Types of adaptations
Regardless of whether you drive or not, adaptations are mobility aids or devices that can be fitted to a vehicle to help make many aspects of your travelling experience safer or more comfortable.
If you’re looking for an adaptation to help improve your travelling experience, it’s worth bearing in mind that adaptations generally fall into three categories:
It is strongly recommended that you work out what type of adaptation you may need before you make your final choice of car, as not all adaptations are suitable for every type of car.
Driving controls can make a huge difference to your motoring experience. They may enable a person to drive where it would otherwise not be possible. They vary from simple attachments which can be bolted onto your car, replacing all existing driving controls, with a system individually designed for you.
In most cases the original car’s controls and features can still be used, so your nominated drivers can still drive. However, it’s important to bear in mind that most driving controls require an automatic gearbox. Driving controls help with speed control, steering and signalling. Some of our most popular adaptations within this category are described below.
If you have limited mobility in your legs or are unable to use hand controls, an electronic accelerator may help. This enables you to accelerate by pressing on a ring either above or below the steering wheel or by pulling on a trigger device. Electronic accelerators require less effort than push/pull hand controls ( see mechanical hand controls section ) and all come with a hand operated push brake.
Left foot accelerators
If you have limited mobility in your right leg, and cannot use the standard accelerator comfortably, you may benefit from having a left foot accelerator fitted. This will allow you to control the speed with your left foot, while the original accelerator pedal is safely folded out of the way. In most cases, the original pedal can still be used if you have nominated drivers. If you’ve never driven with a left foot accelerator before, it is vital to receive professional advice before getting one. Speak to your adaptation installer or Mobility Centre for advice.
If you have difficulty reaching the pedals when driving, you could opt to have the pedals extended. Modifying the pedals of your car could bring them closer to your driving seat, allowing you to drive more comfortably while controlling the car with ease.
Mechanical hand controls mech hand
If you find using standard pedals for braking or acceleration difficult, you may be better off using a hand control, such as a push/pull device. This popular adaptation allows you to control the speed of the car with your hand by pulling a lever (to accelerate) or pushing it (to brake). There are various hand controls available from different manufacturers, ranging from basic push/pull systems to electronic air or compression systems.
If you have limited movement in your upper body, you could benefit from remote control devices. These controls allow for basic car functions, such as the horn, windscreen wipers and lights, to be operated by a single control pad mounted on the steering wheel, making it safer and more comfortable to drive.
If you have difficulty holding or turning a standard steering wheel, there are a number of solutions which may help. For example, steering wheel balls can be fitted to allow you to have more control when steering the car. You simply hold the ball, making sure your hand is comfortable, and use it to turn the steering wheel in the direction you need. If you’re having hand controls fitted, then it is often essential to have a steering wheel ball to enable you to steer the car with one hand while operating any hand controls with the other.
If you cannot lift your wheelchair or scooter into the boot of your car, there are two different types of stowage systems that can easily solve this problem for you.
Car boot hoists
This is a hoist which stores your wheelchair or scooter in your car boot. Tie-downs are included as part of the hoist package to help secure your scooter or wheelchair in the boot of your car.
There are four main types of boot hoists available:
- Mini hoists - usually used for manual wheelchairs and scooters weighing up to 40kg, or scooters that can be dismantled into smaller parts
- Midi hoists - for lifting and storing electric wheelchairs or scooters up to 100kg
- Maxi hoists - for electric wheelchairs or scooters heavier than 100kg
- Platform hoists - the wheelchair or scooter is driven onto a platform which lifts it into the boot. You'll need to secure the wheelchair or scooter to the platform before it is lifted.
This hoist stores a folded wheelchair in a box on the roof of your car and can usually be used on the driver or passenger side. This option can be a good way to store a folded manual wheelchair without physically lifting it and it can also be useful if you need to use your boot to store other items. The wheelchair remains completely covered within the rooftop storage box so it is protected from the elements as if it were inside the main area of your car.
Both stowage systems are operated at the touch of a button to lift the wheelchair. Most hoists also move the wheelchair into place within the car boot or rooftop stowage unit. Please check with your adaptation installer if this is the case for the adaptation you are considering as some boot hoists still require the user to push the wheelchair into position.
Stowage systems can be a great help by taking the weight of the wheelchair or scooter and manoevring it effortlessly. It’s important to remember that they aren’t suitable for every wheelchair or scooter, and you need to make sure that the wheelchair or scooter, hoist and car are all compatible. Make sure you get advice from an adaptation installer before you order your car.
Things to think about when stowing your wheelchair or scooter
- The size and weight of your wheelchair or scooter will affect the type of hoist you need, and the type of hoist you need will affect your choice of car. For example, with boot hoists, it's important to consider the size of the car boot and in some cases the rear seats will need to be folded down. Speak to your adaptation installer about which hoist will best suit you needs.
- Consider whether you might need to change your wheelchair over the course of your three or five year lease. If you change your wheelchair, the stowage solution may become unsuitable, so try to plan ahead in terms of size and type.
- The price of boot hoists includes a tie-down to secure the wheelchair in the back of the car. Make sure you discuss this with your adaptation installer when choosing your hoist.
- Think about the places where you normally park your car, as this could affect the type of wheelchair stowage system you might need. Rooftop stowage systems may mean that you are no longer able to park in underground car parks or spaces where there are height restrictions.
- If you are unable to operate a hoist yourself, you may benefit from a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV). WAVs enable a wheelchair user to travel in the vehicle while remaining in their wheelchair.
If you have difficulty getting in and out of a car, the following adaptations may help. It is vital to have a demonstration from an adaptation installer before you choose a swivel seat or a person hoist as not all cars are suitable for these adaptations.
Permanent swivel seat
The way permanent swivel seats operate varies from model to model, but the basic function allows the whole seat to turn, and in some cases move in and out of the car, lower or tip, to help make getting in and out of the seat easier. Both manual and powered versions are available.
Wheelchair swivel seat
This is made up of two parts – the top half, which is a specially designed car seat, and the bottom half, which acts as a wheelchair base. The seat part can be connected to the car and act as a swivel seat to
aid entry, allowing the bottom part to be stored in the back of the car. There are both manual and powered options available depending on your needs. While this can be a very helpful solution, it’s worth noting that a wheelchair swivel seat cannot be operated independently, you will need someone to help put the wheelchair base into position and store it once you are in the car.
Electric person hoist
If you are a wheelchair user, another option for accessing the car is via an electric person hoist, which physically lifts you into the car.
The hoist includes a permanent mount fitted into the car and three sections which clip together to form the frame. A specially designed canvas sling is put in position with very little movement required from the wheelchair user. Heavy duty hooks in the sling are then slipped onto the hoist and the hoist is raised electronically. Once you are seated in the car, the frame sections of the hoist can be removed and stowed in the boot, but the sling remains in place, making it easier to reverse the process at the end of the journey.
For some people this may be an alternative solution to getting a fully converted Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle. You may find your travelling experience more comfortable as you will be seated on the original car seat alongside the driver, rather than in your wheelchair. However, you’ll need to check with an adaptation installer that the car you are interested in is suitable for this type of hoist.
Our adaptation installers will be happy to arrange a no-obligation demonstration of the adaptations and will advise on which cars are compatible.