Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Helping in her blood

Caroline Rule works as an occupational therapist and a driving consultant for people with disabilities such as a spinal cord injury and amputations. After assessing their remaining functionality and how best they can use it, she recommends driving adaptations that would enable them to be behind the steering wheel safely and independently, as well as how they will get their wheelchairs in and out of the car. She then refers them to the relevant companies that can build the adaptations and in an ongoing way, she works with these companies to brainstorm even more effective solutions. Where a person has had a stroke or head injury, they undergo a physical and cognitive assessment and then team up with a driving instructor to do an on-road driving test to assess whether it will be safe for the person to drive. Rule also helps manage the Driving Ambitions driving school, owned by the QuadPara association. They have two adapted vehicles that they use to teach people with disabilities to drive.

Please share with us what your job entails.
I love the interactions with people that come with doing a detailed interview to understand the person’s driving history as well as their driving needs. I also assess people’s functionality. This contact with people is the fun part. My job also involves report writing, keeping records and administration up to date, as well as a huge amount of background research in keeping up to date with what vehicles and adaptations are out there and what new developments are unfolding within the driving world. I also focus on fine-tuning our assessment methods and tools to make sure that they are accurate and relevant. As an occupational therapist, my job is to assist people to become independent in all areas of their lives, particularly in relation to daily activities involved with living. Driving is an extremely important part of daily living and without the ability to get around it becomes very difficult for people to get to work, particularly if they have mobility impairment such as being in a wheelchair. So, I strongly believe that having a driver’s licence helps make a person with a disability more employable!

How did you come to know about this type of work?
My parents told me about the profession and I also heard about it from my vocational guidance teacher.

Have you always wanted to become an occupational therapist?
Initially, I thought I would like to become a teacher. However, my guidance teacher’s wife was an occupational therapist. After spending some time with her, I realised that this was the career for me. Our class visited the institution where she worked and on the bus on the way home everyone else was talking about her patients as ‘those poor people’. That was when I realised that helping people is in my blood.

What subjects did you choose at school to qualify for your job?
Maths, science and biology.

What do you like most about your job?
Helping someone rebuild their life and regain their independence after all that has been shattered by a disease or disability. Even if I can just be one of the puzzle pieces as they get their lives back together, it is such a privilege for me to help them take that next step. On a daily basis, when I get a person out of their wheelchair and into our adapted car and explore with them how they can drive again — and I see the sparkle come back into their eyes — that is just the best.

Which institutions offer training in occupational therapy?
The universities of Witwatersrand, Pretoria, Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Western Cape, Free State and Durban-Westville.

What are your other areas of interest?
Sport for people with disabilities, particularly wheelchair rugby.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Thabo Mohlala
Guest Author

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

DA’s egregious sexual harassment case finally begins

The party is accused of protecting a councillor, who’s also implicated in R1.2m graft

The ANC, DA and EFF ‘oblivious’ to climate crisis —...

The Climate Justice Charter Movement has critiqued the manifestos of the main parties contesting the local government elections and found them ‘shallow’

More top stories

Former spy boss Fraser objects to Zondo’s nomination as chief...

The former director general of intelligence’s character assassination of the deputy chief justice is straight out of the Zuma playbook

Special Investigating Unit to oppose efforts to reject Mkhize report

Former health minister Zweli Mkhize seeks relief to declare the SIU’s conduct against him ‘unlawful and unconstitutional

Bird flu outbreak on Dyer Island causing mass deaths

The island hosts the vulnerable African penguins, endangered bank cormorant and roseate tern

Countries bear cross-border responsibility for harmful effects of climate change,...

The UN committee has been accused of ‘turning its back’ on the children who filed a groundbreaking legal complaint with it against five countries

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…