A Guide to Understanding Cars & Vehicles for the Handicapped

Driving with a disability doesn't have to be a chore because there are several modifications that you can make to your vehicle.  

Whether you are looking into adding accessible products to a car you already own—or are specifically doing research into vehicles that come readily equipped with what you need, driving with a disability is more attainable than you might think. 

Below we'll dive into information related to cars for the handicapped, how to get the modifications you need, and other pre-driving planning you'll need to know. 

Get an Understanding of Driving With a Disability

Keep in mind that there are laws and requirements at play when it comes to driving with a disability.  

Understanding ADA compliance for parking lots is one thing, but you need to also understand the ins and outs of driving with a disability. 

Here's what you'll need to get started. 

1. Enroll in Driving School and See Which Vehicle Modifications Are Needed for Your Disability

If you're driving with disabilities, you need to first and foremost make sure you know which facets of your disability you will need help with in order to get behind the wheel.  

You will find this out when you enroll in a driving school near you. Before you can become officially licensed in any state, you will need to pass both a written exam and complete your driving hours to complete the full test. 

Before your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will let you behind the wheel of a car to take the test, they'll need to secure one that is equipped to serve your disability needs, meaning, a vehicle with a ramp and lowered floor, if you are driving from or regularly use a wheelchair or a vehicle that has other adaptations like hand controls

For best results, schedule an appointment so that you can get an ideal time slot and make sure that your local DMV branch has a vehicle available that you can use. 

2. Get Disabled Driving Lessons to Get Used to the Equipment

To improve your chances of passing the exam, you should log some time with a converted vehicle. If you are located in an urban environment, there will be driving schools in your area that will let you become accustomed to driving with these modifications. 

Once you find out the exact specs and modifications of the car you'll be driving for your behind-the-wheel test, several practice sessions will help you pass the exam. It's often required to log some time with the vehicle before you can be eligible for the test. 

3. Pass Your Exam

In order to get licensed, you'll need to show that you can drive a modified vehicle. After you pass your exam you'll be in a position to pass the test with flying colors. 

Be sure that you get a good night's sleep prior to your driving exam and run through a checklist of all the points that the instructor will key in on. 

Modify Your Vehicle or Shop for the Handicapped Vehicle That You Need

Now that you are familiar with the prerequisites for obtaining your disabled driver's license, it's time to assess your current vehicle and your needs.

The next step in gaining driving freedom is to start looking into vehicle driving modifications. Should you adapt your current vehicle or buy a new or used converted vehicle?

Here are a few points of info that you will want to keep in mind as you are making this decision:

1. Be Sure That The Vehicle Passes All the Prerequisites If You're Going to Modify It

Not every vehicle can be made into an accessible vehicle. 

In fact, you'll want to do some preliminary research so that you can make sure your vehicle is able to be adapted.

Some of the main things you should keep in mind include ensuring that your vehicle has an automatic transmission, power seats, and power steering. Older vehicles are also not accepted by manufacturers for conversion. When at all possible, use a newer vehicle so that you know you can get plenty of miles out of the modifications. 

2. Understand What Modifications Are Necessary

There are significant accessible modifications made to a vehicle in order to make it a fully-equipped accessible conversion. However, there are some smaller, cost-efficient modifications you can try first.  

Some of the main modifications that you'll want to focus on include extending and adjusting the seat belts, lifting and lowering the wheel, adding driving hand controls that let you easily access the gears, wheel, and brakes, transfer seat lifts that help you get in and out of the vehicle, and push-button ignition systems that are easy on your hands and fingers.

If these systems help but do not completely meet your needs, you may need a full conversion vehicle, like a side-entry or rear-entry wheelchair accessible van. 

Consider exactly what modifications are useful based on your disability, and research what is best for you. 

3. Study the Disabled Driving Laws

Always stay up to date with the laws when it comes to modifying your vehicle or buying a modified vehicle. 

Your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other organizations all have their own requirements when it comes to driving disabled. 

You may even be able to take advantage of some credits or tax cuts that can help you buy a new vehicle or modify an existing one so that you can get on the road. Make sure that you continuously follow the laws of the road and make sure that all of your modifications and mechanisms are taken care of. 

If you are modifying an existing car, take care when choosing the company to install the modifications. Ideally, you want to choose someone who has previous experience in these modifications so that you know they will be done correctly.

Look Into Purchasing Cars for Handicapped 

Technology today allows you to enjoy the benefits of driving regardless of what sort of disability you have. By following the guidelines above, you can be on the road in comfort and style.

We would be happy to help you with any vehicle modification needs that you have. Learn more about our trade-in process

Check out our owners' manuals and information, and don't hesitate to give us a call at 1 (800) 488-0359.


Commonly Asked Questions About Wheelchair Vehicles 

What is the best car for disabled people?

The best vehicles for disabled people are lowered floor minivans or SUVs manufactured by companies like BraunAbility and built on chassis from Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, and Chevrolet. These vehicles allow individuals with mobility challenges to travel without transferring from their wheelchairs.

Which vehicle is used by disabled people?

The most common vehicles used by disabled people are lowered floor minivans or SUVs – most typically Chrysler, Dodge, Honda, Chevrolet, and Toyota - and manufactured by companies like BraunAbility. These vehicles allow individuals with mobility challenges to travel without transferring from their wheelchairs.

Do they make cars for handicapped people?

Handicapped people all have different mobility needs, but BraunAbility is a company that manufactures multiple products for various needs, abilities levels, and budgets, from wheelchair-accessible vehicles to wheelchair lifts to transfer seats.

What are disabled vehicles?

A disabled vehicle is a name given to a specially engineered adaptation of a vehicle to make it accessible for wheelchair users. The most well-known manufacturer of such vehicles is BraunAbility, which offers accessible minivans, SUVs, and wheelchair lifts for full-sized vehicles along with other mobility products. 

How do I get a physically handicapped car?

The most recommended manufacturer of accessible vans is BraunAbility. The mobility company builds accessible vehicles and other vehicle mobility products that fit the needs, lifestyles, and budgets of people with mobility challenges.

What are handicap cars called? 

Cars that are adapted for people with disabilities can be referred to in many ways. These vehicles are often referred to as handicap vans, however, they can also be called wheelchair vans, accessible vans, or wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs). 

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