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One of the most mind-boggling questions searched on Google is “can wheelchair users drive?”. What makes you think a person in a wheelchair can’t drive?
My wife Lisa is disabled in both legs, but she drives a Ford Explorer. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t stop her from driving to work or picking up the kids from school.
According to the University Of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in a study on Wheelchair Transportation Safety, 33% of manual wheelchair users and 27% of power wheelchair users own and drive a private vehicle.
According to their study, more than 76% of wheelchair users in the study used wheelchair securement and hand controls to drive their car from their wheelchair.
Many people still don’t believe that wheelchair users can drive, but sorry to disappoint you, there are over 820,000 wheelchair users that own and drive a car in the United States. There is absolutely nothing on Earth that can stop a wheelchair-bound person from driving a car.
The ability to drive a car in a wheelchair depends on the affected body part. If the affected body part is just the leg, then there is nothing stopping such a person from driving once he/she is in a car. If your disability is severe, you may need a modified steering or a custom-built car.
Some wheelchair-bound people can drive with no special technology or changes made to their cars. They simply purchase a wheelchair Adapted Vehicle [WAV] and drive their car to wherever they want.
While other paraplegics and other wheelchair users with an impairment that affects both feet can use simple hand controls or specialized controls like driver-assistance, digital driving, steering aids, joystick control, and hand controls.
You should visit PARAVAN Mobility to learn more about their Drive-By-Wire Systems and other specialized controls for both abled and disabled people.
Then you should also know that not all wheelchair users are wheelchair-bound. Some abled-bodied people use a wheelchair because of fatigue, Osteoporosis, and other related pains in their ankles and joints. Using a wheelchair doesn’t stop them from driving a car.
Whatsoever the case may be, modern technology has created room for modifications that makes driving on a wheelchair easy for everybody regardless of the disability.
So, if you are a paraplegic or wheelchair user paralyzed on either or both of your legs, driving may be a bit challenging at first, but being in a wheelchair doesn’t stop you from driving a vehicle.
How Do Wheelchair Users Drive?
Certain outdoor activities like camping, deep-sea fishing, or driving are expected to be performed by people who are physically fit and not disabled in any way. Today, most disabled people can do certain things even better than some abled people.
There is no specialized way to drive in a wheelchair. People that rely on a wheelchair, power chair, or scooter for mobility drive like normal people. Once your car is wheelchair accessible, you can drive it.
The only difference between an abled driver and a wheelchair-bound driver is the person driving.
I knew a guy that was involved in a car accident. Even though he was wheelchair-bound for more than sisteen months, he could still drive around on his own by adapting his car for wheelchair use. Even after his final surgery to correct the fracture in his hip, he still left the hand controls on his car because he liked it that way.
Hand controls are perhaps the most popular adaptation for wheelchair users.
There are a lot of wheelchair users who are impaired just made them paralyzed in both legs, but their hands work perfectly. Wheelchair users in this category may not have a hard time driving a car.
If you have hand control installed in your car, you will be able to propel your car and controls with your hand instead of using your feet.
This is the perfect solution for Paraplegics and other physically impaired wheelchair users.
Both paraplegics and other wheelchair users can use driving aids or hand controls like push/rock style, push/right angle style, push/pull style, or push/rotate style.
This means hand control is very important if you are driving a car in a wheelchair.
But like I said earlier, driving a car in a wheelchair depends on the affected body part. If the affected part is just one or both legs, then there is nothing stopping such a person from driving.
Can People On Wheelchair Get Driving License?
You can get your driver’s license even though you are wheelchair-bound. There is no law that I know of that prevents a person from getting his/her driver’s license because they are wheelchair-bound.
But you need to declare your medical condition or disability to a special agency before applying for a driver’s license. A medical practitioner will review your application and decide if you should drive a car because your application satisfies both medical and legal guidelines or decline your application because your medical condition or disability makes you unfit to drive a car in public.
