Adapted Cars Boost Independence Among The Disabled

December 22, 2021

Imagine you can’t drive to work, to the store, or to visit with friends and family. According to Mark Whitehouse, an ex-driving rehab instructor from Florida, everyone should have the option to drive. In instances where limited mobility prevents someone from driving regular cars, modified vehicles need to be made available. Whitehouse has extensive experience in the field of disabled driving as driving rehab is nothing but a combination of modified vehicles, occupational therapy, specialized training, and input from medical experts.

Modified Vehicles Aren’t New

Despite the emphasis currently placed on the need for adapted vehicles, it is not a new concept by anyone’s standards. During the 1960s, an engineer adapted a vehicle for himself by installing a lift system in it. Ralph Braun was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in 1947 when he was a young boy. Despite a grim diagnosis by his doctors, Braun fought for his own independence and that of other individuals using wheelchairs. By the time the 70s rolled in, his company, BraunAbility, was hard at work modifying a range of Dodge vans for drivers with disabilities. Fast-forward to 2021 and Braun Ability remains one of the biggest converters of accessible vehicles in the world.

Accessibility Improves Independence

Like Braun, many individuals living with Cerebral Palsy (CP) and other disabilities are able to drive vehicles that are adequately adapted. In fact, the CPFN believes that with the right amount of support and improved access to disability-friendly amenities, these individuals can lead happy, independent lives. Thankfully, modifications are always improving with an increasing number of vehicle manufacturers joining hands with the likes of Braun and Vantage Mobile International (VMI) to swiftly bring accessible vehicles to the market. Minivans have become the adapted vehicle of choice thanks to their typical large door openings and spacious floor. VMI recently impressed by converting an all-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna to make it accessible to drivers with disabilities.

Autonomous Vehicles Hold Great Potential

As much as adapted vehicles and modern-day driver assists are making it easier for drivers with disabilities to maintain a degree of independence, the full integration of autonomous vehicles can have an even greater impact.  As a matter of fact, people with disabilities will benefit more from self-driving cars than anyone else. It is, however, important that AVs are as accessible as possible right from the get-go. VW is one of a number of manufacturers that have already started taking the required steps to ensure that their AVs can be utilized by a wide range of drivers. It is working closely with the American Association of People with Disabilities to try counter any engineering difficulties they might face. Other manufacturers dedicated to serving the disabled community include Waymo and Toyota.

The world has come a long way in the past 60 years as far as accessible vehicles are concerned. With rapidly evolving technologies, the future continues to look increasingly bright for individuals with disabilities who are craving more independence.