Auto Accessory Options for Handicap Drivers

Although automobile accidents are responsible for the majority of spinal cord injuries (SCIs), it’s difficult to imagine yourself no longer being able to drive. After living your life as an independent adult, it can be particularly hard to cope with that additional loss of independence.

However, losing the ability to drive is not always the outcome for many spinal cord injury survivors. This is, in part, due to advances in medical treatments and technology, as well as the development of handicap driving accessories.

Handicap auto accessories are precisely what they sound like: They’re assistive devices that can be installed inside your existing vehicle that enable users with some SCIs and other physical impairments to safely operate the automobile. Typically, when you begin the process of getting your vehicle retrofitted with these assistive devices, they will be fitted by a professional to ensure the device is a good fit for your needs and that it is properly installed.

We’ve put together a list of some of the types of handicap driving accessories that are available on the market:

Steering Controls

The type of steering accessory that someone needs depends on their level of injury and resulting hand mobility limitations. There are a variety of different types of steering wheel driving aids available.

A few example scenarios and corresponding types of driving equipment include the following:

  • If you have limited arm mobility, a smaller steering wheel can be installed.
  • If you have issues gripping a steering wheel, you may opt to use a tri-pin, which can be installed on the steering wheel of your existing vehicle.
  • If you can’t fully open your hand, you can use a single pin instead.
  • If you have moderate grip strength and wrist support, a palm grip and V grip may be a great solution.

Blinkers, Lights, and Other Controls

In addition to steering devices, drivers with spinal cord injuries also can use electronic driving controls to control a variety of functions, such as turning on the ignition, switching gears, activating windshield wipers, door locks, and controlling fan speeds.

Additionally, thanks to advances in assistive technology, we now have handicap auto accessories that can enable some quadriplegics to drive again. For example, quadriplegics who have regained some use of their hands and arms can use an elbow-controlled system to activate and use their vehicle’s built-in features like blinkers, lights, and horn.

Gas and Brake Controls

Another manual option includes the use of push pull hand controls. However, it is best to undergo sufficient training by a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) before you try to operate the vehicle on your own using these controls.

Hand controls help users with virtually all levels of injuries operate the acceleration and braking capabilities. For individuals who have minimal arm mobility, they are able to drive using a joystick.

Wheelchair Lifts

Occupied wheelchair lifts are truly a godsend for many SCI survivors and others with physical disabilities. They allow users to enter or leave their vehicles easily and more efficiently.

When it comes to occupied wheelchair lifts, there are several different styles from which to choose based on your individual needs and vehicle. Some of these options include:

  • Standard dual-post lifts,
  • Single-post lifts,
  • Under vehicle lifts,
  • Split platform lifts, and
  • Dual-post split platform lifts.

Wheelchair Locks

When they have access to an accessible van, many quadriplegic (and some paraplegic) drivers will remain in their wheelchairs while driving. To successfully accomplish this feat, they typically will use an automated lockdown system to secure their wheelchairs in place — these include devices such as those made by EZ Lock or Q'straint.

Costs of Handicap Auto Accessories

The catch of many of these incredible technologies is the price tag — to retrofit your existing vehicle with these assistive devices can cost thousands of dollars. However, there is good news: There are nonprofit organizations that provide grants to SCI survivors to help cover the cost of installing assistive technologies into their existing vehicles or to purchase a new adaptive vehicle outright.

If you are coping with a recent spinal cord injury and want to learn more about how your injury can impact your life, be sure to download our free guide to coping with an SCI by clicking in the image below.

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Topics: Advice & Tips, Accessibility & Adaptations

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