Whether you’re an experienced adaptive driver or you’re just getting started, it’s important to stay up to date on all the latest technology that’s available. Speaking from the perspective of a new driver, I found that learning about adaptive driving equipment and accessories can be a little overwhelming if you don’t know where to start looking for information. So, as I embark on my driving adventures, I thought I’d share a round-up of some of the most awesome adaptive products and resources that are available to help you travel on four wheels with ease and style.
- Getting in and out of the car can be difficult. If all you need is a little boost rather than more high-tech adaptive modifications in your vehicle, then the Handy Bar may be a good solution. My mother, who also has a disability, sometimes uses this to give her just the right amount of support to lift herself up onto higher van seats. All you have to do is hook it in to the doorframe of your vehicle, and then remove it when you’re inside. There’s no complicated hardware or installation involved. Simple!
- If transferring from one seat to another poses a challenge for you, don’t worry, because there are plenty of other options to help you get in and out of your vehicle. While doing some research, I came across a unique system known as The Carony. Instead of getting out of your wheelchair and hoisting yourself or being hoisted up onto a car seat, the seat of The Carony is both the car seat and the wheelchair seat. How cool is that? You can go from rolling in your chair to rolling on the road in a few easy steps.
- Would you rather roll your wheelchair directly into a vehicle so you can either sit in it or transfer to a regular seat? You have several options to make that work. Whether you prefer side entry or rear entry vehicles, a ramp can be installed in your van to provide easy access.
- There are several ways for getting inside a van, but if you don’t have a ramp and you choose to sit in a regular seat, how do you get your wheelchair in the car? Unfortunately, much of the available technology assumes that wheelchair users can take a few steps from their chairs to their cars. Though that isn’t ideal for many people who use wheelchairs full time and still want to be independent, if you do need assistance, then it’s important for friends and family members to be able to get your wheelchair inside of the vehicle. Leave all the heavy lifting to the Bruno Curb-Sider and save your loved ones a lot of backaches.
- Now that you and your wheelchair have made it into the vehicle, it’s really important to keep your wheelchair secure. In my current adaptive minivan, I have tie-downs from Sure-Lok. Specifically, I have the FF600 Retractor Series System. Sounds fancy, I know. But it’s really just a simple system that keeps wheelchairs from sliding around or moving while the vehicle is in motion.
- Once you’re safe and secure, if you’re in the driver’s seat, you’re ready to ride. It’s amazing how many options disabled people have for adaptive equipment to meet their needs and allow them to drive safely. I was overwhelmed just learning about all the different ways there are to accelerate and put on the brakes. Because of my short stature and limited leg strength, I use hand controls to drive. This means that to apply the gas or brake, I use a mechanism that I hold in my left hand. To accelerate, I push down, and to stop, I push forward. It’s easy once you get the hang of the motions.
- Since I control the gas and brake with my left hand, I steer with my right hand. In order to make it safer to turn, I hold on to something called a spinner knob, rather than directly grasping the wheel. When I first started driving, I used to grasp it so tightly that I had trouble opening my hand at the end of my lessons! Thankfully, I’ve been able to loosen my grip as I’ve become more experienced.
- Although I don’t need this technology, the van that I practiced driving in had an amazing electronic control panel. This is especially convenient for people with very limited upper body mobility, because they don’t need to move very far to turn the car on and off, change gears, and operate all other major functions of the vehicle.
- Because I use both hands to drive, it wouldn’t just be dangerous if I broke the law by using my cell phone while on the road – it would be pretty much impossible. I want to be as safe as possible, and luckily, there are several hands free options that will allow me to use my phone if need be. Thank goodness for Bluetooth headphones.
- One of the most interesting feelings that I experience while driving is that no one on the road knows you’re using adaptive equipment. When you’re behind the wheel, you’re just as much a driver as anyone else. Of course, if you want a fun way to show off to everyone that you’re a proud member of the disability community, then you can put a bumper sticker on the back of your vehicle to represent!
What adaptive driving equipment do you find really useful?
Emily Ladau is the Social Media Coordinator and a blogger for The Mobility Resource. Get all the latest from The Mobility Resource on Facebook and Twitter: @SweetMobility. Emily also writes on disability issues for her own blog, Words I Wheel By. Say hi to her on Facebook and Twitter: @emily_ladau!
The Really Useful Stuff team would like to thank Emily for sharing both her experience and advice in this ‘really useful’ blog – Thank you Emily!