Adaptive Driving Equipment for People with Disabilities
Adaptive Driving Equipment for People with Disabilities

Categories: Transportation

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.

18 Responses to Adaptive Driving Equipment for People with Disabilities

  1. HOWARD H. says:

    I AM A 58 YEAR OLD MALE WHO HAVE CERPALSY IN A ELECTRIC WHEELCHEAR I NNED A HANDICAPPED VAN IT IS TOUGH WITH ALL THE BILLS WHEN YOU LIVE ON MY OWN
    I AM TRING TO SEE IF I CAN GET A GRANT FOR THE VAN
    ALL WED SITE NEVER WILLY HELP ME
    WHERE DO I GO FROM NOW

  2. Peri F. says:

    Hi I am permanently disabled with multiple problems . The main problem is I need a vehichle like a crv type to help me with proper height levels for my body and spinal cord and back injuries. I also have a large service dog that is with me 24/7 aiding me when I hsve major anxiety f pettie seizures that cause me to shake and have dizzy spells and I am alerted up to an hour before onset by my service dog so I can either stop pull over sit and take extra meds before the siezures hit. Or to stop them. They last anywhere from 30 to90 seconds. The thing I need help with is getting finances for a vehichle. And an automatic with cruise control due to my legs get tired easily on longer trips to doctors appts outside my city or an hour away. I am unable to get finsncing due to unforseen circumstances and financial hardship. I do not have the ability to return to work though I have triied numerous times in hopes of becoming srlf sufficient. I am to a degree but I also have a caregiver 3 times a week to aid me eith things I csnnot do nor am allowed to do. However there are many times my doctors appts are outside my city and I cannot get to them due to being a medi-Cal recipiant and hsving to travel to when and where available doctors take medi-Cal patients. My caregiver will not drive beyond my citiy limits. I cant take a bus nor the transportation for the elserly because they often forget me or leave me standing in the sun which I am not medicslly suppoaed to do and they dont work well with my dustance travels to doctors or shopping. So what are my optiond in ventura county calif. And within Thousand Oaks area where I live. Thank you.

  3. Susan T. says:

    Really great idea about contacting your state AT program for information about funding — but, better yet, contact your state’s Alternative Financing Program (AFP). The link from RESNA’s website is http://www.resnaprojects.org/afp/index.html. Staff at Alternative Financing Programs tell people about funding opportunities in their state as well as offer flexible financing for assistive technology. About 36 states and territories have an AFP.

    • Disability.Blog Team says:

      Thank you, Susan! State Alternative Financing Programs are a great resource as well. We appreciate you sharing this information with our visitors.

      Best,

      The Disability.Blog Team

  4. Monty H. says:

    Got a ticket at wal-mart for parking next to a disabled space who did not have a disabled tag! Had to get my wheelchair out so we did overlapped over the lines a few feet…
    The person that took the disabled spot got no ticket!

  5. R. Graham says:

    Hello,
    It is great that you are relaying this information. I have Cerebral palsy on my entire right hand side. Although I have been driving for years without any adaptive equipment, I took me getting Tendonitis in my left hand for me to partially get added equipment, such as a suicide knob and the start stop button on the left side of my dash. The only thing that I do not like is still having to place the key in on the right side before ignitiating the buttons to start the car along with still having to reach for the shifter, which is in the center on the right as well. This gives me the opportunity to keeping pushing to make it easier as long as I continue working.
    Thank you.

  6. Kay J. says:

    I’d like to echo Sharon C’s excellent comment. No adaptive equipment guarantees freedom if there is no place to park and unload a wheelchair. Even worse is finding a van accessible spot, unloading a wheelchair in the designated access aisle, then returning to find someone has illegally parked in the access aisle and blocked you from re-entering your van. The access aisle designated by crosshatch striping is a NO parking zone no matter who you are or if you have a handicapped parking permit.

  7. Sharon C. says:

    Nancy, you state “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.”

    Please be advised that those of us people with disabilities who obtain equipment necessary to escape the confines of our homes face the most ridiculous barricades to our independence when we have nowhere to park! We have no Americans with Disabilities Act laws providing us equal access to parking our accessible vans. The U.S. Access Board, published accessibility guidelines, which were adopted by the U.S. Department of Justice, as standards for accessible design, then enacted by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which provide NO protection for the most vulnerable of drivers who must load wheelchairs to and from their vans. The “updated” 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design state “Van accessible spaces can serve vans and cars because they are not designated for vans only.” THERE IT IS LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! It’s the reason every government agency, and law enforcement officer tells us, “As long as drivers have handicapped licenses, they can park in van accessible spaces.”

