4 Things Family Members Of Disabled Drivers Should Know

Disabled adults face many challenges, but driving doesn’t have to be one of them. In fact, there are some ways that driving can be made much easier for those with disabilities. As a family member of someone who has a disability, you should understand what laws apply to disabled drivers, the education driving with disability requires, and how some vehicles may need to be modified. Here are all the things family members of disabled drivers should know.

1. Laws Surrounding Driving With Disability

Many federal laws oversee the ability of a person with a disability to drive on the roads. When discussing these driving laws, disabled usually refers to someone who has lost the use of one or more limbs and has to have adjustments made to a car in order to operate it.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, disabled Americans are protected from being discriminated against both in the workplace and while accessing public services. A state’s Department of Motor Vehicles cannot deny a driver’s license to someone based solely on their disability status under the law. The law also states that disabled parking spaces must be available in parking lots, and must be wide enough to accommodate accessible vehicles with a ramp for wheelchairs.

Dr Handicap - parking lot
Image by Brydon McCluskey on Unsplash: Driving with a disability can be complicated. Make sure both you and the driver know the disabled driving laws.

Every state has its own laws surrounding disabled drivers, but some things are common across all states, such as the requirement of disabled drivers to disclose their disability to the DMV. The state may issue a restricted driver’s license based on the disability status of the person (mobility issues, limited vision, a hearing disability, etc.). The ways vehicles must be modified for disabilities differ from state to state, so if you have questions, make sure to contact your local DMV for more information.

2. Driver’s Education For Those With Disabilities

The driver’s education required for those with disabilities to obtain a driver’s license are much the same as any other driver’s education course, except that they may need specialized training based on any specific controls installed on a vehicle to help accommodate for their disability.

As with any other driver, a disabled driver must be at least 16, though driver’s education classes can begin at age 15. A theory test and a practical road test must be passed in order to obtain a driver’s license.

3. Requirements For Vehicles

Vehicle modifications for disabled drivers are based on the particular disability in question. Vehicles should include a feature that enables easy shifting and automatic transmission. It’s also a requirement for a disabled driver’s vehicle to have power steering, windows, seats, and locks.

Some disabled drivers may need a lift to access their vehicle and hand grips to transfer. If a driver is unable to use accelerator and brake pedals, their vehicles must have hand controls. However, you’ll want to check with your state to see what modifications are legal, since spinner knobs that make turning a wheel easier for a person with a disability have been outlawed in some states.

Dr Handicap - parking sign
Image by AbsolutVision on Unsplash: A driving license for physically handicapped people and vehicle modifications for disabled drivers can help individuals get around on their own.

4. Disabled Parking Permits

Another important item that may be required for a disabled driver is a disabled parking permit. The DMVs in each state issue these specialized parking permits, which may be given on a permanent or short-term basis. You need to check with your state to find out what the qualifying conditions are for a disabled parking permit; what forms must be filled out by the disabled driver and their doctor to secure one; and the cost, if any, of getting one.

A disabled parking permit will allow the driver to park in handicap-accessible spaces in parking garages and parking lots. These spaces are closer to the main entrance and have extra room for putting down a ramp for wheelchair access. Disabled parking may also allow a disabled driver to park on a street without paying the meter or to ignore parking with time limits. However, these privileges differ from state to state and even city to city, so you’ll need to make sure you and your disabled family member familiarize yourselves with state and local laws surrounding disabled parking.

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What Is The Best Car For A Wheelchair User?

Wheelchairs help many people to remain independent – but a big part of that independence comes from accessing transportation that can accommodate your wheelchair. That’s why it’s so important for wheelchair users to find a vehicle that you not only like, but that’s accessible too.

The good news is that there are many cars on the market today that are accessible to those in wheelchairs. Here are some of the best cars for wheelchair users that you might want to consider.

The Benefits Of Each Car Type For Wheelchair Users

If you’ve already started your new car search, you know that there are many choices out there. With all of the things wheelchair users have to take into consideration, there are definitely benefits to each car type on the market today. Here’s a breakdown:

Minivans

These are a great all-around vehicle for wheelchair users since they have so much room. You can find them at a variety of price points, and they provide quick access and have high safety ratings. You can get a minivan with either a side or rear entry, too, which is a definite bonus for ease of use when out and about with your wheelchair. A minivan is one of the best cars for wheelchair transfers, too.

Full-size vans

Most full-size vans will come with a lift instead of a ramp. These systems can be a lot more expensive than other types of cars, but they have a lot of room, which some people need not only to accommodate their wheelchair but their family as well.

SUVs

This type of car is very popular since it is great for off-road driving and driving in inclement weather. An SUV can be more expensive than other options, but does tend to be much roomier than a minivan, with a lot of cargo space.

