When Meriyam Jahim walked into the DriveTest center in Newmarket, Ont. On her birthday, she expected to go out on her learner’s license like any other 16-year-old.
“I was excited,” she said. “I was studying and even revising in the car.”
Six weeks later, she still doesn’t have it.
When Jahim arrived at the testing center and told staff that she was missing her left arm below her elbow, she was told she needed special medical clearance from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.
So she filled out the approval form. But when she called the ministry weeks later to verify status, she said she was told she didn’t need special approval – and should have been able to take her G1 test. the day of his birthday.
“I will never forget watching the other teens walk into the room, able to easily pass their written test,” she said. “I can’t stop remembering it and it hurts.”
“I want to see changes in the system”
The Department of Transportation told CBC News that amputees need an additional exam before they can take their G1 test.
But as to why Jahim was told she should have been able to take her exam, the ministry did not comment.
Jahim calls on the ministry to publish and clarify the process for amputees who wish to apply for their learner’s license so that others like her are not left in the dark.
“I want more than my license,” Jahim said. “I want to see changes in the system. “
Jahim told CBC News she couldn’t find any information online about a separate process for amputees to apply for their driver’s license.
“There should be a clear procedure on their website as to how this whole process works, because I’m getting various different stories and it doesn’t make sense,” the teenager said.
Other amputees didn’t need special approval, says teenager
After being told she couldn’t pass her G1 test, she spoke to friends who had similar amputations. All were able to take their test without special medical approval from the province, she said.
The ministry told CBC News that each new claimant must report if they have any conditions, including amputations, that could interfere with the safe operation of a vehicle. Reporting these conditions triggers what is called a driver’s medical examination, which requires a letter from a medical professional authorizing the applicant to drive safely.
The Department of Transportation sent Jahim a letter dated June 24, 2021 – the day after CBC News first contacted the department. The letter stated that Jahim needed a doctor to examine his case, otherwise he would be “prohibited from obtaining a driver’s license.”
The War Amps Association, an organization that advocates for amputees in Canada, told CBC News in a statement that “there appears to be no limit to being able to take the knowledge test to obtain a G1 license.” .
“While we certainly argue that safety is of the utmost importance when it comes to driving, this young amputee faced an unfortunate and disheartening situation that prevented her from being able to pass her G1 knowledge test, with this which seems to be no basis. “
Discrimination against habilitists is “rampant across the country”
Bonnie Brayton, executive director of the Disabled Women’s Network, says people with disabilities are often stuck in systems that are not designed for them. Jahim’s case is an example of a “fundamentally capable, discriminatory and flawed” process, she said.
Earlier this year, a Quebecer was refused his driving license because he was missing part of his left hand. He argued that because he did not face any physical limitations, he should have been able to get his license like anyone else.
Likewise, Jahim says she never considered herself incapable of driving safely. She uses a prosthetic “athletic” arm that allows her to kayak, jump rope and cycle – and does not need any vehicle modifications to be able to drive safely.
Brayton says obstacles like the one Jahim faced can be devastating.
“It’s like a punch in the stomach when it’s something as big as being denied your license.”
For now, Jahim has said she could go to another center to take her G1 test. But in the meantime, the experience has shaken her confidence in all of her abilities.
“I’ve always thought to myself that I can do anything a fully capable person can do, but in a different way,” she told CBC News. “What happened with the Department of Transport made me doubt that.”
The department says it will review its process.