Can Wheelchair User’s Drive?

The short answer is yes! Cars can be adapted to accommodate wheelchair users to gain further freedom and independence. It may come as a surprise that whose who have been paralyzed or have limited arm and hand function can have their motor vehicle and wheelchair adapted to be safe to drive. 

Wheelchair accessible vehicles are a great way for wheelchair users to travel further distances that wouldn’t otherwise be possible in their wheelchair. Wheelchair users can spend funds adapting their current motor vehicle, or they can purchase a vehicle that has been designed for a wheelchair user to drive. No matter which option they choose, the safety of the user is of upmost importance. 

In order for a motor vehicle to be used driven by a wheelchair user, the following features must be installed/adapted before any driving can take place: 

    • There must be a way to anchor the wheelchair safely to the motor vehicle. For example, the Dahl Docking System is a safety feature that is installed on the wheelchair and in the motor vehicle. This ensures that in the event of an accident, the wheelchair user and their wheelchair will not move. 
    • The vehicle must include an adapted hinged door. The entrance for the wheelchair should be adapted to accommodate the wheelchair user, e.g. wide enough. 
    • There should be either a wheelchair lift system or space for a wheelchair ramp. In order for the user to safely enter and exit the vehicle safely, a wheelchair ramp can be used however, a ramp typically requires assistance. On the other hand, a wheelchair lift system can be used independently by the driver (the wheelchair user). 
    • There needs to be sufficient interior space to accommodate the wheelchair. If the wheelchair user is going to enter the motor vehicle via a lift or ramp (i.e. they intend to use their wheelchair as their seat v.s. Transferring into the driver’s seat) then there needs to be enough room inside the vehicle to comfortable maneuver to the steering wheel.  
    • The wheelchair must have passed a safety crash test. Not only is this imperative for the safety of the user, but also anyone else in the motor vehicle. This safety test ensure that the wheelchair won’t move in the event of an accident. In some countries, if the wheelchair has not passed the safety crash test, they are not allowed in any motor vehicle. 

Adaptions to your wheelchairs might also need to be made in order for it to be safe to drive and used as a seat in a motor vehicle:

    • Specialized controls can be installed or attached to your wheelchair to make it easier to drive a motor vehicle. For example, the accelerator and brake can be controlled with one hand, and the steering wheel with the other. 
    • The wheelchair must have passed a safety crash test. In order to use a wheelchair as a chair in a motor vehicle, it must have passed a safety crash test. 
    • There must be a safe way for the user to transfer from the wheelchair to the driver’s seat. If the user is not planning to use their wheelchair as the driver seat, then there has to be sufficient room to make the transfer from wheelchair to chair. 
    • Seat cushions can be added to increase the sitting height. It’s imperative that the user can see clearly in order to drive safely. 
    • The user must obtain a valid driver’s license. It may seem obvious, but the driver must have passed their driving test in their modified vehicle. 

As long these safety requirements are met, and with the approval of a doctor or therapist, a wheelchair user can drive a car. A new level of freedom and independence can be achieved should the wheelchair user want that. If you are unsure about which wheelchair is best for you, you can contact KARMA Medical to find the best wheelchair for you that is also suitable to be driven in a motor vehicle. 

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