Vehicle Modification and Adaptation

Considering driving after a Spinal Cord Injury? Once you’ve completed your driving assessment and you know you can safely drive using a modified vehicle, the next step is to choose the vehicle and modifications that fit you and your family. Your vehicle modification vendor may ask structured questions to help narrow down the options and find the right solution for you. Questions like, are you going to transfer independently into the vehicle driver’s seat or will you operate the vehicle from your wheelchair? If you answer yes, you will be transferring from your wheelchair, the next question will be whether or not you’re able to lift your wheelchair into the vehicle by yourself or with some assistance. If you decide you’ll be transferring your wheelchair into the vehicle after you’re in the driver’s seat, either manually or using an assistive lift, you’ll likely be able to use most any car, SUV or truck that accommodates a transfer seat. A few options are the Braun Evo, adopt Solutions link seed or a transfer board such as adopt Solutions XL board. In some instances a robot arm or Speedy lift can assist with lifting the wheelchair into the vehicle once into the driver’s seat you may also require hand controls and a spinner knob to operate your vehicle, if you’ll transfer yourself out of your wheelchair into the driver’s seat, but aren’t able to lift the wheelchair into the vehicle a larger vehicle like a lower floor minivan, full-size van or pickup may be good options for you to look at. After using a ramp or a lift to enter the van you will transfer into the driver’s seat and drive using hand controls. If you prefer driving a pickup truck over a van, you’ll likely transfer onto the transfer outside the truck and hook up your wheelchair to a lift which will then lift your wheelchair into the truck bed. You can then operate the transfer seat to enter the truck and drive using hand controls. There are options available for you, if you’re unable to self-transfer in and out of the vehicle, the most common options are lower floored minivans or pickup trucks. A lowered floored minivan accessed by a ramp is a good option. If you’re driving while seated in your wheelchair, you’ll enter the van using the side or rear door and move into the driver’s position using your wheelchair, your wheelchair locks into place with power tie downs. If you won’t be transferring out of your wheelchair and you want to drive a pickup or large SUV, a lowered floor and a platform lift will help you enter the vehicle and get set up in your wheelchair in the driver’s position. This adaptation is at the pricier end of the spectrum and is less common. This example shows the conversion installed on the passenger side.

Depending on your functional ability and preferences, there is likely the right combination of vehicle modification options available for you, discussing these needs and preferences with an occupational therapist and vehicle modification vendors is a great place to start to getting you back on the road.

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