Cars

Cars are normally the most affordable option but offer the least amount of extra space. However, they’re low to the ground, which is good for transferring. They’re easy to handle, too, which makes them a great option for new drivers.

Trucks

Trucks are powerful and great for towing, but may not be the best option for wheelchair users since they’re high off the ground. The wheelchair, once stored in the back, can also be exposed to the elements.

Dr Handicap - disabled drivers
Image by Why Kei on Unsplash: Wondering what cars can take a wheelchair? Let’s investigate.

What is the best car for wheelchairs?

Let’s take a look at some specific models of the best wheelchair-accessible vehicles on the market right now.

Ford C-Max

This car has plenty of room for both passengers and drivers. It features high, wide doors to give wheelchair users plenty of space to transfer and a lot of room in the back for mobility scooters or wheelchairs.

The C-Max can also be adapted for wheelchair users by adding seat lifts, wheelchair hoists, pedals, and hand controls. Plus, it’s relatively affordable, which is always a bonus!

Jeep Grand Cherokee

If you like to have a little oomph in your engine, you can’t go wrong with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. This small SUV can be fitted with power seats, tie-downs, running boards, and lifts for wheelchair users thanks to Chrysler’s Automobility Program. Conversions under this program qualify the owner for a reimbursement for up to $1,000, which is a nice bonus.

Subaru Forester

This small SUV is one of the most popular cars on the market, for both wheelchair users and non-wheelchair users. But for those in a wheelchair in particular, this SUV offers a lot of safety and comfort. It comes standard with all-wheel drive and automatic transmission, and is one of the most dependable SUVs you can find year after year.

Every Subaru can undergo modifications from the factory to make it more accessible, such as foot or hand control and pedal extensions. The hatchback also makes it easy to store your wheelchair.

Hyundai Sonata

This is a simple but dependable car for wheelchair users. It’s a midsize car that is reliable and comes with a great warranty. It’s easy to access since it’s low to the ground, and comes with features such as a smart system so you’ll never have to ask for direction again.

Dr Handicap - Toyota
Image by Dima Fedorov on Unsplash: What is the best car for wheelchairs? That comes down to your personal needs as a wheelchair user.

Honda Odyssey

If you’re in the market for a minivan, the Odyssey is one of the most reliable you can find. It gets great fuel economy and is easy to handle. Even though it’s a minivan, the floors are low for ease of entry and it can be modified easily for wheelchair users.

Kia Soul

If you’re looking for a car that’s a little quirky, then the boxy Kia Soul fits the bill. It looks compact from the outside but is actually quite roomy on the inside, with high ceilings and low floors. It also has wide doors for easy entry and exit. Plus, the low price makes it affordable for almost anyone.

If you’re looking for a new car, this list should get you off to a good start to finding the best car for a wheelchair user!

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13 Easiest Cars To Get In And Out Of For Disabled Drivers

Things that many people take for granted, such as getting in and out of their cars, can be a challenging feat for disabled drivers. But some cars offer up a better way to enter or exit, giving disabled drivers access to a comfortable and safe driving experience. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the easiest cars to get in and out of for disabled drivers.

What is the easiest vehicle to get in and out of?

Choosing the easiest vehicle to get in and out of doesn’t necessarily come down to a specific brand or model. However, when it comes to accessibility, the SUV tends to reign supreme, according to internet polls. Sedans and other smaller vehicles can also provide great access when it comes to exiting and entering, but the SUV often make things a lot easier due to being higher off the ground. It gives disabled drivers the ability to step up into their vehicle as opposed to sitting down into it.

Dr Handicap - SUV
Image by JD Weiher on Unsplash: What is the best car for disabled driver access?

What is the most trouble-free car?

All drivers want a reliable vehicle, but choosing one can be a challenge for disabled drivers who have limited mobility and find it hard to get in and out of typically sized cars. As mentioned above, many people believe the best type of car for someone with a mobility disability is a SUV because of its position. But which SUV is the most dependable?

According to reports, three SUVs have the lowest number of complaints against them: the Subaru Forester, the Lexus RX, and the Toyota Rav 4. These vehicles make getting in and out of the car easy, all while providing peace of mind and a good driving experience.

Cars for disabled drivers

Even though the SUV is a great option for those with mobility issues, it’s not the only type of car that works for getting in and out easily. Some people may not want to drive an SUV, so it’s good to know what other options are out there.

The following list is a mix and match of various vehicles that can help disabled drivers find their way comfortably and safely onto the road.

