Very few people with disabilities require identical vehicle modifications. After you receive your assessment from your physician, physical therapist and Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS), locate a mobility equipment dealer that can provide modifications and adaptive equipment to get you on the road to independence.
NMEDA dealers offer individual in-person evaluations, on-site local support for sales and service, and 24-hour local emergency service by their quality assurance program technicians.
For additional information about mobility solutions and wheelchair accessible vehicles please see below:
Minivans have economical gas mileage, are easy to park and permit quick transfers in and out of the driver seat. There are also a variety of minivan manufacturers and models to choose from.
- Side entry minivans are typically for people in wheelchairs who intend on being the primary driver.
- Rear entry vehicles are more commonly used for caregivers of a person with a disability. The caregiver being the primary driver.
- Full-size vans are more spacious vehicles, which are recommended for larger families with multiple members in a wheelchair or for an individual using a large power wheelchair that would not traditionally fit in a minivan.
Trucks and Specialty Vehicles
Trucks and specialty vehicles are available for people with disabilities who would prefer a different mode of transportation. Typically, power lifts will hoist and store wheelchairs in the bed of the truck from either the side door or tailgate. Specialty vehicles such as motorcycles, sedans and convertibles are also available for adapting.
For seniors and those with progressive muscle weakness, hand controls can compensate for decreasing strength and range of motion in the driver’s hands and legs. Driver evaluators and occupational therapists often recommend such devices:
- Push/pull controls require the most arm strength. The control must be pushed to brake; pulled and held to accelerate.
- Push/right angle controls are the most popular because they’re less fatiguing than push/pull. The user must push the control forward to brake and down toward the thigh with a slight pull to the torso for acceleration.
- Push/twist controls are very similar to a motorcycle. The vehicle will accelerate with a twist of the handle and will brake with a push on the hand control lever.
- Push/rock controls are similar to slot machines. The driver must rock his or her hand on the top of the handle — rocking back to accelerate and forward to apply the brakes.
There are many types of steering aids available that only require the drivers to use minimal effort for steering or are designed specifically for quadriplegics:
- Steering column extensions bring the steering wheel 2″ to 6″ closer to the wheelchair driver. It provides extra legroom and compensates for reduced range of movement.
- Deep-dish steering wheels bring the steering wheel rim approximately 4″ closer to the wheelchair driver and are normally used with a low-effort steering system. It improves wheelchair accessibility and lessens the range of steering motion.
- Foot steering controls transfer hand control to foot operation. Auxiliary and secondary vehicle controls are also adapted to foot operation.
- Horizontal steering columns are motorized, telescoping steering columns customized for those who experience limited arm strength and range of motion, and those who cannot use a conventional steering wheel.
- Low effort steering reduces the strength needed to steer by about 40 percent.
- Zero effort steering reduces the strength needed to steer by about 70 percent.
- One-hand drive control systems are designed for people with limited or no use of lower extremities but good strength in one arm and hand. Its main component is a knob through which the steering, brake and throttle are activated.
- Steering spinners are designed for drivers who must steer with one hand. They come in a variety of configurations including an amputee ring, knob, “quad-steering cuff,” palm grip, tri-pin and v-grip.
- Steering forks support people with reduced grip function. The hand stays safely in place with support of the back of the hand and enables secure control of the vehicle.
There are a variety of ramps available and your NMEDA dealer can help identify which type is right for you. There are fold up ramps that fold in half and stow upright and in-floor ramps that slide in a hidden area underneath the vehicle floor. Typically fold-up ramps tend to be less expensive but the in-floor ramps are nicer as they store out of the way. Some additional styles of ramps include:
- Basic ramps are lightweight enough to be used with little exertion by a caregiver or attendant. They are not mechanical, so they do not break down easily and rarely need expensive repairs. They take up a minimum of space when folded.
- Roll-up ramps allow you to easily roll up the ramp, put it in a bag and store it in the back of a van, trunk of a car or under a seat.
- Channel or track wheelchair ramps are two thin ramps that provide a channel for each side of the wheelchair. Bumpers on each one prevent the wheelchair from falling off. These ramps can hold up to 600 pounds or more depending on the brand.
Wheelchair lifts for your accessible vehicle are available with a variety of features such as whisper-quiet operation and remote controls, depending on what you need and what you can afford. Although their automation makes them more convenient than ramps, they are more expensive. Other features include:
- Automatic or electric roll stops assure the wheelchair stays in place during operation.
- Threshold sensor mats are installed inside the van to warn users against exiting if the lift is not level with the floor of the van.
- Integrated manual backup systems provide a manual backup pump within the drivers reach and allow the platform to be raised and lowered manually in case of a power failure.
- Bridging mechanisms allow users to safely board the lift from sidewalks or inclines.
- Standard hand-held control, on-lift controls and remote controls assist with lift operations.