Starting Accessible Vehicle Dreams with Driver Evaluation

Living with a disability does not mean you have to give up the freedom of independently operating a motor vehicle. In addition to a multitude of handicap accessible vans and other vehicles, there are many driving aids that can be used to modify an accessible van to your needs. These modifications are not limited to wheelchair accessible vehicles, either.  Vipers, Corvettes, Golf Carts, and ATV’s have all been adapted with driving aids.

No matter what your dream ride is, your journey starts with a driver evaluation. This process, performed by certified professionals ensures that your needs are met, and the highest standards of safety are achieved. Read on to learn the basics of available modifications and the process of beginning the journey to greater freedom in the accessible vehicle of your dreams.

Who Can Benefit from Driving Aids?

You may be wondering if a driving aid can assist with your specific driving needs. Driving aids may be a good fit for those with:

  • Aging-Related Changes
  • Alzheimer’s/Dementia
  • Amputation
  • Arthritis
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Neurodivergence
  • Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NVLD)
  • Spina Bifida
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Vision Challenges

This list represents examples. Every person is unique and the best way to discover your options is to work with a driver evaluation professional. We’ll dive into the evaluation process below but first, let’s take a look at some of the driving aids that are available for mobility vehicles:

Available Driving Aids

  • Hand Controls: Allow a driver to accelerate and brake with their hands instead of their feet.
  • Foot Controls, Pedals, and Pedal Guards: Extend the gas and brake pedals so that the driver can reach them more easily. Can also help guard the gas or brake pedal from use if hand controls are in place.
  • Extension Controls: Any control that allows the driver to reach necessary driving functions:  foot pedals, turn signals, parking brake, gear shift, etc.
  • Steering Aids, Systems, and Devices: Allow you to steer, use hand controls, stabilize your palm and fingers, turn the wheel easier: grips, spinner knobs, and prosthetic hook and hand securements for your steering wheel.
  • Secondary Controls: Allows individuals to operate secondary functions like windshield wipers, turn signals, and lighting safely and easily

Again, neither of these lists is exhaustive. Options are as varied as the needs of the drivers who use them. That is why working with a Certified Mobility Consultant and Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist is so crucial. They know the available products and can evaluate your specific driving needs to ensure your safety and daily independence.

How To Get Evaluated for Driving Aids?

Obviously, when operating a motor vehicle, safety is of primary concern. When an ailment or injury affects motor skills, we must follow a similar process to what teenagers experience when learning to drive for the first time. Though this may be frustrating for those who have driven for many years, it is necessary to ensure safety for both you and everyone on the road.

Fortunately, there are Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists out there to walk beside you through the whole process and get you back on the road again. Here is how the process works:

Your Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) will:

1. Conduct a thorough evaluation of your abilities. This includes assessing things like visual perception, functional ability, and reaction time– in general, and behind the wheel.

If indicated, the Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist will also introduce any adapted driving equipment, such as hand controls, during the behind-the-wheel portion of the evaluation. More than one evaluation may be required depending on the severity of the driver’s condition.

2. Offer driver remediation or training. A series of driver training sessions may be needed to refresh driving ability and/or gain competency with the new equipment.

3. Work closely with your local mobility product dealer when the time comes to modify your vehicle. Before a mobility expert can adapt your vehicle with any driving aid, you must first be evaluated for the correct adaptation for your needs. Final recommendations from the CDRS will be shared with the driver and referring physician. Prescriptions for adapted driving equipment and/or vehicle modifications are shared with the mobility equipment dealer (MED) and, together, the CDRS and MED work to achieve the best possible outcome for the client.

The division of motor vehicles is also alerted on a case-by-case basis or per the individual facilities’ policy and procedures. In some cases, occupational therapists may also be needed to assist in readying your body for the necessary movements.

Driver Evaluation Cost

The cost for the evaluation varies from facility to facility and is often dependent on the amount of time required for providing the service. Some driver rehabilitation specialists will travel to the driver for a local assessment, and some will bill insurance.

For financial support, clients may qualify for services through their state’s Vocational Rehabilitation or Independent Living Program programs. Both of these programs are generally conducted through the state’s Education or Health and Human Services Divisions.

If you are ready to start the process of evaluation or simply have questions, reach out to your local BraunAbility Certified Mobility Consultant. They have a multitude of resources to answer your questions and get you started on the path to driving freedom again. Find one close to you with our Dealer Finder or call our Customer Care line at 1-800-488-0359.

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