  1. Hyundai Sonata: This car provides plenty of room to get in and out with ease.
  2. Volkswagen Passat: Since there is a lot of front and back room, getting out of the Passat is easier for disabled drivers.
  3. Chrysler 300: This specific model is the optimal size for those who have trouble with mobility.
  4. Toyota Camry: This mid-size car is roomy enough to get in and out of, but doesn’t break the bank.
  5. Dodge Charger: The Charger is a full-size vehicle that provides ample room to get in and out with ease.
  6. Infinity Q70: This mid-size luxury vehicle provides lots of leg and head room so that anyone with limited mobility can get in and out with no trouble at all.
  7. Lexus RX: Another luxury vehicle, this time full-size, the Lexus RX offers a roomy and comfortable interior that makes car trips easy and worry-free.
  8. Subaru Forester: This easily modifiable car is high enough off the ground that getting in and out is easy for those who have issues with bending and sitting in cars that are lower to the pavement.
Dr Handicap - driving
Image by Jessica Furtney on Unsplash: What is the most trouble-free car?
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee: Like the Forester, the Grand Cherokee is high off the ground and also comes with the ability to be modified to disabled drivers’ needs.
  • Chevrolet Silverado: For those who use a wheelchair, the Silverado comes with its own wheelchair lift and hinged doors for getting in and out easily.
  • Kia Soul: The Kia Soul has big doors and low floors that make entering and exiting a breeze for anyone.
  • MV-1: This car is one of the first to be built with accessibility in mind. It has its own power ramp and a spacious interior.
  • Honda Odyssey: The Odyssey provides drivers with a lot of head and leg room, low floors, and sizable doors that can slide for extra ease of entry and exit.

For those with disabilities, getting in and out of a vehicle doesn’t need to be stressful or uncomfortable. The best way to ensure a good driving experience is by choosing the right vehicle.

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What Are The Best Car Modifications For Drivers With Limited Hand And Arm Movement?

People who have limited use of their hands and arms have difficulties in many areas of life. But driving your own vehicle doesn’t have to be one of them, especially when vehicles can be modified to suit disabled drivers’ needs.

In the instance where someone cannot drive a car without modifications, there are several simple changes they can make to give them access to freedom and the open road.

Is it a law to drive with two hands?

When a person is first learning to drive, they’re usually told that both hands should be on the wheel at all times. Perhaps your instructor told you that your hands belong at 10 and 2, or 3 and 9. Where a person places their hands on the wheel will vary depending on who taught them to drive – but there is no actual law to back up these lessons.

When a person is operating a motor vehicle, it is safety and focus that benefits the most from having both hands on the wheel. How many hands are on the wheel, or the exact position they’re in, is not a legal issue, but rather one that’s designed to teach people how to handle a vehicle when they are first learning.

Dr Handicap - driving with one hand
Image by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash: Can you drive an automatic car with one arm?

Can you drive an automatic car with one arm?

Driving a car with one arm may be difficult, but it is not impossible. A manually driven vehicle does require the use of two arms, because the gearstick needs to be constantly moved. This type of vehicle cannot be operated by a person with only one arm.

A vehicle with automatic transmission is a different story. This is because there is no gearstick that needs to be moved while driving. A person with one arm can navigate the roads with ease using one hand. They may want to opt for a wheel spinner to use with their arm for better control and access to some controls.

Car modifications for amputees

There are several modifications that can be made to a personal vehicle if its driver has lost the use of one or more of their limbs. These modifications make driving accessible and safe. Many vehicles now come equipped with some of the features that would have been considered modifications in older model cars. Things such as power steering and power brakes can be found in most off-the-line vehicles, so these modifications won’t likely need to be added to a vehicle you’re purchasing.

A pedal extension can be a great tool for those with an amputated leg. It allows the driver to control the brakes with reduced effort and to sit comfortably while driving. A left-foot accelerator is another great tool for leg amputees, because it puts the accelerator pedal on both sides of the brake.

Extended arm indicators can help those with arm amputations by offering an extension to controls such as turn signals and windshield wipers. That way, the driver has easy access to all the controls they need while driving.

Swivel seats can also be a great help when getting in and out of the car for someone who uses a wheelchair. In vehicles that are high off the ground, a Turny orbit will be used as a swivel seat to have the same effect. Another great modification for those who use a wheelchair is a full or half-dropped lowered floor. This gives those with wheelchairs easy access to driving as well as storage of their chair while getting from point A to point B. A wheelchair ramp can also be installed in many vans to assist the driver getting in and out of the vehicle.

Dr Handicap - disabled signage
Image by Marianne Bos on Unsplash: What are the best modifications for drivers with limited hand and arm movement?

How much does it cost to convert a car to hand controls?

Hand controls help those without access to foot pedals to drive using only their hands. The cost to convert a car to hand controls can vary depending on the disability and the vehicle in question. Specific car models may also play a role in how much it will cost to modify the car with hand controls. The car in question must also have power brakes, power steering, and an automatic transmission in order to be modified with hand controls.

