Edmonton, AB,

Hands on the Wheel

Disability no barrier for Alberta teen determined to drive

  • Please note: the Aaron Friesen video is embargoed for publication or sharing until September 1, 2015 at 8:00 a.m. MST

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015, Aaron Friesen will make a dream come true.

The 16-year-old from Ranfurly, Alberta was born with cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair his whole life. The freedom to get where he wanted to go was always just out of reach. Aaron longed to get behind the wheel of his own vehicle — but despite his dream to drive, he's always found himself stuck in the passenger seat.

But Aaron isn't a kid who takes no for an answer. Where some see roadblocks, all Aaron sees are minor speed bumps along the way.

He passed the first bump earlier this year, after inspiring friends, family and his local community to help him fundraise more than $50,000 for an adapted van with hand controls. His story struck a nerve with Albertans and spread quickly through news and social media. Aaron had a new set of wheels in the driveway, but there was just one problem. Aaron didn't know how to drive.

Earlier this summer, Aaron told his mom, Agatha, he was going to change that. He was going to drive himself to school on his first day of Grade 12. Agatha was sceptical at first — but ultimately wanted him to have a shot. So did we.

In April Aaron took AMA's Online New Driver program - the first online driver education program in Canada. In June, he took the adapted driving program at Edmonton's Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. Aaron's confidence behind the wheel soared as he raced through his lessons. Then, on a sunny August day in Tofield, Aaron passed his road test on the first try. AMA was there, too, and seeing the look on his face when the examiner presented Aaron with his Alberta Drivers Licence was priceless.

We were so inspired by this teenager with his never quit attitude and huge smile, that we produced this short video about his journey to independence. We hope you enjoy it, share it, and help Aaron spread his message that anything is possible.

Read more about Aaron's story on the AMA Blog. Feel free to click and download these photos of Aaron or make use of the video to tell his story. Drop us a line at ama.newsroom@ama.ab.ca if you'd like our help getting in touch with Aaron for interviews or want more information about his dream drive to school on September 1st.