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Adaptive Driving for Persons with Physical Limitations

Driver Rehabilitation Programs

According to the Association of Driver Educators for the Disabled, a driver rehabilitation program should have a qualified driver rehabilitation specialist, the appropriate vehicle(s), and equipment to provide comprehensive services in the following areas:

  1. Clinical Evaluation - applicable testing in the area of physical functioning and visual/perceptual/cognitive screening. Where applicable, a wheelchair/seating assessment should be completed.
  2. Driving Evaluation - shall include an on-the-road performance assessment of the client in an actual driving environment using equipment similar to the prescribed equipment.
  3. Vehicle Modification/Prescription - all prescriptions shall be based on the client's demonstrated performance in an actual driving experience with equipment similar to that which is being prescribed. The prescription should include appropriate description and dimensions of the client's vehicle and mobility aid (wheelchair, scooter).
  4. Driver Education - shall include sufficient practice and training to enable the client to operate a motor vehicle with the prescribed equipment at a level that meets the client's need for a driver's license.
  5. Final Fitting - the client shall receive a final fitting and operational assessment in their modified vehicle.

Adaptive Driving Aids/Modifications

With the use of appropriate adaptive aids an individual with most types of physical disability can continue to drive safely. A variety of devices are available to meet the individual driver's needs and preferences. The following is a list of the more common modifications available. They should be tried in an actual driving situation before making a final decision. (For liability issues work with a certified adaptive driving specialist).

  • Automatic transmission - replaces clutch and manual shift
  • Power Steering - permits one-hand steering wheel operation
  • Power Brakes - needed for hand controls and other adaptive aids
  • Steering Devices - spinner knob, amputee ring, quad fork, tri pin, or custom device
  • Floor Mounted Steering - floor steering wheel for foot control Modified Effort Steering - reduces strength needed to operate power steering or brake to accommodate low strength and/or endurance.
  • Left Foot Accelerator - eliminates left leg cross-over
  • Foot Pedal Extensions - raises height of brake and accelerator
  • Hand Controls - control operates brake/accelerator with single lever and activates secondary controls (horn, wipers, turn signals, etc.) * temporary or mounted hand controls are not recommended by Veterans Administration
  • Electric Gear Selector - permits left hand operation
  • Right Hand Turn Signal - permits right hand operation without cross-over
  • Remote Switches - reposition or build up secondary controls (horn, wipers, turn signals, etc.) to accommodate driver's specific disability
  • Seat Belts - shoulder and lap belt adjustments may be needed
  • Power Seats - eases access for transferring to a regular captains seat
  • Custom Seats - creates balance, positioning, and stability
  • Lifts and Ramps - permits access into and out of vehicle
  • Wheelchair/Scooter Lifts - assists in lifting wheelchairs and scooters in and out of vehicles
  • Wheelchair Carriers - permits carrying of wheelchair outside of vehicle

    Vehicle Selection

    When choosing a vehicle for transportation there are several areas to consider. Your doctor, physical therapist or occupation therapist will have input and can help answer any questions, but a certified adaptive driving specialist can assist in making a vehicle selection with completion of the driver rehabilitation program.

    Following are some areas to consider:

    • What are your transportation needs?
    • Do you need a car, truck, full-size van or mini-van?
    • Are you able to take public transportation?
    • What are your physical limitations that will effect your ability to access a vehicle or drive?
    • Will you be a driver or passenger?
    • Will you be able to handle the mental and physical stress of driving?
    • What is your ability to transfer into and out of the vehicle?
    • Will you require an assistive seat or lift to get into or out of the vehicle?
    • If you require a lift, what options do you prefer? Side door or rear door entrance/exit; electric; hydraulic; platform swing out or superarm, etc.?
    • Do you require a lowered floor or raised top and doors? What is your height, head to ground when sitting, and the length and width of your wheelchair or scooter?
    • Will you drive from a wheelchair or use a power seat?
    • Will you need special modifications to operate the vehicle?
    • What are the services & warranty programs on your vehicle of choice? What parts are covered, and where can emergency repair work be done if you are out of town?
    • What alternative funding sources are you eligible for (Veteran's Administration, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Developmental Disabilities Services, or Insurance - Health or Workman's Compensation)?
    • Have you checked with a qualified accountant to determine eligibility for tax credits for modifications?
    • Have you checked with the manufacturer for information on a rebate program to help pay for modifications?
    • Did you check with the dealer for a finance package?

    Colorado Modification Vendors:

    Adaptive Automotive
    2665 E Hwy 224
    Denver, CO 80229
    303/288-6342 or 800/748-3695

    FreeWheel Vans, Inc.
    4901 Ward Rd
    Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
    303/467-9981

    Handicaps, Inc.
    4335 S Santa Fe Dr
    Englewood, CO 80110
    303/781-2062
    800/782-4335

    Morning Star Mobility Inc
    3508 E St Vrain
    Colorado Springs, CO 80909
    719/380-1200
    800/854-7463

    Rocky Mountain Wheelers, Inc.
    3772 S Lipan St
    Englewood, CO 80110
    303/789-4063

    Colorado Adaptive Driving Programs:

    Behind the Wheel Rehabilitation
    Driving Program
    Columbia Spalding
    Rehabilitation Hospital
    900 Potomac St
    Aurora, CO 80011
    303/367-1166

    Capron Rehabilitation
    2215 N Cascade Ave
    Colorado Springs, CO 80933

    Craig Hospital
    OT/Driving & Transportation
    3425 Clarkson
    Englewood, CO 80110
    303/789-8218
    limited participation, doctor's orders required

    Front Range Driving School
    PO Box 253
    Longmont, CO 80502
    303/772-6050

    McKee Medical Center
    1824 W Vine Dr
    Fort Collins, CO 80521
    970/635-4179

    Rocky Mountain Rehab
    900 Potomac
    Aurora, CO 80011
    303/363-5351

    VAMC
    1055 Clermont
    Denver, CO 80231
    303/393-2819

    Other Resources:

    Adaptive Mobility Services
    1000 Delaney St.
    Orlando, Fl 32806
    407/426-8020

    American Automobile Association
    Adaptive Driving School
    4100 E Arkansas
    Denver, CO 80222
    303/753-8800

    American Driver & Traffic Safety Education Association
    800 Florida Ave, NE Gallaudet
    Salsibury, MD 21801
    301/850-0075

    Association of Driver Educators
    PO Box 49
    Edgerton, WI 53534
    608/884-8833

    Braun Corp
    1014 S Monticello, PO Box 310
    Winamac, IN 46996
    800/843-5438

    Bruno Independent Aids
    1780 Executive Dr, PO Box 84
    Ocnomowoc, WI 53066
    800/882-8183

    Chrysler Motors
    Physically Challenged Resource Center
    800/255-9877

    Dept of Veterans Affairs
    Prosthetic & Sensory Aids Services
    Mailing Code 117C
    Washington, DC 20420
    202/535-7293

    Ford Motor Company
    Mobility Motoring Program
    800/952-2248
    800/833-0312 (TTY)
    General Motors
    Mobility Assistance Center
    800/323-9935
    800/833-9935 (TTY)

    Handicapped Driver's Mobility Guide
    American Automobile Association
    4100 E Arkansas
    Denver, CO 80222
    303/753-8800

    National Mobility Equipment
    Dealers Association
    909 E Skagway Ave
    Tampa, FL 33604
    813/932-8566

    RESNA
    1100 Connecticut Ave
    Washington, DC 22209
    202/857-1199

    Volkswagen
    Mobility Access Program
    800/444-8987