Driving change: Therapist pushes for driver rehabilitation in Japan

Getting back behind the wheel after an injury is a major goal for patients in rehabilitation. After a spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury or stroke, even doing simple tasks on your own can be a challenge. Being able to get in the car and go brings a sense of independence back into people’s lives. Driver rehabilitation is a very important piece of that puzzle.

Helping patients get back behind the wheel

In the United States, occupational therapists across the country are empowered to help patients reach that goal by becoming certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists. At Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation alone, we have several occupational therapists on staff with that certification.

We also offer an Adaptive Driving program dedicated to helping our patients get back behind the wheel. Our program is led by an occupational therapist that is licensed as a certified driver rehabilitation specialist. To regain your Texas driver’s license, our patients go through comprehensive clinical and behind-the-wheel evaluations followed by several hours of adaptive driver training.

In Japan, however, things work a little differently.

“I am perhaps the only occupational therapist who is also a certified driving instructor in Japan.”

Filling the gap in Japan

Japanese occupational therapist Yoshio Fujita is on a mission.

“Explore."

In his country, occupational therapists do not have structured driver rehabilitation with patients in a behind-the-wheel setting before they regain their license. The decision to allow Japanese patients back behind the wheel after an injury is at the discretion of their physicians, but Yoshio wants to include occupational therapists in the process. He also wants to include in-car assessments, something not currently available in Japan.

“I am perhaps the only occupational therapist who is also a certified driving instructor in Japan,” he said.

A man on a mission

Yoshio Fujita and Steve Adams in an adaptive driving evaluation vehicle.

Yoshio was recently on his way to the 2017 ADED Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It’s a yearly conference for the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists. It was at this conference five years ago that he met Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation’s own Driver Rehabilitation Specialist, Steve Adams.

“I think what Yoshio is trying to do in Japan makes him a pioneer,” Steve said.

This year, Yoshio decided to make a stop in Dallas to see first-hand how Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation’s Adaptive Driving Program operates. He observed Steve conduct clinical and behind-the-wheel evaluations, and gained insight he could take back to Japan.

“I think what Yoshio is trying to do in Japan makes him a pioneer.”

His mission isn’t easy.

As one of Japan’s only occupational therapists who is also a Certified Driving Instructor, Yoshio continues to run into roadblocks — but he isn’t giving up. He has formed a committee of occupational therapists who hope to one day bring occupational therapy and driver rehabilitation together for patients in their country.


What all goes into the driver rehabilitation process? Check out this article about getting brain injury patients back behind the wheel.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation’s Adaptive Driving Program, call 214.820.9225.

About the author

Dustin Magwire
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Dustin is a content contributor for Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation. He enjoys telling stories of recovery that inspire others.

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Driving change: Therapist pushes for driver rehabilitation in Japan