    Take a look at any parking lot and you’ll find cars, motorcycles, and everything else in those spaces but “accessible vans” (the drivers who need the additional eight-feet of access space to off-load wheelchairs from vans). You will also find that selfish drivers now park over striped access aisles, and usually those drivers are elderly and/or drivers with handicapped placards!

    Accessible van drivers have nowhere to turn for help because a group of insensitive people in Washington, D.C., made crucial decisions which have effected the lives of millions of people in the USA over many years. We are left out there to circle parking lots trying to find a space large-enough to off-load our wheelchairs, and when we find nothing, are forced to make our own space by parking diagonally over two adjoined spaces. Upon returning to depart, we find we’ve been ticketed by police, and find deliberate acts of “punishment” from other drivers in the form of blocking access with their vehicles, or vandalizing our vans despite signage explaining why we need the space! People are crazy. It’s dangerous out there, and we need to come together and fight systematic discrimination towards people with disabilities in America. Please see our testimonials in the Member comments section of http://aaehpa.org [the American Alliance to End Handicapped Parking Abuse website].

  8. Roxanne D. says:

    Hi,
    I have complex petit mal epilepsy. I have an aura before the onset. That type for me is where I shake my right hand and stare for thirty seconds, enough time to lose control of the car. There was a National Institute of Health conference online that I watched. One speaker talked about a new car that they were testing on MS patients. All they would do is put in the address and they could drive, or if needed the car could take over. I want to know if this new car can be tested on people with a simple form of epilepsy. Can I get in touch with them? This would give a huge number of people freedom for appointments and shopping. Thank you.

  9. Isaura A. says:

    Hello, I was actually inquiring about my 2005 PT Cruiser that I purchased about a year ago. I have all ten toes from both feet amputated and it’s hard for me to reach the pedals. I initially got the car because one, it was the only thing I could afford after my accident, two, I thought it would be adequate for what I needed it for and I could reach the pedals. After this whole time driving it, I still cannot reach the pedals. It makes it so hard for me to drive and unsafe because I have to put the car seat all the way up and use a pillow. Please help with a vehicle I can adjust the pedals on so it would be safer for my son and I.

  10. Bert M. says:

    Having a disability Parking Placard/Permit is also essential in overcoming access and mobility barriers. With a grant from the FIA Foundation, I researched and compiled the FIA Guide for disabled travellers which highlights which countries and federal states worldwide have disability parking placard/permit schemes, what the parking concessions are, and whether or not a visitor from another country/state will be allowed reciprocal rights. The Guide can be found at http://www.fiadisabledtravellers.com.

    Bert M.

  11. Michael L. C. says:

    I currently use my walker, provided by the V.A. Hospital. I have also been given a cain & a wheelchair from the V.A. Hospital. I have a circulation problem that affects my left leg. I went thru therapathy to be able to get out of the wheelchair & use the walker. There is the possibility that part of my leg be amputated. When I go to the hospital for appointments, I usually use their transportation, which requires me to use my wheelchair. I own a 1994 Chevy pick-up truck that I drive when I go other places, which makes me have to pick up whichever I am using & put it in the back… I want to know if I might be eligible for this or one of these programs for assistance?

  12. Mary T. says:

    As a person with arthritis, my right hand has a cyst at the wrist. At times this can be a real problem. My knees were replaced fifteen years ago. Right now, I have an occasional bout with my sciatic nerve getting pinched. This happens when I stand or walk for doing things at home or shopping. It would help to have special transportation. A special van and an electric cart would be very helpful. With arthritis affecting my life as an adult; I have used whatever I can get to keep me living at home. This may give a small idea of the problems. I do not qualify for Medicaid. I receive Medicare.

  13. Jefferson M. says:

    I glad to say thank you, thank you so much to all officials and members of this team. This is one good opportunity to one person to achieve their dream and who are willing to learn this kind of program. I interested be part of your team, but my problem is I living in Tokyo, Japan and I have no US visa and not enough money to pay or finance myself to travel and pay this course. But I willing to learn and be part of your team if your team gives me a chance and helps me or assists me. Because this is for my kids and all people need help no matter what races they are, and this is for our new future, the Int. Flag of freedom, free-country, love and peace. I hope you guys understand me and I hope your team helps me and gives me a chance. God bless everyone. Thank you so much. No matter what happens I understand.