In the 135 years since the automobile’s invention, our society has come to rely on this innovation. Being able to get to work, run errands, and go to events are often contingent on driving. These essential activities pose problems for those with barriers to driving. Fortunately, being a wheelchair user doesn’t have to be a barrier. With the right accommodations, you can help your loved one get everything you need to drive from your wheelchair.
A Side-Loading Vehicle
A wheelchair user can enter any accessible vehicle in their wheelchair; however, not every vehicle accommodates a wheelchair user as the driver. For instance, a rear-loading vehicle’s ramp extends from the trunk, which constrains the wheelchair to the backseat. This is fine if the wheelchair passenger remains a passenger, but if they want to drive, they should purchase a wheelchair-accessible vehicle that loads from the side.
Automated Wheelchair Locking Systems
A wheelchair locking system is your loved one’s seatbelt while they’re riding in a vehicle, and this is especially important if they’re the driver. In the past, locking systems used manual ties that required getting onto the ground to attach multiple straps to a chair. Fortunately, modern systems are fully automated. All a user needs to do is roll the chair into position for the system to engage; then, they can hit a button for the system to release.
Necessary Driving Modifications
Getting a loved one who is a wheelchair user into the driver’s seat is one thing—driving is a whole new ball game. They may need a different set of modifications depending on their exact needs. Here are a few you may consider helping them get.
Even if your loved one has limited mobility in their legs, they can still work the pedals in some cases—simply adjust them for ease of use. For instance, if their left foot has better mobility than their right, help them search for a vehicle modified with the gas pedal on the left side. Or if they can’t reach the pedals, pedal extenders provide a quick fix to operate both easily.
Individuals without mobility in their legs need not be excluded from driving. Some manufacturers equip vehicles with electronic accelerators and handbrakes. These modifications allow the driver to perform the functions normally controlled by the pedals with their hands. This tool enables them to skip the pedals altogether.
Adjusted Steering Wheel
Making sharp turns in a car often causes us to take a wider range of motion than we appreciate. If your loved one struggles to make these turns, they can find a steering wheel fitted with a small knob. This knob allows them to turn the wheel with ease.
A wheelchair doesn’t have to leave your loved one stuck at home. When they have everything they need to drive in a wheelchair, independence is just as attainable for them as it is for anyone else.