What makes a Great Handicap Car for Disabled Drivers?
If you’re a disabled driver then the chances are that you’re a paraplegic with hand controls installed in the car. Paraplegic drivers make up the vast majority of handicapped drivers but there are of course people with an incredibly wide range of different disabilities. Just today I received a comment from a 31 year old mother of two:
‘I am a 32 year old fit female suffering from severe femoral neuropathy in my right leg (a complication from knee surgery 3 months ago). Basically my thigh muscle is paralyzed. My most recent nerve study indicates that I will not recover quad function any time soon- possibly never. I can walk with a brace on but since it is my right leg that is affected, driving has not been possible. Since I am realizing that this condition may be long term I am ready to look into hand controls for the car. I’ve also wondered if it would be possible to just drive using my left leg (is that legal?).’
Ever heard of femoral neuropathy? I hadn’t, but it just goes to show that there’s an incredibly wide variety of disabled drivers out there with so many ailments and problems that I won’t even try to list them all.
So let’s back up. Assuming you need car modifications for a disabled driver it’s time to look at what the car itself should have before modifications are attempted. If you require hand controls then contrary to popular belief that car doesn’t have to be particularly large at all. Assuming you have help getting in and out of your car then the modifications are very minimal and a set of popular portable hand controls is all you need. These can have their internal placement plus rod lengths adjusted so that unless you’re a very big person in a very small car there won’t be any issues. The same is true of most portable driving equipment. Most of it can be installed in relatively small spaces without serious modifications to the car taking place.
On the other hand if you want a set of permanent hand controls then things are going to be a little different. To start with you may require more space in your car, plus the placement of the permanent installed hand control may only be on one side. I receive a message from a woman who required it to be installed on the right hand side when she was left handed (this was a Menox hand control) and she was none too happy about that.
Generally entry and exit methods determine the car you choose. You might not even choose a car – and the chances are you won’t if you want to drive the vehicle too. Most disabled drivers who want to independently enter and exit the vehicle prefer minivans, vans, lowered floor vans and trucks. These allow for ramps or electronic transfer chairs. If you do require independent entry of the vehicle you need to make sure that it’s pretty darn big, I would recommend full size trucks and vans if I’m being completely honest.
Hand controls and other equipment which are purely for disabled driver do not require large spaces for installation or operation – but hoists, transfer chairs and ramps require significantly more room. Furthermore, if you want to drive the vehicle you need some way of easily getting your wheelchair into the driver’s seat location. Driving in a wheelchair isn’t difficult but getting it firmly and securely into the right place is a little tricky. Most vamps and entry assistance equipment for handicapped people gets them into a passengers position so looking for an entry equipment which gets you into the driver’s seat position is key.
I’m a Handicapped Passenger, “what should I look for in my handicap car?”
Ok so you don’t want to drive but you still want to be able to be taken to wherever you want to go. Handicapped passengers probably constitute the majority of modifications to vehicles for disability purposes so despite this website being about handicap driving equipment you’re very much in the majority of disabled persons.
As I mentioned above size is one important factor in the vehicle you choose and therefore I think vans and trucks are the best choices for handicapped passengers. On the other hand seeing as you’re not driving the vehicle there’s not so much of a requirement of being able to move around within the vehicle, therefore since you can sit in any vehicle it’s purely a matter of comfort.
You can have simple hoists and transfer seats for even relatively small cars to help you enter the vehicle but it wouldn’t be as comfortable as having a van with an electronic ramp in the back of the van.
Another important aspect which you need to look into is any extra equipment you may need to carry around with you. For example do you need a lightweight wheelchair which you can fold up and store in the back? You’re going to need room for all your equipment, and wheelchairs are generally the most commonly use.
Then of course you need to look at who’s travelling with you and their comfort, plus the duration of a typical journey you may take (and therefore your comfort).
There are numerous different handicap cars available but finding out what’s best for you is the most important thing. Being able to locate the best handicap car for handicapped passengers as well as handicapped drivers requires a little reflection and thought, especially considering the usually large financial undertaking which is required.