Leland-West Insurance

Adaptive Driving Aids For Your Car

Adaptive driving makes it possible for the mobility-impaired to drive vehicles easily and safely. Driving is an important part of life. The mobility-impaired have to meet the challenges of life just like any other person. However, normal cars cannot be used by the mobility-impaired because they have special needs. Adaptive driving helps people in wheelchairs to gain independence, move in and out of the vehicle, and drive the vehicle with assistive technologies.

Hand Controls

Hand controls are integrated to the vehicle to enable easy operation. Levers and buttons are used to apply the brakes. Remote switches are provided for secondary controls. The driver can use hand arm movement to execute the controls, accelerate, push the brakes forward or twist the grip. Lights, wipers, horns, and indicators are controlled with buttons. Other controls such as signals turns, dimmers, and even accelerator can be operated using the hand.

Some portable hand controls are also provided with adaptive vehicles, which can be installed depending on varying needs. These controls can be carried along in the luggage. Power brakes and steering controls are provided with most of the hand controls. Electronically assisted hand control is also provided to manage primary and secondary driving controls. Devices such as amputee ring, spinner knob, and quad fork are attached to the steering to assist driving. The hand controls enable the driver to use both the hands to control the vehicle, providing a safe and smooth drive.

  • Hand Controls: Provides links to some places where you can get adaptive hand controls.
  • Veigel: A good place to find adaptive hand control products.
  • Freedom Wheels: Offers a number of hand controls like spinner knob, palm spinner, quad fork, and more.
  • Performance Mobility: Take a look at their range of adaptive hand controls.

Pedal Extensions

Pedal extensions help the person with short legs to reach pedal. In this kind of arrangement, the brakes and accelerator pedal height are raised. The pedal extension enables the driver to apply the brakes with reduced effort.

Left Foot Gas Pedal

The left foot gas pedal requires professional installation in which modifications are done for the braking and acceleration systems. For a missing leg, the left foot gas pedal is used as it prevents crossovers. In left foot gas pedal adaption, the pedal is provided on both sides of the brakes.

  • Kempf: A description of its electronic left foot gas pedal.
  • Planet Mobility: Take a look at this left foot gas pedal.
  • Evaluation: Transport Canada conducts an evaluation of left foot gas pedals.
  • PLFA: Provides a portable left foot accelerator for use in different cars.

Driver Seat Modifications

The driver’s seat is modified depending on the person’s ability to enter or exit the vehicle. The seat helps in positioning, balancing, and providing stability to the driver. Power seats are the attachments which help to adjust the seat position. The seat is modified to allow it to be rotated, removed or lowered. The driver’s seat is modified so that it can be turned to enable the person to enter the vehicle. Provision for climbing onto the vehicle is provided. Lap belts are used along with shoulder belts on the seat to provide extra support.

  • Ricon: Take a look at this 6-way Power Transfer Seat.
  • Bruno: Provides a range of Turning Automotive Seating options.
  • Adaptive Auto: Offers a state-of-the-art transfer seat for adaptive driving.
  • Modifications: Explains various modifications to be done for adaptive driving including driver seat modifications.

Wheelchair Ramps and Lifts

Ramps and lifts are provided in the vehicle to enable easy entry and exit from the vehicle. Ramps are used to load scooters and other equipments. Modifications such as increasing the width of doors in minivans and automatic button to open and close the doors are installed before the ramps and lifts are installed. Handle bars and grab bars are located in convenient position in the van to make it easy for the driver to move in and out of the wheelchair. Transfer boards are provided to help the driver slide from the wheelchair to the car seat.

Cost Saving Opportunities

There are some cost-saving opportunities for people with disabilities. Many nonprofit organizations provide grants to pay for the devices. Some health insurance companies provide coverage for vehicle modification, wheelchair lifts, and adaptive devices. State governments have waived taxes on adaptive devices and the mobility-impaired can receive certain tax benefits. The person can claim to get medical deductions in income tax returns. It’s best to contact a tax consultant to know more about it. Many manufactures of the adaptive devices provide reimbursements and rebates for the devices.

  • ADA Mobility: Provides a list of cost-saving opportunities.
  • Ride-Away: Check out their 10-year financing options.
  • North Carolina: A number of funding options for people in North Carolina.
  • Able Data: A resource centre for people who are looking for funding.

Car Manufacturers

Car manufacturers offer mobility programs where the buyer is provided with vehicles which are equipped with a number of adaptive devices. Most of the wheelchair lifts and devices provided in the vehicles are eligible for reimbursements. Chrysler provides reimbursement of up to $750 for trucks, and the reimbursement for cars is up to $1000. The car is modified to be equipped with adaptive driver and passenger equipments or there’s also a full sized wheelchair van. Similar programs are run by other leading car companies such as Dodge, Toyota, Honda, GM, and Ford. Training is provided to drive such vehicles and the person is required to obtain a license to operate the vehicle.

  • Ford: The mobility motoring division of the company.
  • GM: General Motors’ Mobility homepage.
  • Toyota: Check out their range of mobility vehicles.
  • Chrysler: Find out more about their Automobility program.


For more information about assistive vehicles and driving programs, please visit the following links:

  • Driving While Disabled: Provides basic information for adaptive driving.
  • Automotive Safety: The NHTSA provides safety information for adaptive drivers.
  • NMEDA: Official website of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association.
  • Cars & Driving: Provides information on adaptive driving.
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Article by
Matt Robertson
Matt is the Managing Partner at Leland-West Insurance Brokers, Inc. He started with the firm while still a college student, way back in 1984. According to Matt his only remaining hobby is Motorsport ... because its all he can afford ("will work for tires"). Reach him at matt@lelandwest.com