FEATURES TO CONSIDER WHEN SELECTING A VEHICLE

There is no perfect vehicle for everyone.  Each disability type has different needs; each individual has different needs according to their lifestyle.  There is always a compromise. If you need to have some form of controls fitted it is strongly recommended that you first choose the company that is going to do the conversion and discuss with them whether the vehicle of your choice is suited to having their controls fitted.  The space under the dashboard varies in size and shape, which makes some vehicles better suited than others.    

Here are some tips for what to look at when selecting a vehicle:

SELF DRIVE

  • How wide the doors open – to assist loading a wheelchair
  • How far back the seat moves and reclines – this creates space for loading a wheelchair passed the steering wheel.
  • Height adjustable seat makes transfers easier and gives correct height for driving.
  • Electric seat adjustment is a lot easier than manual adjustment.
  • Width of the door sill affects how far you have to transfer.
  • Cruise control – energy saving for hand controls
  • Is there enough space in the foot well to move your feet away from the pedals?
  • Adjustable steering wheel
  • Power steering for weak arms.
  • For people with limited hand function, check buttons and levers for secondary controls.
  • Rain sensitive window wipers, automatic lights reduce the amount the hands must do when using hand controls.
  • Electrically adjustable exterior mirrors
  • Size of boot for transporting wheelchair

SEATING POSITION:

The correct seating position is essential to enhance a person’s function in the vehicle, especially if they have limited physical strength.  Having a slightly wedged seat angle helps to stabilise the pelvis, this combined with supporting their trunk, gives a stable base on which to use the strength in their arms. Bucket seats provide excellent support and positioning to be able to use the maximum amount of function, but they make transfers more difficult. A person with weakness in their arms needs to sit closer to the steering wheel than someone with full strength. 

Any person who drives with a spinal cord injury above T8 tends to lose their balance when going round a corner.  This can be a safety hazard until you have learned how to compensate for this.  Most people learn to predict when they are going to lose their balance and then they either wedge one arm against the door sill, or find somewhere that they can hook an arm to get support.  No matter how good your compensation is, in an emergency situation it could be a problem.  It is recommended that you find a way to support and secure the pelvis and trunk to prevent this loss of balance.  For detailed information:

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