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Accessible Driving: Motors for Mobility

October 8, 2014

For many people, a car is a vital necessity for getting around. An accessible vehicle is the ideal solution to maintaining your independence if you suffer from an injury, ailment or disability which affects your mobility. With a wide range of vehicles fully adapted or customised to suit specific needs, there’s a lot of choice of options when it comes to buying an accessible car. Most accessible vehicles, both new and used, are also available on finance, increasing their affordability.
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Image source: Stephen Jones

Image source: Stephen Jones

WAVs

Wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) are cars that have been specifically adapted to provide easy and accessible transportation for drivers or passengers with extra mobility requirements. Although there are a wide range of adaptations available, the majority of WAVs are based on multi-purpose vehicles due to their lower flooring and high roof line – allowing drivers and passengers in wheelchairs to travel in comfort.

If you’re buying an accessible vehicle to drive, there are many forms of adaptation which can make driving easier. These include hand controls, height adjustable seats and driving aids. Alternatively, if you’re buying a vehicle to transport a passenger with restricted mobility, numerous vehicles are available with lowered floors, access ramps and even hydraulic lifts – making transferring into the vehicle easier.

Vehicle adaptations aren’t just limited to those with a disability – elderly drivers or those with minor mobility issues can also benefit from their features.

The Fiat Doblo and Renault Kangoo are two of the most popular adapted vehicles on the market, due to their massive interior space despite having a relatively small footprint. Their high roof and large rear doors make them ideal for kitting out with a ramp or hydraulic lift, allowing passengers in wheelchairs to sit comfortably with plenty of headroom. Their chassis, however, is based on that of a smaller car, giving them driving and handling characteristics most drivers are familiar with – so you won’t feel like you’re driving or parking a van.

Featured Expert: David Motton of StillSafeToDrive.org.uk shares his words of wisdom when it comes to finding a car to suit your needs.

Make sure any car you buy suits your needs as well as your physical abilities and limitations. Can you get in and out easily? Is the driving position comfortable? Does the car have good all-round visibility? Light steering can make parking easier if you’re not as strong as you used to be, and some cars now come with parking aids which actually turn the wheel for you – all the driver has to do is control the accelerator and brake.

Key considerations

There are some key factors, specific to accessible cars, to keep in mind when starting your search:

  • Practicality should be your primary concern – you have to live with the vehicle on a day to day basis, so thoroughly assess your needs and look for a vehicle that ticks all the boxes
  • Vehicles with ramp access often come with the option of a ramp at the rear or side of the car. Keep in mind that there may not be enough room for a side access ramp when parking, even in disabled parking spots. It may be worth investing in a sticker for your car, informing other motorists to leave enough space for access.
  • If you suffer from mobility issues and are buying a car to drive, it may be worth investigating automatic vehicles with hand controls. These vehicles use paddles behind the steering wheel to replace the accelerator and brake pedals.
  • It’s a legal requirement that WAVs have sufficient safety equipment to secure a wheelchair within the vehicle. This normally includes straps or hooks to keep the wheelchair in place, and a specially adapted seatbelt to secure the passenger in the wheelchair. When viewing a vehicle, ensure that these safety straps fit your wheelchair and that the seatbelts are both comfortable and secure.
  • If you are able to transfer from your wheelchair, or are still able to get into a normal passenger seat, there are many cars on the market with height adjustable seats. 2 door cars also have larger doors, leaving you with more room to get in and out of the front seat.

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About The Author

Jon Le Roux is co-founder and company director of The Car Loan Warehouse. Being a mad engineering and motorsport enthusiast, I spend more hours than is healthy, watching, reading or talking about cars, boats, motorbikes…..basically anything with an engine.