Story of Impact


Think back for a moment to the very first time you drove a car alone… what do you remember? The feeling of holding the steering wheel, turning up the music to your favorite song, the sense of power and control? Driving is a milestone of young adulthood. More than taking public transit or depending on friends and family, driving gives you freedom, personal autonomy, self-esteem.

Now, I invite you to take a step into my world. When I was a baby, my parents noticed that I wasn’t reaching my developmental milestones the way I should be, I first stood at seven months old but as I continued to grow up, my movements slowed down more and more. I was just 18 months old when I was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition that causes weakness in muscles, known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2. Although I’ve been in some form of wheelchair for 18 years, I never let this stop me from doing anything I wanted. I’ve been lucky to have great friends and family who understand and consider my limitations.

Towards the end of my time in high school, my friends were all starting to learn to drive and I wanted to do the same! Thanks to advances in technology, it’s possible for someone in a wheelchair to drive (but only a van). Essentially, the driver’s seat is removed, and an access ramp is installed on the passenger side rear door. My power wheelchair locks in behind the wheel. Fortunately, the government pays for these adaptations.

It took longer for me to get my learners permit as I needed special permission to take the driving courses. Then finally, in December 2021, I got my license! For me, traditional driving still posed a major challenge. For one, I can’t use my legs to push the pedals. Due to my shaky hands and lack of strength in my arms, turning the steering wheel was difficult, and it made me feel less confident on the road. I was introduced to the Constance-Lethbridge Rehabilitation Centre and their groundbreaking Joysteer program—a system that would change my life and enable me to drive like any other young adult.

This is where you come in, your past support has been a part of helping so many like me to achieve our goals and be more independent. By supporting the Constance-Lethbridge Center, you become part of the ‘driving’ force behind my journey towards independence. In today’s world, driving helps people to achieve their dreams.

When I first tried Joysteer, I felt a mix of excitement and nervousness. It was a new experience to control the steering with one hand and the pedals with the other. Imagine driving without using your feet to brake or accelerate.

Joysteer offers 100% hand driving: One hand controls the brake and acceleration with a mechanical push/pull arm linked to the foot pedals. The other hand operates an electronic left/right “joystick” for steering the car. Other functions, like the turn signals, windshield wipers and horn are activated by a small button on the mechanical arm. So coordination is very important!

After a few times driving with Joysteer, I felt more confident and knew this system was perfect for me. Joysteer would offer me the autonomy I had always dreamed of. I’ve been practicing with their occupational therapist, driving instructor and Joysteer system technician to gain the experience I need since the beginning of the summer. They’ve ensured that the system is adapted to my abilities and will oversee the installation in my own van later this fall.

I’m so grateful to the incredible team of the Constance-Lethbridge, and to donors like you, for giving me this autonomy. Before I joined the Joysteer program, I didn’t know what my future would be like.

“I thought I would always have to depend on my family and friends to get around. But Joysteer changed everything. Being able to drive on my own truly changes my life, giving me dignity, control and independence.​”

– Gabrielle

Without you, none of this would have been possible.

I’m looking forward to finishing my CEGEP studies, then moving on to university in communications. Now that I can drive, I’ll be able to build my own schedule and meet my friends for lunch and coffee on campus at anytime. I can go on a road trips, shopping, and eventually be able to drive my family around. Thank you for being part of the “driving force” in my personal journey through your past support.

Constance-Lethbridge’s Vehicle Adaptation Program, which is unique in North America, and is the only centre in Quebec to teach this platform makes the dream of driving a reality for so many living with physical disabilities. It’s just one of many programs that give opportunity, quality of life, and the promise of a brighter future to thousands in our community. Thanks to your generosity, I can explore the world on my terms. You can transform lives and create a world where individuals like me can thrive.

I know firsthand how much your help can make a difference.

With heartfelt gratitude,

Newly empowered driver

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