Where previously a physically disability prevented one from driving, today’s assistive technology for drivers provides opportunities for most people with disabilities to drive. One may require personal assistance for a whole range of daily tasks but be quite physically competent to drive. Accelerator, brake and steering can be operated from a four way joystick with less mobility and strength required than using a computer mouse. The possibility of driving with the use of only one limb has become a reality. For those who have a passion for motorcycles, a drive-from-wheelchair high performance motorcycle is now in mass production. Certain vehicles can now be driven from the wheelchair, with high accessible remote control opening/closing doors.
The following is a list of adaptations and equipment available to accommodate various disabilities and difficulties around Access and Egress, Primary Controls, Secondary Controls, Mirrors, Wheelchair Loading.
Access & Egress
- Door handle extension can assist opening and closing doors.
- Straps and handles can be tailor made for opening and closing doors and also for seat adjustments.
- Bead seat covers, swivel cushions ease access and egress to seat.
- Swivel seats, simple or advanced, aid passenger’s entry and exit, but may be more difficult to accommodate in the driving position.
- When choosing a car check for low sills and a two door car as opposed to a four door often offers better access.
- Wedge cushions assist raising height without raising knees.
- Sliding boards can bridge the gap between wheelchair and car seat.
- Leg lifter is a looped strap to help lifting ones legs into a car.
- Seat extension which sets the seat further back than original position providing more space for lower limb prosthesis or lower limbs that have difficulty with bending.
- Seatbelt pullers to assist in reaching for the seatbelt, seatbelt clip extensions to insert seatbelt, and Seatbelt release clips to enable easier release of the seatbelt.
- Chest belt and shoulder harness offer extra upper body support.
- Side and rear wedge cushions can provide extra seated support.
Steering Wheel Spinners (see below) are common additions to provide maximum control of steering with a single arm. Various sizes, designs, inc. quick release, are available.
Tailored Made Enhanced Power Steering may help those with reduced strength This is usually accompanied with a Mini Steering Wheel for anyone with reduced upper limb mobility.
There are various Hand Controls for braking and acceleration, both mechanical and electrical;
- push/pull( opposite); radial; floor mounted
- push/pull; Over and under–ring accelerators
- satellite accelerators (thumb actuated)
Handbrake/park brake operation can be eased. Button release levers; push button electric handbrakes; handbrake extension and handbrake relocation are all possible. Many new models have push button control as standard to apply or release handbrake.
Other primary control adaptations include pedal extensions; left foot accelerators; press button electric gearshift; 4 way joystick for acceleration, braking and steering, tiller steering; joystick steering ergonomically positioned; foot steering.
Secondary controls (indicators, wipers, lights, horn etc) can be operated from the steering wheel spinner ( by infrared) as shown below, but there are also: floor switches (for foot operation); headrest switches (head activated); 4 way switches; a 9 function bleeper switch; a single function toggle switch attached to the hand controls; air blow switches; touch pad controllers. Original secondary controls can be extended, or relocated as in the photo on page 7.
Additional mirrors can be placed in or on the vehicle to suit a person who has restricted neck movement. A panoramic mirror(s)), sometimes including exterior mounted blind spot mirrors, to enable safe observation at various types of junctions and when reversing. Wide angle view cameras and screens can also be fitted for reversing.
Caution should be exercised with the purchase and use of some mirrors that reduce but do not eliminate a blind spot.
Before finalising a decision in maximizing rear observations, try establishing maximum trunk movement/positioning and seating position including swivel cushions to maximise rear and side observations. Caution do not overstretch.
For stowage of wheelchair a two door car provides more space for drivers transferring and lifting the wheelchair into the car. Another option is an electrical lift that lifts, folds and locks away a manual wheelchair on the roof of thevehicle. All is achieved from the driver’s seat. The wheelchair is enclosed, protect-ting it from the weather elements.
Electric lifts are also available for loading of wheelchair or scooters into boots of vehicles.
For rear-side sliding doors an electrical easy loader is available to lift, return and store a manual wheelchair behind the driver’s seat. The sliding door can also be electrically opened/closed.
Finally, a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle ( WAV ) is available for passengers. Vehicles are also available for drivers to drive from the wheelchair or transfer to six-way seat.