Having a disability is likely to mean you have different needs to other motorists, but there are a wide range of adaptations which can be tailored to your individual circumstances. These will ensure that you are kept mobile and can enjoy the independence which comes from having a car.
At Eden, we will help guide you through the process whether you are self-funding or leasing through the Motability Scheme.
At the most basic level, there are a range of accessories which are designed to make it safer and more comfortable for people with upper and lower body disabilities to access and drive a car. The simplest is an automatic gearbox, which removes the need for a clutch pedal and means two hands can be kept on the steering wheel while driving.
Automatic transmissions are increasing in popularity and are no longer less efficient than a manual gearbox. In fact, all electric and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles are ‘gearless’. This, together with the lower running costs and the ability to charge at home rather than face a filling station, means they are an excellent choice for drivers with disabilities. Our experts tell us that customers love cars such as the Vauxhall Grandland and Mokka with their higher seat level which makes access easier for the less agile driver.
Whichever car you choose though, by far the most popular accessory for disabled drivers is a simple steering wheel knob which makes the process of manoeuvring in tight spaces easier for anyone with limited upper body strength and mobility. While these cost only a few pounds, they need to be applied carefully to avoid damaging delicate trim and possibly even heating elements.
Some modern cars even have sensors to check that the driver is keeping their hands on the wheel, and a knob could interfere with the functionality of the self-driving systems. Again, Eden’s experts will be able to guide you.
The next stage is to adapt the other controls to suit the driver’s needs, with hand levers to work the brakes and accelerator. Some vehicles can even have the conventional controls and steering wheel removed completely and replaced with a joystick, or use a foot steering system for drivers who have lost the use of both arms.
Seats can also be adapted, either on a permanent basis or simply by adding shaped cushions. They can also be modified to rotate the base, making access easier for people with limited mobility. Some vehicles can also be fitted with hoists to lift people into wheelchairs, and then help load the chair itself into the car.
The most impressive conversions are the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles, known commonly as WAVs. These are adapted to take a driver or passenger in a wheelchair comfortably and easily, usually via a ramp at the rear of the vehicle. The most common vehicles for this type of conversion are the passenger versions of vans such as the Vauxhall Combo and Peugeot Traveller, as they have the space and height needed.
Whichever car and adaptation you choose, it’s important to get thorough training on how to use the controls, especially if you have previously driven using another more conventional system of driving. As always, Eden’s experts will be on hand to help and advise you through the processes and possibilities.