Discover How Adaptive Technology and the ADA Support Disabled Drivers
With modifications and the proper equipment, both drivers who use wheelchairs and those with limited arm and hand movement can operate certain cars, known as adaptive vehicles. For those looking for such a vehicle, the Adaptive Driving Alliance (ADA) not only helps with safety concerns but also guides you to dealerships who specialize in an array of vehicles that make driving possible for someone with a disability.
Some Adaptive Vehicles Come with Complex Systems
Adapting a vehicle can involve everything from installing hand controls for those with limited use of their legs to ramps that allow wheelchair access to the driver or passenger location in a van. According to one adaptive driving website, the most popular adaptive vehicles driven today are the Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country, and the Toyota Sienna. Such vehicles can be equipped with wheelchair lifts, scooter lifts, wheelchair security systems that keep a wheelchair in place when the vehicle is moving, and even swivel chairs that ease access and exit in and out of a vehicle.
These advances are pretty straightforward but there are other adaptive features with more complex systems and what works in one adaptive vehicle may not work in another. For example, Ford, Audi, and BMW each have Adaptive Steering systems, which impact the steering ratio. In a typical vehicle, the slower you go, the more steering you must do, and this can be cumbersome to someone with upper mobility issues, especially if they are trying to park. By adding adaptive steering, regardless of speed, steering is less stressful and more manageable. The biggest challenge to date is that a steering system in one brand of vehicle doesn’t necessarily work in another brand or even the same brand vehicle, but a different model. Ford has started working on adaptive steering that can be used in multiple Ford models. They hope this technology will one day offer more options for those looking for adaptive vehicles.
The ADA works with disabled drivers across the country, assisting with locating and purchasing adaptive vehicles. A quick search of Colorado shows that there are four such dealerships in the state. As noted on the ADA website, it’s vital that you work with those who fully understand adaptive vehicles as safety issues can arise and if you are not familiar with all the technology, well-being can become a concern.
Disabled Motorists at Greater Risk of Injuries in Auto Accidents
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently completed a study on modified vehicles that accommodate a driver or passenger in a wheelchair. Officials noted that while the risk of injury for those properly restrained in a manufacturer’s seat has been reduced, the opposite is true of those who are seated in a wheelchair while in a vehicle. The study reported that disabled motorists are at a significantly greater risk of serious or fatal injuries in the event of an auto accident.
NHTSA highlighted that safety must not just focus on the vehicle itself, but also on the wheelchair the occupant is using, as well as the safety constraints used when in the vehicle. In some adaptive vehicles, upper and lower restraints are typically installed after the purchase of the vehicle, so it’s important that those who install these restraints follow industry standards that are meant to protect occupants in wheelchairs.
The ADA encourages anyone looking for an adaptive vehicle to do research and work with a certified dealer who not only has the expertise in installing adaptive technology but also in use of that technology. Training is essential, whether you are a disabled driver or the caregiver to a disabled passenger. As the ADA noted, “Proper training on the use of adaptive equipment greatly reduces the risk of injury to you, your passenger/driver and those around you.”