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Jessica Haldin just got her first car, her learner’s permit, and is taking driving lessons. The first time the Australian slid behind the wheel she got the flutters, telling her instructor her heart was, “going bloody fast.” But Jess isn’t a teenager. She’s a 33-year-old quadruple amputee who finally has a chance at freedom thanks to new technology.

WhoQuadruple amputee Jessica Haldin
WhatLearning to drive with a specially adapted car
HowThe latest tech in joystick and voice-controlled cars

When Haldin was a toddler, she was stricken by disease. The doctors kept her alive, but were forced to amputate parts of all four limbs: both legs, one hand, and multiple fingers on the other hand. She has a unique set of challenges, so engineers put together a very unique car.

Haldin uses a joystick to steer, accelerate, and brake. This isn’t a wildly innovative technology. But Jess has another struggle: how does she operate the lights, turn signals, and important functions such as windshield wipers. Her car is outfitted with a microphone and a cutting edge voice activation system.

Van with a ramp for wheelchair access.
Adaptive ramp van | Oliver de la Haye

Haldin is quickly mastering these unique controls and hopes to have her license by the end of 2024. Haldin’s looking forward to that day, and already planning her first roadtrip.

For decades, specialists have been outfitting cars with a range of “adaptations” for paraplegics and quadriplegics. From hand throttles and brakes for drivers who can’t use their legs, to more advanced adaptations for people without hands.

Curious how a more traditional setup fora quadruple amputee works? Isabelle Weall was kind enough to record a video tour of her modified Ford with specially built cups she can use to operate the gas, the brake, and the steering wheel. Check it out, embedded below:

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