Article - On The Road Again!
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Adaptive Car Accessories
Ah, the car. The all-American symbol of independence. Children look forward to that year when they are able to attain a license. It means freedom from having to be chauffeured by a parent or sibling. You don't have to be a teenager to appreciate the value of using a car. Most people would prefer to be able to get out and about as they please. But for people who are older or people with disabilities, driving a car or even being a passenger can have physical obstacles.
How do you get in and out of a seat that requires making a lateral move when you've recently had hip surgery? How do you step on the gas when you don't have full muscle strength in your leg to properly control acceleration? What if you are a wheelchair user?
There are features to every car that appeal to people with different physical needs. Seats that accommodate short people or very tall people, steering columns that adjust up or down, heated seats and more.
When selecting a vehicle, here are some things to consider:
How wide are the doors? Two-door cars have a much wider door opening, although the doors themselves are heavier to open. Some minivans now come with doors that can be opened and closed automatically with a push button.
Is there storage space for wheelchairs and other mobility aids? Is the trunk large enough for a lightweight transport chair or rollator? Or does the backseat door open wide enough to load this type of mobility aid? An SUV or minivan affords a roomier interior, larger doors and more storage space than a car.
How easily can the vehicle be adapted and what would the cost be?
There are also add-on aids available that can improve a driver's range of vision, accommodate for hearing loss and help with mobility issues while still providing adequate controls for safe driving as well as safety for the driver.
Some easy-to-install and inexpensive adaptations:
See if the handles and grab bars are located in a helpful position. If not, consider the Car Caddie, a portable handle that attaches to the window frame and offers balance and support when entering or exiting a vehicle. Another option is The Handybar™: a personal support handle that hooks into a metal loop on your car's door frame. You push down on the Handybar™ to help support your weight as you stand up.
If twisting in or out of a seat is difficult, the Swivel Seat Cushion can help. Placed on the car seat, its lazy-susan style base helps you to turn in the seat.
Transfer boards, like the Beasyboard, can help you slide from a wheelchair into a car seat with little or no stress placed on the knee or hip.
Oversized, wide-angle rearview mirrors to help enhance your peripheral and rear views.
Ramps that can be leaned on the car or van to help load scooters or wheelchairs.
Adaptations that require professional installation:
Power seats can do more than adjust the seating position. There are special power seats that rotate towards the door and lift up or down to make transferring and access to the car seat easier.
Exterior mounted cameras can deliver images to an LCD panel under the rearview mirror, making it possible to see everything behind the vehicle as you back up.
Wheelchair and scooter lifts that can remain on the vehicle to help you avoid heavy lifting.
Accelerating and braking modifications might include:
Left foot gas pedal.
Hand controls on the steering wheel that control the operation of accelerator and brakes.
Foot pedal extensions that raise the height of the brake and accelerator.
Alternative steering aids:
Devices such as a spinner knob, amputee ring, quad fork, or tri pin that are attached to the steering wheel for ease of use.
Floor mounted steering, which allows steering using a foot control.
Switches and other controls:
Electric gear selector, permitting left hand operation.
Right hand turn signal, permitting right hand operation without cross-over.
Remote switches, repositioning or building up secondary controls (horn, wipers, turn signals, etc.) to accommodate the driver's specific disability.
Adaptive devices are also available to assist drivers with hearing impairment. For instance, enhanced turn signal reminders blink and sound an increasingly louder tone until the turn signal is switched off.
A siren detector will flash red lights whenever its microphone detects an approaching emergency vehicle siren and automatically stop when the siren is out of the microphone's range.
Seat Belts - shoulder and lap belt adjustments may be needed
We suggest trying the equipment in an actual driving situation before making a final decision. Getting a professional evaluation and assistance with the product, especially if it requires modification to the vehicle, is also recommended. The vehicle modifications that require professional installation can be expensive.
There are sources that can help to defray some of the costs:
Veteran's Administration, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Developmental Disabilities Services, or Insurance - either Health or Workman's Compensation.
Dept of Veterans Affairs
Prosthetic & Sensory Aids Services (PSAS)
Automotive Adaptive Equipment (AAE)
Check with the IRS or your tax preparer for potential tax credits for modifications.
Car manufacturer rebate programs. Many manufacturers offer a rebate toward the cost of adaptive driver or passenger equipment on a vehicle purchased through them. Here are a few examples:
Chrysler Automobility Program
Phone: 800-255-9877 (TTY: 800-922-3826)
Ford Motor Company Mobility Motoring Program
Phone: 800-952-2248 (TTY: 800-833-0312)
General Motors Mobility Program
Phone: 800-323-9935 (TTY: 800-833-9935)
Toyota Mobility Assistance Program
Volkswagon of America Mobility Access Program
If you find traveling in a car to be a challenge, you can follow-up on some of these ideas to make driving or being a passenger easier. Car manufacturers have continuously added safety and comfort features to make the experience enjoyable, and the car 'aftermarket' is flourishing with ideas and products to further enhance your physical comfort. Look into it and get back on the road!
1000 Delaney St.
Orlando, FL 32806
PO Box 4632
Carmel, IN 46082
Automotive Mobility Solutions
National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA)
A non-profit association that strives to increase independence for people with disabilities through the provision of safe adaptive transportation
Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America
A non-profit organization whose purpose is to improve the potential of people with disabilities to achieve their goals through the use of technology
Phone: 703-524-6686 (TTY: 703-524-6639)
A nationwide group of vehicle modification dealers who provide transportation solutions for disabled drivers and passengers
ADED was established in 1977 to support professionals working in the field of driver education / driver training and transportation equipment modifications for persons with disabilities through education and information dissemination.
Phone: 866-672-9466 (Toll Free in the US & Canada)
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