On the Road Again! Paralysis Reroutes Career but Doesn’t End It

Joe Parker with his new pilot car.

“When I had my accident, the first thing that went through my mind was that I wouldn’t be able to drive anymore, but then I had the idea of driving a pilot car, and I realized I could still be on the road.”

Old Town, FL – For Joe Parker, driving was his life! He’d spent the last four years as a semi-truck driver and loved being on the road. That’s why it was so devastating when an accident in his pickup truck paralyzed him from the waist down.

“When I had my accident, the first thing that went through my mind was that I wouldn’t be able to drive anymore,” Joe explains. “But then I had the idea of driving a pilot car, and I realized I could still be on the road.”

The problem was getting from idea to actual business. He had heard about Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), a federal-state agency that helps people with disabilities get or keep a job, and decided to give it a try. “He came in and said, “This is what I want to do,”” says VR Counselor Kasandra Knopp. “He had already gotten the hand controls on his truck, and his medical care was handled through Social Security, so we sent him to meet with Certified Business Technical Assistance Consultant Dan Wooten so they could figure out if the business would be viable.”

Kasandra wanted to make sure Joe was serious about this new venture, so she gave him a couple of tasks to get started. “Before she would do this [self-employment], I had to get my certification,” says Joe. “The class took eight hours, but it took two weeks to get my certification.”

Dan and Joe created a business plan, income plan, and mission statement. They also figured out how he would operate the business and what he had to do to keep it going. VR bought the pilot car equipment – flags, cones, lights, and signs for the front and back bumpers.

Joe already had the connections for potential clients through his previous experience as a truck driver. “He said, ‘I know these people. I’ve worked with these people, and I can get jobs,’” says Kasandra. “He liked semi-trucks and wanted to continue working with them, and this was the closest he could get, since he couldn’t drive them anymore.”

He launched his new…

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