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I am sure everyone can remember the feeling you had the day you got the keys for your first vehicle. Woo Hoo, I’m free. I’m on my way to being an adult, becoming independent, being free. I can now go where I want when I want! Mom and dad (while obviously concerned for their child’s safety) are now saved from many of the daily trips to practices, after-school events, etc.
With all feelings aside, the importance of a vehicle in most places in the United States is crucial. Public transportation is poor, to say the least. It is essential to get to and from school, work, doctor appointments, and for normal every-day life such as trips to the grocery store. Access to transportation has a huge impact on us all.
What do you do when a life-changing event happens or your physical abilities change? What then? Will we have to be completely reliant on someone else for transportation? The answer is no!
It might not be as easy as just grabbing the keys and going for someone living with a physical challenge. It may not be quite as simple, however, there are options on the market that make it possible and help to make it much easier. There is adaptive driving equipment available that helps getting in and out of the vehicle safer and easier. There is also a huge misconception that someone in a wheelchair or with a physical challenge can’t drive. This is completely false! There are numerous types wheelchair accessible vehicles and handicap accessible vehicles with adaptive driving controls depending on your specific needs.
Car adaptations for the disabled include hand controls that are designed to correspond to the natural hand-arm movement of the driver: pull the control back, push down, or use a twist grip to accelerate, push it forward to brake. There are many hand controls available such as an easy use handbrake which is ideal if you find squeezing and pulling the handbrake lever difficult.
There hand control switches or buttons available for blinkers, wipers, and emergency brake.
Steering wheel spinner knobs and devices for one-hand control of the steering wheel for vehicles with power steering. Sure Grip hand control users use a push/rock style of driving with products specifically designed to give drivers the benefit of controlling a vehicle with both hands on the wheel for a safer, smoother driving experience.
Swivel Seats - Among other advantages, swivel transfer seats provide drivers with disabilities the ability to easily transfer from their wheelchair in the center section of a van to the driver position. The swivel seat base is usually electronically controlled using actuators and gears that slide the seat backward and forward, and there are swivel up and down controls.
Reduced effort braking systems, gas or brake pedal extensions and many other adaptive vehicle solutions for drivers with restricted capabilities or prosthetics.
Portable hand controls are available for the paraplegic or amputee with a need for a car or van hand control that can be conveniently carried as luggage. Portable hand controls install in an automatic transmission vehicle in minutes. These hand controls are designed for use by individuals with normal upper body strength and coordination. Hand motions are pull to accelerate, push to brake. As with all hand controls, power brakes and steering are a must.
If you use a wheelchair then it's likely that you'll need to store the chair while you're driving so you can use it at your destination. Modifications could make the process easier including installing a ramp to the rear of the car to make loading the wheelchair into the rear space much easier.
Other alternatives include rear hoists which can lift wheelchairs into the back of most cars and will give you more independence as you may not need others to help lift the chair with you. If space in the rear of your car is limited you could decide to have a rooftop hoist and storage solution installed. These gadgets mechanically lift a manual wheelchair up from ground level and securely store it in a storage rack unit on top of your car. When you get to your destination your wheelchair can simply be lowered again at the touch of a button.
Knowing what is out there and what works best for you is no easy task. The best solution is to meet with a mobility consultant and discuss your needs. They are well versed on what equipment is available and how it will work best for you and the vehicle you want. You can work with your Physical Therapist, driving evaluator, or anyone else to assess your needs and come up with a solution for you. Their goal during the consultation is not only to determine your needs but a good Consultant will guide you through the process every step of the way. Your mobility consultant plays an integral role in making the right steps and decisions the first time.
Mobility and Independence is a very important part of our life. Having a vehicle that supports our needs can be crucial. Knowledge is power. Work with your Mobility consultant. Go. Be. Live.
This was a guest blog post by Sean Petersen from Golden Boy Mobility
You can learn more about wheelchair accessible vehicles at their website https://goldenboymobility.com/.
If you are in the San Diego area I would highly recommend them for help with wheelchair accessible vehicles. This is where I purchased my wheelchair accessible vehicle and have been getting service for the past five years.
If you are not in the Southern California area search for wheelchair accessible vehicles in your area to find local mobility consultants and wheelchair accessible vehicle dealerships.
Also, I want to encourage you to grab our e-book 11 Unbelievably Important Tips and Tricks to Thrive with Paralysis to help you thrive!