This is a guest post from Andrew Tipp who writes for Chartwell Insurance Services, a mobility insurance broker providing competitive quotes for UK-based disabled drivers and carers.
It’s one of the biggest fears for anyone approaching life with a disability: how do you cope with the loss of freedom and independence? How do you maintain some sense of control over your life? The ability to drive is important to most of us; so how can you manage when that ability – which most of us take for granted – is threatened?
Thankfully, with major advances in technology and awareness, you don’t need to sacrifice any independence when it comes to driving. Mobility is extremely important for a person who has a disability, and today the compromises they have to make on their own transport – if at all – are minor. Depending on an individual’s requirements, their car can easily be adapted to both their requirements and personal preferences.
But where should you start? Well, first of all contact the company who’ll be making the adaptations before choosing a car. The company will be able to advise you about adaptation costs and suitable styles of cars. Financial assistance may be available so it’s a good idea to look into your entitlements. Adaptation costs can be quite high, so research your options first.
How can the car be adapted?
Cars can be modified in a variety of ways to suit different abilities. Depending on your type of disability, the modifications required will obviously vary a great deal, but it might surprise you just how a vehicle can be changed – from installing hand-operated brake and acceleration controls to adapted safety mirrors, rotating seats and safety belts. By having your car modified you’ll be able to enjoy a more comfortable and safe driving experience. Some of the options include
There are a number of ways to can adapt your driving to accommodate a disability – some of which just involve making good decisions about your choice of vehicle. How so? If your disability is in the lower part of your body and reduces the use of your legs, you could simply consider using a car with automatic transmission (which does away with the need for a clutch.)
Or you could move the accelerator to the left side of the foot brake, which is beneficial for those who don’t have use of their right leg. And if you’ve lost the use of both legs then you can use hand controls with an automatic transmission. Conversely, a foot horn and direction indicators can be installed in the car for those who have a disability in the upper part of their body.
Setting wheel in motions
Wheelchair users can have difficulty getting into a car, and so more specialised equipment is called for, e.g. a board and lifting belt can be used to make the process easier. A more expensive, but an undoubtedly convenient option, would be to modify a van or car so that the wheelchair can drive directly into it – meaning that the user can drive from their wheelchair. It may be worth keeping in mind that you can contact your local council and ask for a drop kerb to be installed in your home. This will make getting in and out of your vehicle much easier.
Once you have your modified car you need to spend time getting used to driving it on short distance trips. Avoid travelling long distances till you are fully aware and comfortable with how it works. You also need to ensure that you arrange appropriate adapted car insurance that takes your modifications into account.
A disability can present many challenges, but it doesn’t need to mean the loss of your independence. With the right research, decisions and adaptation, disabled drivers can still maintain the freedom and control over their lives that most people enjoy.