The day our kids get old enough to drive is a thrilling and terrifying moment for parents. This is especially true for our kids with disabilities. We want them to have access to every opportunity but driving means they’re going to be out of our supervision… and out of our protection.
First, take a deep breath and trust that you have prepared them for this. When you’ve got your nerves under wraps, it’s time to equip them with anything you can to make their driving experience go more smoothly. That means looking into vehicle modifications for drivers with disabilities that will fit your child’s needs. Read ahead to learn more.
This is the first feature most people picture when they think about vehicle modifications for drivers with disabilities. If your child is in a wheelchair, look for a side-loading wheelchair-accessible van with a ramp. There are three varieties of ramps available:
- Portable: A ramp you can attach and detach from a car at will.
- Manual: A ramp attached to the vehicle that drivers must extend and retract by hand.
- Motorized: A ramp that extends and retracts automatically with the use of a motor.
When deciding which ramp is right for your child, consider your child’s mobility level and whether they will have caregiver support. You should also think about how much space they will need in the car.
Though guidelines often recommend a person be at least 4’9’’ to drive a car, that doesn’t mean those who are under that height should be excluded from travel. Pedal extenders are designed to help those of small stature reach the pedals without having to sit dangerously close to the steering wheel. This allows people to drive safely without having to disable the airbag.
Left Foot Gas Pedal
For those who are missing their right leg or find they are unable to use it due to weakness on that side of the body, it can be impossible to operate a gas pedal. Fortunately, professionals can now install a left foot gas pedal in the car. This enables the driver to use their left foot both to accelerate and brake, thus making driving possible.
Along with acceleration and gas, hand controls can also help a driver steer if gripping and turning the wheel is too difficult for them. For steering, typically a small handle is hooked to the front of the steering wheel. Your child can grip it with one hand and turn it with greater ease. Because people can operate it with one hand, it is possible to use hand controls for both the pedals and steering at the same time.
Note on Hand Controls
Hand controls aren’t only helpful for steering. For those who are unable to use either of their legs, hand controls can also be used to work the gas and brake pedals. Cars with this modification come equipped with a lever installed beside the steering wheel that allows the driver to brake or speed up the car.