence in every area as they can achieve.

“Many of our children can use their upper extremities very well, but because of disability they are unable to use their lower extremities,” LaRue said. “The kids thought it was fantastic when they heard they could take driving lessons. I think this is every teenage boy’s dream, to learn how to drive. But they thought it probably wouldn’t come true for them, because of their handicaps.”

The instruction and use of the car are supplied to the youths without charge. They must pay only the fee for their licenses, after they have earned them.