Selecting Vehicle And Control Modifications For Drivers

Your rehabilitation professional can help you determine your personal mobility needs and your vehicle's suitability. But, because of the expense of making vehicle modifications, be sure to consider both your current and future needs before you make any costly decisions. The driver rehabilitation specialist should complete a report with recommendations of the modifications to meet your individual needs. This "prescription" usually includes an expiration date not to exceed 1 year. You, your rehabilitation professional, and the company modifying your vehicle must work closely together to ensure you get the most up-to-date and cost-effective equipment that meets your needs and the federal motor vehicle safety standards. Some combination of the following items may help you compensate for your disability.

Fine motor condition impairments. Some people use key extensions, dashboard switch modifications, turn signal crossover for operation with the right hand, gear shift extensions for leverage or for the left side, steering knobs, quad grip steering devices, grab bars, and hand-held remote controls.

Lower extremity weakness, spasticity, loss of sensation, and paralysis. Options may include a left-foot gas pedal, hand controls, reduced effort braking system, and manual or powered parking brakes.

Upper extremity weakness, lack of active range of motion, and difficulties with coordination. As changes occur in upper body weakness, some people use reduced-effort and/or horizontal power steering systems; steering column extensions; electronic steering controls; and seats equipped with support for trunk stability.

Impaired vision, fatigue, and sensitivity to glare. You may benefit from custom or wide-angle rearview mirrors, tinted windows, air conditioning, or photosensitive glasses.

Mobility impairments. There are transfer seat bases for ease in movement to and from the seat and positioning while in the driver's seat, electric cartop carriers for loading a folded wheelchair, and car and truck lifts for manual wheelchairs and scooters. If you can no longer use a car, you may opt for a minivan that has been modified with powered doors, powered ramps, and lowered flooring; or a full-sized van with a raised roof, wheelchair platform lift, or an under-vehicle lift. In addition, the driver compartment in some vans can be modified with a lowered floor to accept a wheelchair as the driver's seat, with customized seat belts and docking-type wheelchair restraint systems.

If you are no longer able to drive safely, you may need some combination of personal mobility devices, the adaptive technologies listed above, and a driver who is trained in the proper use of such equipment. You may also wish to investigate whether public transportation is a viable alternative, particularly if you live in an urban area. When you use public transportation (accessible bus), for your safety, you will want to use an occupant restraint belt and a wheelchair tie-down.

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