Getting the keys to his first car was a milestone for Jay Black, a longtime Fort Dodge resident, who had been waiting nearly 25 years for this moment. Jay, a local radio DJ, worked with Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) to find the right vehicle and install features to accommodate his wheelchair.

Jay has worked at Alpha Media, a Fort Dodge-based media company, since 2004. Jay hosts 94.5–The Morning Show and 105.9–The Beach. Jay started working fully remote in his home studio at the beginning of the pandemic. Working at his home studio enabled Jay to create the same commercials and radio shows as he would at the station. Remote work also helped him navigate some of the challenges he has faced with transportation.

Jay had previously no interest in getting his driver's license due to multiple setbacks during high school. He thought he was never going to drive. It wasn’t until Jay connected with IVRS that he was able to take the steps to earn his driver’s license and drive independently.

During the early 2000s, Jay received IVRS services Jay while he was a student at Iowa Central Community College. IVRS helped Jay with classroom accommodations for his wheelchair, along with ramp modifications to his family’s van, which his wife drove for several years.

“That van took me quite a ways, it worked really really well,” said Jay.

Though as time went on, Jay’s original van began to wear down and he was getting tired of asking for rides. He was ready to drive himself, and do so in a van that would better support him. Jay reached back out to IVRS to begin the search for a new van and training for the driver’s test.

He reached out to IVRS in early 2023 and connected with rehabilitation counselor Jean Knoll, who helped Jay get connected with a driving instructor from Driving Ambition. Instructor, Chris Courtney trained Jay for 30 hours, which included general education and intensive learning in Driving Ambition’s vehicles.

Once Jay purchased his van, Chris and his son helped to build the necessary accommodations, allowing Jay to begin training in his own vehicle. Jay and his wife eventually decided on a 2020 Chrysler Pacifica, but needed a drop-down ramp modification. Chris and his son helped to install this modification and built Jay a new ramp for his home. More home modifications are in the works.

“Getting both the vehicle and the ramp–That’s something I wasn’t expecting,” said Jay. “That ramp is the only way I can leave my house–our old one was very creaky and falling apart.”

Since having his van, Jay had the opportunity to drive himself to Spirit Lake, Iowa, which he was very excited about. He also began working in the office twice a week. This will increase as he continues to build confidence in his driving skills.

“I’m happy that he was able to get the van that he wanted,” said Jean. “He really really likes it. It makes him so much more independent.”

Jay no longer has to rely on others to transport him to and from work. He has the independence to do as he pleases and explore new places, regardless of his physical limitations.

“You never really know what's all out there until you look and see. IVRS has so many options that have helped change my life,” said Jay. “They have been more than to willing help me out over the years.”

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