Creston/Orient-Macksburg’s football manager is adding a new set of signals to his playbook this fall – turning signals.
Tanner Webb, a 17-year-old junior at Creston High School, recently obtained his learning permit and is getting some experience behind the wheel before tackling the driver’s education course.
“He just has his regular permit for now and then the next step is we had to get the van modified,” Tanner’s mother Amy Webb said.
Tanner’s spastic cerebral palsy forces him to spend a majority of his time in a wheelchair, but the new van modifications will allow him to be in control of a new set of wheels.
“I want to be able to drive by myself and just go where I want to go and do my own thing eventually,” Tanner said. “Not have to have somebody drive me around.”
In addition to being a football manager, Tanner assists the C/O-M wrestling team.
The modified vehicle is a dark blue Braun Entervan with passenger-side ramp access and an E-Z Lock component to snap his electric wheelchair into place behind the wheel.
With his right hand, Tanner controls a steering knob attached to the wheel. The ignition and gear shift are also on the right side like some standard vehicles.
Tanner’s left hand controls the accelerator and brakes with a lever.
“I’ve got a knob on the steering wheel so I can turn,” Tanner said. “The lever is push down for gas and then push in for brake.”
The van sits 10 inches lower than standard vans to help ease ramp access. It also does not have as much floor insulation, making the ride louder and rougher.
“Anything to do with handicap modifications is pricey,” Tanner’s father Kevin Webb said. “But you can’t take it (money) with you. This van will last him a long time.”
A representative from Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation evaluated Tanner’s hand-eye coordination to determine the types of modifications needed for the van.
“His modifications are pretty simple,” Amy said. “It’s not something that is cheap by all means, but it is necessary.”
The most unique improvement to the van is the personalized license plates – TWEBB.
“He has got the only handicap license plates personalized in the state of Iowa,” Kevin said. “When we asked, they had to look up if it was allowed because they had never had anyone ask before.”
Currently, Kevin spends
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the majority of the time in the passenger seat giving Tanner instructions.
Like all other students taking driver’s education, Tanner will be required to drive six to eight hours with a certified instructor contracted through Iowa VocRehab.
Tanner and his dad plan to get a lot of practice time in together before scheduling driving times with an instructor.
“I want to be able to just get in and go and drive around so they say, ‘Ok you’re good,’” Tanner said.
The written half of driver’s education will be taken in the classroom.
Kevin Cooper, an assistant varsity football coach for Creston/Orient-Macksburg and a driver’s education instructor for Creston and O-M, said he hopes to go for a ride with Tanner soon.
“He’s got a different skill set trying to learn how to use the handbrake and steer,” Cooper said. “I think it will be great (for Tanner). He loves the sport of football, being around the other kids.”
Cooper said students are mandated by the Iowa Department of Transportation to have 30 hours of classroom instruction in addition to the driving time.
He added that teaching a child to drive can be scary for a parent, but one of the most helpful things parents and peers can do is to be good drivers themselves.
“We can teach kids how to drive, the things that are getting out of control are texting and distracted driving,” Cooper said. “Parents and peers need to be role models.”
So far, Tanner’s longest trip has been out to the campgrounds at Green Valley State Park. He has also made trips around Creston and driven to football practice.
“My goal for Tanner is to be able to go from point A to point B,” Amy said.
Tanner’s most excited for the day he doesn’t have to wait for someone to pick him up.
“That gets old real quick,” Tanner said. “I always get where I need to be when I need to be there, but the last couple of years it’s been a struggle.”
He also hopes to eventually build up to long-distance trips involving interstate travel.