If you can’t drive, there are disabled drivers’ organizations and mobility centers that can help you find a driving instructor that specializes in teaching disabled drivers.
How Do People On Wheelchair Get Into A Car?
Getting into a wheelchair is not as hard as you think. A wheelchair-bound driver can get into a car using a wheelchair ramp, hoist, boot loader, or lift. If you drive a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, you don’t need to leave your wheelchair to get into the car.
Some wheelchair drivers don’t need a wheelchair ramp or lift to get into their car; they just hop into their car and have their chairs transferred to the passenger seat, trunk, or roof box.
Do I Need To Modify My Car For Wheelchair Use?
Only a handful of wheelchair-bound drivers require specialized modifications or custom-built interfaces to drive a car. You don’t need to have your car modified to drive if you are disabled. You just have to switch from foot controls to hand controls.
Modifying your vehicle only ensures that it is easier to operate from your wheelchair because of your condition.
Which Car Is Best For Wheelchair Drivers?
I think the Ford Explorer is amazing. It has more than enough room to accommodate three power chairs and two other passengers. The wheelchair-adapted Ford Explorer also has one of the best side-entry ramps for wheelchair use. The car is gorgeous and very conventional.
I suggest you see our complete guide on the best wheelchair-accessible vehicle in 2024 for more information on that subject.
Best Car Accessories For Driving On A Wheelchair
Driving in an adapted car makes it easier for you to drive in a wheelchair, but there are also some tools that you may not have seen or heard of that can make your driving much smoother and better than you’d expected.
These are some of the best gadgets and equipment for a wheelchair driver.
1. Swivel Cushion
Getting in and out of a car can be challenging for disabled people. Swivel cushions were designed to allow wheelchair drivers to enjoy more comfort on the steering wheel.
A swivel cushion is designed to allow the driver or passenger to turn in any direction with ease. You simply sit on it and swivel in or and out of the car.
2. Wheelchair Restraints
Wheelchair restraints are one of the best safety gadgets for wheelchair drivers. It helps to hold your wheelchair in place when you are inside the car. This way, your chair doesn’t have to move every time the car is in motion.
3. The Handy Bar
Although handy bars are not as handy as they sound, there are however very helpful if your car is not wheelchair friendly. The handy bar is a corky little tool that allows you to get in and out of the car from your wheelchair or mobility scooter.
The handy bar is the cheapest alternative to a car wheelchair ramp or lift, you simply slide the handle into the opening in your car door frame and pull yourself into the car. Just in case, you’re trapped inside the car, the handy bar also has an inbuilt window breaker and seat belt cutter.
4. Leg Lifter
Leg lifter is another low-end gadget you need to have if you are driving a car from your wheelchair. This handy equipment is designed for disabled people and other wheelchair users with restricted lower limb mobility.
This handy equipment gives you more independence by allowing you to reposition your legs. It is perfect for drivers but can also be used to leave the chair and enter into your bed, bathtub, or just place your leg on a footstool.
5. Wheelchair Ramps, Lifts, or Hoist
Wheelchair ramp, lift, and hoist all perform the same function. These gadgets allow you to enter and exit the car from your wheelchair. I like all three of them, but you should decide which one works well for you. I’d advise you to see our comprehensive guide on wheelchair ramp vs. wheelchair lift.
6. Panoramic Mirrors
The panoramic rearview mirror is a non-glare convex mirror and special driving aids that can help wheelchair drivers obtain all-lane visibility. It gives you 360-degree vision from one vantage point.
This gadget eliminates blind spots, improves driving safety, and visibility. The panoramic rearview mirror is popular among police officers and professional race car drivers, but you can also mount them on your car to enhance your driving experience.
There is no misgiving from what we’ve said so far in this guide. Driving as a wheelchair user is no as hard as it may seem. There’s nothing to be afraid of; with the help of the right equipment, no matter the nature of your disability, you can drive a car.