Driving with Disability
Being able to drive has transformed the lives of a vast number of people worldwide. The benefits for people with physical disabilities are even greater, giving better work prospects and improved independence.
Disabled car conversions are available to suit your disablement. These can range from simple hand control to the most technical ‘joystick’ control.
Grants may be available to assist with the conversions.
You can get your vehicle adapted so that driving is safe and comfortable and getting in and out of the car is easier. There are motoring accessories available for people with upper or lower body disabilities or both.
Disabled Driving Adaptions
These accessories include:
- hand controls to operate the accelerator and brake
- steering wheel knobs that help you turn the wheel more easily and give greater control
- rotating seats
- cushions, covers and supports
- safety belts, seat belts and harnesses
- wheelchair hoists, ramps and tail lifts
- people lifts
- wheelchair hoists
It is important to get good advice and training on the use of an adapted vehicle.
Adapting your vehicle for upper body disabilities
If you have weakened or lost the use of one or both arms, you may consider adaptations which allow you to control the car without letting go of the steering wheel. These might include:
- moving the handbrake position
- steering wheel knob fitted to the rim of the steering wheel
- joystick steering
- foot steering system
- direction indicators and horn within finger reach or as foot controls
- automatic transmission
If you have an artificial limb fitted below the elbow you can drive a car using a special concave limb attachment fitted over the steering wheel or the gear lever.
Adapting a vehicle for lower body disabilities
If you have reduced usage or have lost the use of one or both of your legs, possible adaptations include:
- automatic transmission which does not require the use of a clutch pedal
- position of foot pedals
- replacement of foot pedals with hand controls
- a semi-automatic clutch allowing use of a manual gearbox without clutch pedals
- steering assistance
Adapting your vehicle for improved access
Driving a vehicle shouldn’t be a chore. To improve your quality of life, there are a number of options available.
You may need to enter your vehicle from the driver’s side, passenger side or rear. Your choice of entry will determine the type of adaptations you need for your vehicle. For entry from the driver’s or passenger’s door, you may need wider doors and possibly sliding and swivelling aids. Vehicles can be adapted for wheelchair access by vehicle conversion specialists.
Ramps and Lifts
Access to your vehicle can be improved by the use of a number of different accessories and adaptations. Such adaptations come in the form of boards, ramps, lifting belts or leg lifters, hoists and (wheel)chair lifts. If you wish to remain in your wheelchair, vehicles with ramps or lifts enabling you to ‘drive’ straight into the vehicle are available.
If you park on the road side and wish to make it easier to get from your vehicle to your house You can apply to your local council for a dropped kerb and enquire about disabled car parking spaces.
Help and Assistance
There are a number of organisations which can help you on the way to becoming a driver.