Driving is difficult for most learners, but that can be increased tenfold when you have a disability. It used to be the case that those in this situation were unable to drive at all, but nowadays cars have many adaptations that can make the process easier. Today’s post takes you through just a few of them.
These are a great option for those who have limited mobility or control in their legs, stopping them from braking or accelerating properly. Many of them are operated by a push-pull lever (with pushing making the car brake, and pulling making it accelerate).
For those who have limited use of their arms or hands, a steering ball can be helpful. It’s usually attached to the upper part of a steering wheel, and allows someone to drive one-handed (also useful if your other hand is occupied with an adaptation). There are different shapes to suit different gripping abilities; the example below is a three-pin spinner, which supports the wrist, but other versions allow for vertical or horizontal control with the hand, or interaction with a prothesis.
For those driving an automatic car who have a weakness on their right side, a left foot accelerator can be fitted. This is exactly what the name implies – a separate accelerator pedal installed on the left side of your standard brake pedal to make accelerating easier. Again, there are several different types of these available, from floor-mounted pedals that can be removed to flip-up accelerators , where pressing on the left pedal raises the right one, ensuring there’s no way to get confused between the two.
Many devices are available to make the so-called “secondary controls” – including the lights, indicators and ignition – easier to access. Some of these are becoming included in more cars as standard, such as push-button ignition. Other adaptations place all these controls on a keypad which is mounted somewhere convenient in the car (whether that’s the dashboard, door panel or, as in the picture below, on a steering ball). When looking into this particular adaptation, make sure that the buttons are well-spaced and easy to tell apart while you’re driving.
The majority of adaptations in this article so far have been geared towards those with a physical disability. Of course, disabilities can also be mental, such as autism or a learning disability – and the adaptations for that tend to be in the teaching, rather than the car itself.
There are now driving instructors across the country that specialise in teaching people with a wide range of issues, including invisible conditions such as fibromyalgia. Their individual methods will vary, but broadly speaking they’re likely to give you more time, and because of their experience, be more sympathetic to your specific needs. Having this bespoke approach can allow these learners to thrive, progressing at their own pace and in the way in which they’re most comfortable. A good place to start if you’re looking for instructors with experience of specific disabilities is https://www.disabilitydrivinginstructors.com/find-an-instructor/, where you can search within your local area.
Here at WrightStart, an integral part of our pre-17 experiences is the ability to teach people driving skills in a safe environment before they take to the road. It can provide essential grounding for later lessons – so if you’re a disabled wannabe driver, or know someone who is, why not get in touch?