Being able to travel places by road provides freedom. Freedom to access a workplace, appointments, shopping, leisure activities, visiting friends and family, and more. When you are an individual living with disability, getting out onto the road is often not as simple as hiring or buying an off-the-shelf car and off you go. Sounds like you? Wondering about vehicle options for people with disability?
Vehicles that have been converted for drivers or passengers with a disability – either to ride in or drive in – fall into two different categories:
- Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAV’s)
- Converted Vehicles
Deciding which type you will need depends on the nature of your disability, first and foremost. Then, think about both your current situation and what changes could occur in the next few years.
You will also need to take into consideration aspects such as your budget, personal preferences (ie. do you want to drive or prefer someone else to drive you), ability to enter and exit a vehicle, lifestyle, family size, and what type of mobility devices you use (if at all).
Before we delve further into vehicle options for people with disability, be aware that you may be able to purchase your specialised vehicle through a funding organisation. See our article here that covers these funders, once you have decided what you need.
Wheelchair accessible vehicles
WAV’s have been structurally modified to allow a person to enter the car while still in their wheelchair. People in power wheelchairs or people unable to easily transfer from their chairs are those most likely to use them.
Depending on the vehicle make and model, and the modifications applied to it, WAV’s can allow wheelchair users to be the driver and/or the passenger. WAV’s are available in a wide range of designs to suit either drivers or passengers with a disability. Structural modifications can be very expensive and most WAV conversions start at around $25,000, on top of the cost of the car itself.
The term ‘converted vehicle’ describes a wide range of generally non-structural conversions, or equipment, designed to make it easier for a person with restricted mobility to use the vehicle. Here is an article that explores driving controls in converted cars.
The technology involved in modifying cars is changing at a rapid rate. This means more and more people with a disability are able to drive independently.
Depending on your needs, converting a vehicle might include anything from a spinner knob worth less than $100 to specialised driving control equipment costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Joystick control, foot-steering and even operating controls with your voice are now all realistic options for drivers with a disability.
Conversions may help a person to drive, they may make it easier to get in or out of the car, or they may be designed to stow bulky mobility equipment. Equipment like mobility scooters and wheelchairs.
Research vehicle options for people with disability
Whether you are purchasing a WAV or a converted vehicle, it’s important to do your research. Shopping around is vital to making the right decision for your needs.
Not all cars are able to be converted as needed. Also, only certain makes and models will only allow for particular conversions – not necessarily all those you want to apply.
Specialised vehicles are a big investment, so make sure you take into account any changes that may occur over the next 10 years within your family, to your medical condition and lifestyle, or with your equipment.
Before purchasing or converting your own car, always arrange a test drive in a suitable configured vehicle to make sure it meets your needs. Most importantly, never be afraid to ask questions or get a second opinion.
Interested in knowing even more about converted cars as vehicle options for people with disability? Here is our A-Z guide on everything you need to know about converted cars.
Need to hire a specialised car?
Don’t have a WAV yet but still need to get around? Perhaps you’re going on holiday and need a WAV while you’re there. Check out our article that provides 14 WAV hire places.
Need car insurance?
Blue Badge Insurance specialises in insurance for mobility equipment and cars that have a disability parking permit. See here for your options.