For many people, driving is a common activity. Having the ability to get in your vehicle and go to the store, visit friends and family, or just take a peaceful drive is something that a lot of people take for granted. But for those with disabilities, buying and driving a vehicle can be a much more complicated process.

Driving with a disability is different because certain limitations are not accounted for in standard off-the-line vehicles. Fortunately, adaptive driving or passenger equipment can make a huge difference for people who have disabilities and still want the freedom of driving their own vehicle. 

Here’s why adaptive driving equipment can revolutionize disabled driving, and how you can adapt your car to make your life easier.

What is an adaptive vehicle?

An adaptive vehicle is a standard car that has been modified to suit the needs of a person with a disability. There are several different changes a person can make to accommodate their disability and render their car more driveable.

Hand controls and steering devices can be put into a vehicle for those with limited leg use. The driver can then operate both the gas and brake pedal with one hand while the other is focused on steering. This makes it a lot easier for a person with a disability to drive their car.

Other types of vehicle modifications for disabled drivers include:

  • Automatic doors
  • Pedal or seat belt extenders
  • Wheelchair lifts and ramps
  • Raised roof or a dropped floor
  • Seat modifications such as swivel seating
  • Scooter lifts
  • Adaptive ignition controls
  • Left-foot accelerators

The type of car will determine what type of modification is possible. Typically, smaller economy-sized vehicles are less likely to be able to accommodate certain modifications such as a raised roof, dropped floor, or wheelchair lift.

Disabled Parking - wheelchair
Image by Zachary Kyra-Derksen on Unsplash: Vehicle modifications for disabled drivers have given people with limited leg use the ability to drive with ease.

What are the benefits of adaptive driving?

The biggest benefit of adaptive driving is the ability to hit the road safely regardless of certain limitations. This provides people with disabilities the freedom to live their lives how they choose. Driving is a privilege that should be provided to anyone who can do so safely. With revolutionary adaptive driving equipment, more and more people with disabilities can take advantage of that privilege.

Can you drive if you’re in a wheelchair?

The short answer is yes. Anybody with a disability that requires the use of a wheelchair can drive their own vehicle, as long as it has all the appropriate modifications. Technological advancements in hand controls and other adaptive driving equipment have made it a much simpler process.

It’s not just people who require wheelchairs that are able to drive freely, however. Many types of disabilities still allow people to legally operate their vehicle. Specific conditions that do not impose a total ban on driving include:

  • Absent limbs or a reduced limb function
  • Some spinal cord injuries
  • Mobility issues
  • Traumatic brain injuries (as long as they do not affect a person’s ability to understand the rules of the road and how to drive)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Paraplegia or hemiplegia
  • Neuromuscular disease

This list is not exhaustive. Some disabilities such as epilepsy or other seizure disorders also allow for a person to drive, with certain limitations.

How much does it cost to install adaptive driving equipment?

Costs for adding adaptive driving equipment to a vehicle will depend highly on the level of the disability and how much modification is required. Typically, smaller modifications will cost less and vice versa for larger ones.

The first step to address cost is by finding a driver rehabilitation specialist that can figure out what exactly you need to add to your vehicle to be able to drive freely and safely. Once you know what you need, costs can range anywhere from a mere $500 to upwards of $25,000. Hand controls are on the lower end of the cost spectrum, whereas modifying a vehicle to be wheelchair-accessible is among the more expensive modification equipment on the market.

Insurance will also have to be factored into the cost of the modified vehicle. Although it is illegal to charge someone more based on them having a disability, certain modifications may make repairs more costly, thus raising insurance premiums.

Disabled Parking - money
Image by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash: Vehicle modifications for disabled drivers can be costly depending on the type, but the benefits are well worth it.

Adaptive driving equipment continues to present new and improved vehicle modifications for disabled drivers. As technology continues to advance, so will the adaptive driving equipment. Having a disability isn’t an automatic loss of licence, and with special vehicle modifications, disabled drivers can continue to experience all the freedom that having a vehicle offers.

Featured image by Jaromír Kavan on Unsplash