Types of Vehicle Modifications Available for Disabled Individuals

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Being the caregiver of a person with disabilities can prove challenging on a number of levels, but providing transportation for someone with severe physical disability can be incredibly difficult. Fortunately, there are any number of vehicle modifications available that will help disabled individuals either augment their personal weaknesses to drive themselves or assistive technology such as wheelchair lifts and special harnesses for those who are unable to drive themselves. Not only are these vehicle modifications incredibly helpful for disabled individuals and their caregivers, but the cost of adding these changes to your vehicle may be partially offset by the government. 

Driver Evaluation and Training

While vehicle modifications are important, individuals can’t just go out and legally make modifications without prior approval from a licensed driving facility. Making a decision to install adaptive equipment should be completed by a licensed and trained evaluator who is able to test a variety of different items such as coordination, range of motion and vision before making a decision to implement this additional vehicle functionality. Vehicle dealerships are also a valuable resource for assistive technology as they can recommend the best options available based on your particular vehicle type and model. 

Types of Assistive Technology

There are a wide range of assistive and adaptive technology options available including:

  • Devices to modify vehicle access such as power wheelchair lifts, raised roof systems and lowered floors
  • Change steering systems such as emergency backup systems, steering devices and disconnected airbags
  • Secondary controls such as power parking brake or extension levers, electronic touch pad controls and power gear selectors
  • Hand controls for brake or accelerator systems, pedal extensions or reduced-effort brakes
  • Drivers seats that are removable or power seat transfers
  • A variety of other options such as tie-downs for a wheelchair or scooter, suspension modifications, battery backups and more

Selecting the Right Options

Determining exactly which options are right for your particular situation as a caregiver can be difficult, especially if you will be using your vehicle only for periodic transportation of a disabled individual. Finding the balance between extensive modifications for convenience and comfort and the ability to use the vehicle for other means can be challenging, but by selecting the right vehicle and working with your local dealership or licensing facility to define needs you can be creative and help serve everyone’s needs.

Safety First

It’s important that the modifications are carefully checked for safety, as serious health hazards could occur from transporting a disabled individual in a vehicle that was not meant for that purpose. For instance, while you may be able to rig up a lift or ramp into the back of a van for a wheelchair, not having the right tie-downs could be disastrous for everyone involved — especially in the case of a motor vehicle accident. Having the right modifications completed by a certified dealership or licensed mechanic can be the difference between a fender bender and the results from a serious accident. 

Costs of Adaptive Technology

Unfortunately, some adaptive technology options are very expensive, and powered lift systems can run upwards of $40,000 on top of the cost of the vehicle itself. Fortunately, there are a variety of options for receiving support to pay for your vehicle modifications from private or public entities. There are also non-profit organizations that are able to provide a level of support, depending on the disability. Finally, worker’s compensation or private health insurance may be available to help offset some of these high costs.

Regardless of the type of vehicle modifications that you need, you’ll have a variety of options that will allow your loved one to continue to travel as needed without undue stress or difficulties. 

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