Ethan Bailey

Ethan Bailey

Like every high school kid, Ethan Bailey of Santee, Calif., was looking forward to the day when he could start driving. Born with thrombocytopenia with absent radius syndrome, he knew his disability would make the entire process more complicated — from learning to drive to buying an adapted vehicle — but he and his parents were determined to have him behind the wheel of his own car by the time he started college. “I wanted it as soon as I turned 15 and a half,” says Bailey, now 19 and a freshman at Grossmont College.  “That’s when you can get your learner’s permit. But there were so many hoops I had to go through — it took me two and a half years.”

Before he could actually start learning to drive, however, he needed a van. Because of his limited reach and other disabilities (he is a single leg amputee), the usual hand control/pedal extension setup wasn’t going to work. They eventually turned to Driving Systems Inc. in Van Nuys, Calif., a three-hour drive from his home. DSI already had a usable van on site — a 1999 Ford E-series — and devised a workable system for Bailey using reduced-effort steering and push-button controls originally designed for quads. “I had 10 hours of training on the van in Los Angeles —