British Columbia

Disabled woman awarded $18K after Road Safety B.C. added unexplained driver's licence restrictions

Road Safety B.C. said Kimberly Rankin couldn't drive without a prosthetic arm — even though she passed her test without one.

Kimberly Rankin said she wasn't even aware of the restrictions until a friend noticed them months later

A woman born without part of her left arm says Road Safety B.C. added restrictions to her licence without informing her. (CBC)

A human rights tribunal has ordered Road Safety B.C. to pay a disabled woman $18,524 after it added restrictions to her driver's licence without informing her.

Kimberly Rankin was born missing part of her left arm below her elbow — a fact that did not stop her from driving tractors on her family farm and acquiring a G1 licence in Ontario, roughly equivalent to B.C.'s Class 7 learner's licence. 

In May 2011, Rankin took her Class 7 road test at ICBC's Fort St. John's location, during which she wore a prosthetic limb. After the prosthetic limb broke partway through the test, Rankin completed the test without it and passed.

Rankin was told she was subject to one restriction, which limited her to driving a car with an automatic transmission.

It was only later, when a friend was looking at her driver's licence photo, that she pointed out two additional restrictions were also listed. One required Rankin to wear a prosthesis while driving, while the other required specific modifications to her vehicle.

According to Rankin, neither of those restrictions were mentioned to her after she passed her road test or on the paperwork she was given afterwards. 

Restriction confusion continues

Rankin went for her Class 5 road test in November 2013, without using a prosthesis or a turn signal extender.  

As in her first test, the only restriction noted on her road test report and in the Road Safety B.C. file was the notation "auto transmission only."

However, when she received her Class 5 licence, the two unexplained restrictions remained in place.

For the next few months, Rankin said she attempted multiple times to find out how to get the restrictions removed but was given conflicting information. 

At one point, ICBC referred to her arm as "amputated" and requested that she complete a medical examination, though she was born with part of her limb missing. 

Human rights complaint raised

According to court documents, the restrictions relating to the prosthetic limb and vehicle modification were dropped the day after Rankin filed a complaint with B.C.'s Human Rights Tribunal, though she was still limited to driving vehicles with automatic transmissions.

Rankin said she could not practise driving on a standard transmission vehicle because she was restricted by the terms of her licence, and that Road Safety B.C. would not issue her a learner's licence that would have allowed her to do so. 

That restriction on her licence followed her after she moved to Nova Scotia, where she said it prevented her from pursuing job opportunities. 

"The only difference that RSBC considered significant in differentiating between a standard transmission and an automatic transmission vehicle was the presence of a clutch in a standard transmission vehicle," wrote tribunal member Walter Rilkoff in his decision.

"A clutch, however, is operated by a driver's feet, and Ms. Rankin has no impairment in that regard."

On top of compensating Rankin nearly $20,000, Road Safety B.C. is also ordered to implement a training program to teach employees that "determinations with regard to medical fitness to drive of candidates with disabilities must be based on an individual assessment of the candidate's ability."

Road Safety B.C. must also ensure that letters are sent out to candidates who are either denied a driver's licence or have restrictions imposed because of a disability.