The Right Vehicle
Although the purchase or lease of a vehicle is your responsibility, your mobility equipment dealer and driver rehabilitation specialist are qualified to ensure the vehicle you select can be modified to meet your adaptive equipment needs. Take the time to consult with these professionals before you make your purchase decision. To find a qualified dealer in your area, contact the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA). To find a qualified driver rehabilitation specialist, contact the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED). The following questions can help with vehicle selection. They can also help determine if you can modify a vehicle you already own:
- Does the vehicle have the cargo capacity (in pounds) to accommodate the equipment you require?
- Will there be enough space and cargo capacity to accommodate your family or other passengers once the vehicle is modified?
- Is there adequate parking space at home and at work for the vehicle and for loading/unloading a wheelchair?
- Is there adequate parking space to maneuver if you use a walker?
- What additional options are necessary for the safe operation of the vehicle?
If a third party is paying for the vehicle, adaptive devices, or modification costs, find out if there are any limitations or restrictions on what is covered. Always get a written statement on what a funding agency will pay before making your purchase. Once you select and purchase a vehicle, be aware that you will need to also purchase insurance to cover your vehicle while it's being modified — even though it will be off the road during this period.
Standard Features to Look for in a New Passenger Vehicle
Before purchasing a new vehicle, always sit in it first to make sure you are comfortable.
Check to see that you can enter and exit the vehicle with ease. If possible, take it out for a test drive. How well does the car fit your body? To prevent air bag-related injury, you should keep 10 inches between your breast bone and the steering wheel, which contains the driver’s side air bag. At the same time, you’ll need to be able to easily reach the pedals while maintaining a comfortable line of sight above the adjusted steering wheel. Also, make sure the vehicle provides you with good visibility in all directions — front, rear, and sides. Your dealer can demonstrate the use of adaptive features, such as adjustable foot pedals and driver seats, which can help ensure a good person-vehicle fit.
Check to see if the model you are considering purchasing has good crash test results and is resistant to rollover. Visit www.nhtsa.gov or call NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236 to obtain government crash test results and rollover ratings for specific makes and models.
When selecting a vehicle, look for and ask about available features designed to improve both the comfort and safety of drivers with disabilities.
Some of these features are:
- High or extra-wide doors
- Adjustable foot pedals
- Large interior door handles
- Oversized knobs with clearly visible labels
- Support handles to assist with entry and exit
- Large or adjustable-size print for dashboard gauges
- Seat adjusters that can move the seat in all directions — particularly raising it so the driver’s line of sight is 3” above the adjusted steering wheel
- Dashboard-mounted ignition rather than steering column-mounted ignition