Disability Vehicles

4 Modifications Aiding the Mobility of the Physically Impaired

It is quite incredible that for many years now, individuals living with physical disabilities have been able to drive motorized vehicles almost as easily as those with no physical impairments. This is thanks to a number of vehicle modifications that are available to those that are unable to control a car in the standardized fashion. Relying on caregivers or other people for purposes of mobility can have a devastating effect on one’s feelings of independence and freedom and so specially modified wheelchair cars can be a God send to those who acquire them.

Just four innovative disability motor modifications that are available today include:

  • Steering knobs;
  • Left foot accelerators;
  • Raised roofs/dropped floors and
  • Siren detectors;

Steering knobs

I have included this modification first on the list because it is one that a friend of mine makes daily use of. It is also therefore what sparked my interest in car modifications for the disabled. My friend was born with an underdeveloped right hand meaning that driving with two hands is impossible for her. The steering knob she had fitted to the wheel of her Renault Kangoo allows her to employ positive, one-handed control of the vehicle.

All steering knobs are easily adjusted and replaced with just one hand and are fully adjustable depending on the physical needs and capabilities of the disabled driver. Being able to drive a car with just one hand saw my friend realize that she is capable of many other things despite her weak hand.

Left Foot Accelerators

The loss of a leg or foot can see operating the right foot accelerator of a motor vehicle an extremely difficult task, for accidental pressing of the brake pedal can occur. This means that many people with such disabilities opt for the installation of a left foot accelerator which – as the name suggests – is positioned to the left side of the brake pedal (the spacing between the brake and left foot accelerator matches the distance between the original pedal locations).

Often, the pedals of the car themselves are not modified and this therefore sees the vehicle retain the same “feel” and control experienced previous to the installation of the new left foot accelerator. Many left foot accelerators can also be moved out of the way so that the vehicle can continue to be operated in the standard way should this be desired.

Raised Roofs/Dropped Floors

Raising the roof or dropping the floor of a vehicle can allow disabled individuals to drive said vehicle from their wheelchair or mobility scooter. This offers convenience; not only because of the amount of time saved but such modifications can also reduce the need for additional aid from others when getting in and out of a vehicle (or transferring from a wheelchair/scooter into the driving seat).

This modification is usually implemented in disability vans only, for smaller varieties of vehicle are much harder to structurally alter. This alteration is necessary since a person who relies on a wheelchair will almost always sit higher than a person sitting in the original seat of a van, reducing head clearance significantly. Raised roof and dropped floor modifications are always nearly integrated with a lift or winch system also to aid the removal of the wheelchair/scooter in and out of the vehicle.

Siren Detectors

Sensory impairments can also have an effect on one’s ability – and legal status – to drive a motor vehicle. Being a safe driver is all about awareness and so limited sight or hearing can be dangerous when on the road. Hearing impaired individuals can have a siren detector fitted in their vehicles however.

Siren detector devices electronically detect high decibel sound waves – like that which are emitted by ambulances and fire trucks – and indicates these noises to partially deaf drivers through the flashing of LED lights.  This means that aurally-restricted drivers do not endanger others by not moving out of the way of emergency services that are in operation close by.

Danni Whitmarsh has a keen interest regarding wheelchair cars due to her friend’s experiences with the Constables Mobility organization.