As a general rule of thumb, you can expect to pay anywhere from $800 to $1600 to have your car equipped with hand controls. Considering the freedom it provides to those with amputations or no use of their legs, it’s an affordable modification that’s worth every penny.

Driving with limited hand or arm movement can be difficult to master, but with the right tools and modifications, it doesn’t have to be. These changes are generally inexpensive and well worth the cost to be able to drive freely. 

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Amputee Ring, Spinner Knob & Quad Fork: Everything You Need To Know About Adaptive Driving Aids

Being able to drive gives you freedom and enables you to go where you want, when you want. Owning your own vehicle opens up the world and allows you to live on your own terms.

Having a disability certainly does not have to prevent you living a life of freedom. Those of us with limited mobility can still enjoy the independence and increased options that driving brings.

It’s true that having certain types of disability can make driving a vehicle with standard controls difficult or impossible. But thankfully, modern technology has come to the rescue to solve many of the problems of driving with a disability.

There are lots of different types of adaptive vehicles and vehicle modifications that can make driving with a disability easy. Adaptive driving equipment makes it possible for people with a wide range of physical disabilities to drive their own vehicle and enjoy the benefits of vehicle ownership.

Technology is always evolving, so people tend to have a lot of questions about adaptive driving and adaptive driving aids… What is an adaptive vehicle? What types of adaptive driving equipment are available? What are hand controls for cars? How does adaptive driving equipment installation work?

Read on for everything you need to know about adaptive driving aids.

Dr Handicap - adaptive vehicle
Image by freestocks-photos on Pixabay: Adaptive driving aids give their users increased freedom.

What Is An Adaptive Vehicle?

An adaptive vehicle is a vehicle that has been altered in some way to enable it to be driven by a person with a physical disability. Almost any type of vehicle can be adapted, but the most common types of adapted vehicles are cars, vans, trucks, motorcycles, and scooters.

What Is Adaptive Driving Equipment?

Adaptive driving equipment comes in many different forms. Adaptive driving equipment is any piece of equipment added to a vehicle to make it drivable by a person with a physical disability.

How Does Adaptive Driving Equipment Installation Work?

Adaptive driving equipment installation works in three main ways. It can be installed while the vehicle is being built; added to an existing vehicle by a specialist mechanic; or, if it is a simpler piece of equipment, installed by the vehicle owner themselves.

What Are Adaptive Driving Aids?

Adaptive driving aids are pieces of equipment, gadgets, or vehicle modifications that make it easier for a person with limited mobility to operate a vehicle.

How Do Adaptive Driving Aids Help Disabled Drivers?

Adaptive driving aids help disabled drivers in numerous ways. The most common ways include:

  • Making the entire vehicle operable with hands only
  • Ensuring less force is required to operate the vehicle
  • Changing the dimensions of the vehicle to make it easier to operate

How Do You Get Adaptive Driving Aids?

You can purchase adaptive driving aids and have them installed in your vehicle, or you can buy vehicles with driving aids already installed.

How Much Do Adaptive Driving Aids Cost?

The cost of adaptive driving aids varies massively depending on what type you require. Digital accelerator rings often start at $12,000, and push/pull accelerator/brake devices cost between $1,000–$6,000, whereas amputee rings and spinner knobs can be as cheap as $100.

Does Medicare Pay For Adaptive Driving Aids?

Medicare will usually cover the cost of adaptive driving aids if they are deemed to be necessary “durable medical equipment”.

Dr Handicap - disabled drivers
Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay: Adaptive driving aids open up the world to disabled drivers.

What Are The Most Common Adaptive Driving Aids?

Amputee Ring

An amputee ring is a small steel ring that attaches to the steering wheel to enable an amputee to maneuver the wheel.

Spinner Knob

A spinner knob is a knob that attaches to the steering wheel to make it easier to turn the wheel. It also makes it possible to turn the wheel with one hand.

Quad Fork

A quad fork is a device that attaches to the steering wheel and makes it easier for a person with reduced hand strength, or somebody who can only use one hand, to control the steering wheel.

Hand Controls For Cars

Hand controls allow you to operate the gas, brake, and clutch pedals with your hands instead of your feet.

The most common hand controls are:

  • Steering wheel-mounted remote-control devices that operate vehicle controls
  • Push/pull accelerator/brake devices
  • Over-ring and ghost under-wheel accelerators
  • Brake levers
  • Trigger operated accelerator/brake devices
  • Stick-steer steering devices with secondary controls
  • Floor-mount mechanical accelerator/brake levers

How To Get A Disabled Parking Permit

If you drive an adaptive vehicle and you have not yet gotten a disabled parking permit, now is the time to take action. The disabled parking permit application process couldn’t be easier. The best way to get the ball rolling is to set up an online consultation with a medical professional through Dr. Handicap.

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