July03,2013

Adaptive Driving Equipment for People with Disabilities

By Guest Blogger Nancy Carey, Writer for Examiner.com, Photographer for the Ms. Wheelchair America Program and Advocate

The open road calls to everyone, regardless of his or her abilities. The ability to drive to work, the grocery store or the doctor’s office, or to go shopping or participate in social events, is “freedom” everyone seeks. But for people with mobility and other types of disabilities, this freedom may require special adaptive equipment. Adaptable equipment can transform a person with disabilities from dependent on others to completely independent.

Purchasing a standard vehicle requires few decisions: model, make, color, options and price. But purchasing a mobility freedom vehicle requires additional decisions relating to the needs of the driver. “One size fits all” is not an option.

Different disabilities require different adaptive equipment. Deciding what sort of vehicle to purchase and what adaptive equipment is needed requires the expertise of both a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist and a Mobility/Sales Consultant.

To determine the adaptable equipment required for an individual, a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist assesses the physical needs and driving knowledge of the driver. The evaluation is broken into two sections:

  • A clinical evaluation helps determine the visual perception, reaction times and other necessary skills for driving safely.
  • A behind-the-wheel assessment helps evaluate the individual’s driving skills in an actual traffic situation.

Once the evaluation is complete, the Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist provides a “prescription” of the required adaptable equipment to the Mobility/Sales Consultant assisting with the purchase.

You can find Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists through the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists and Mobility/Sales Consultants through the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA).

Types of Adaptive Equipment

Below is a small selection of common disabilities with their suggested adaptable equipment. Equipment will vary widely from person to person.

Aging: Wheelchair or scooter stowage lift, transfer seat, lowered floor minivan or full size van with a lift and/or adaptive driving equipment may allow the person to compensate for an impaired ability to reach or operate primary and secondary driving controls.

ALS: Lowered floor minivan or full size van with a lift, adaptive driving equipment specifically catered to the individual’s abilities and custom fit by a certified technician and special set-ups may be needed for oxygen and ventilator needs in the vehicle.

Amputation:

Left Arm Loss – automatic transmission, power steering, steering device, directional cross over, electric turn signal and foot parking brake release modification.

Right Arm Loss – automatic transmission, power steering, steering device, electronic ignition, crossover and/or gear shift extension, wiper control modification, console parking brake modification, secondary/dash modification, key extension and electric ignition.

Left Leg Loss – automatic transmission, parking brake extension and chest strap.

Right Leg Loss – automatic transmission, left foot accelerator, hand controls, pedal block and chest strap.

Loss of Both Arms – steering device, reduced effort steering, high-tech steering, electric ignition, electric gear selector, electronic secondary controls, modification to door opener and foot steering.

Loss of Both Legs – hand controls, steering device, pedal block and chest strap Arthritis: Wheelchair or scooter stowage lift, transfer seat and lowered floor minivan or full size van with a lift.

Loss of Three or Four Limbs – reduced or zero effort steering, complex/high-tech driving controls for gas and brake, steering and secondary controls requires detailed evaluation from a Driver Rehabilitation specialist who works with this type of equipment and will require multiple fittings with a certified technician at a qualified mobility equipment dealership to achieve custom application.

Arthritis:

Wheelchair or scooter stowage lift, transfer seat and lowered floor minivan or full size van with a lift.

If Arms Are Affected – automatic transmission, steering device, reduced effort steering, modified steering wheel, electronic transmission, modified/moved or electric secondary controls, key and door handle adaptations and high-tech driving equipment.

If Legs Are Affected – automatic transmission, hand controls, reduced effort braking and parking brake extension.

Brain Injury: Wheelchair stowage lift and/or transfer seat, lowered floor minivan or full size van with a lift, and adaptive driving equipment specifically recommended for their individual physical abilities and custom fit by a certified technician.

Cerebral Palsy: Wheelchair stowage lift and/or transfer seat, lowered floor minivan or full size van with a lift and adaptive driving equipment specifically recommended for their individual physical abilities and custom fit by a certified technician.

Multiple-Sclerosis (MS): Transfer seat, wheelchair scooter transfer lift, lowered floor minivan or full size van with a lift and adaptive driving equipment specifically recommended for their individual physical abilities and custom fit by a certified technician.

Muscular Dystrophy (MD): Wheelchair stowage lift and/or transfer seat, lowered floor minivan or full size van with a lift and adaptive driving equipment specifically recommended for their individual physical abilities and custom fit by a certified technician.

Parkinson’s Disease: Wheelchair or scooter stowage lift, transfer seat and lowered floor minivan or full size van with a lift.

Spina Bifida: Wheelchair stowage lift and/or transfer seat, lowered floor minivan or full size and with a lift and adaptive driving equipment specifically recommended for their individual physical abilities and custom fit by a certified technician.

Spinal Cord Injury: Wheelchair stowage lift, transfer seat, lowered floor minivan or full size van with a lift and adaptive driving equipment specifically recommended for their individual physical abilities and custom fit by a certified technician.

Stroke: Wheelchair stowage lift and/or transfer seat, lowered floor minivan or full size van with a lift and adaptive driving equipment specifically recommended for their individual physical abilities and custom fit by a certified technician.

The freedom to drive is a freedom everyone seeks. With the new advances in mobility adaptive equipment technology, Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists and Mobility/Sales Consultants, people with disabilities can regain their mobility freedom. The decision to purchase a mobility freedom vehicle and /or adaptive equipment is life-changing. Previous dependence on family, friends or public transportation becomes independence to experience the open road with confidence.

For More Information:

For information on funding the purchase of adaptive driving equipment:

Nancy Carey is a writer, advocate, volunteer and photographer for the Ms. Wheelchair America Program. She is also the author of My Sister, My Hero: Cathy Porter, Ms. Wheelchair MD 2007. The articles she writes for Examiner.com help residents of Richmond, VA navigate the world of disabilities. Learn more about Nancy at www.nancycarey.com.

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