When Ethan Degani turned 17, his parents encouraged him to get a driver’s licence. He was happy to take public transit, but when all his friends started getting their permits, he enrolled in a course.
When he finally applied for his learner’s permit, Quebec’s automobile license bureau, the SAAQ, denied it.
“I am the only one without a permit. I feel like the odd man out,” the Laval resident said.
Ethan suffers from mild Tourette syndrome. His tics are purely vocal, not physical. He was diagnosed two years ago after his mother noticed him repeating some words.
“It sometimes flares up and I just say or blurt our random sounds. But it doesn’t really affect me that much,” Ethan said.
The SAAQ told Ethan his doctor needed to fill out medical forms before they would grant him a permit.
His mother, Jody Frank, said it was annoying but she understood and had been forthcoming and open about Ethan’s Tourettes.
So the family pediatrician, who has been caring for Ethan for nine years, filled out the forms.
The doctor attested: “It does not impair his motor skills. He does not need an additional test to obtain a permit.”
But for a second time, the bureau refused to grant Ethan a permit, requiring more information and the doctor to fill out the same forms again.
“Being flat out refused for something that doesn’t affect me, it really bothers me,” Ethan said. “They never met me once. I never even saw the medical team. They made this assumption that it would impede my driving even though my doctor signed off on it. It doesn’t make sense.”
It left Ethan’s mother incensed that she had to get the same forms filled out again.
“When they denied it to him that time, I was very angry because I felt it was quite discriminatory. I felt they were pushing their limits as to why they would not clear him if his own doctor cleared him,” said Frank.
The SAAQ wouldn’t comment on this specific case.
But a spokesperson said the global health of the person is taken into consideration when granting a licence.
“Regarding Tourette’s syndrome, depending upon the presentation of the Tourette syndrome, it might impact one’s ability to drive safely,” Sophie Roy said in a statement. “Vocal and motor tics can be simple or complex. Therefore, an individual assessment of the fitness to drive is required.”
Finally, Friday morning, the SAAQ granted Ethan a permit, with conditions. He’ll need a medical review every two years.
“The fact they put conditions, I am not thrilled,” Frank said. “Again, his doctor cleared him. There was no reason for him not to be cleared.”
For Ethan, having his permit is bittersweet. He knows it’s a rite of passage for teenagers, but he’s dreading both driving and applying for his licence in a year.
“To get the real permit, I am just not looking forward to it. The whole thing is a letdown,” Ethan said.