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Adaptive Driving: Vehicle Hand Controls and Available Products

Updated/Revised Date: 2019-01-04
Author: Disabled World | Contact us

Synopsis: Information on adaptive vehicle products including automotive hand controls allowing seniors and people with a disability to drive.

Main Document

An automobile is define as a vehicle adapted for ease of use by people with disabilities. Today automobiles, whether a car, truck, or a van, can be adapted for a range of physical disabilities. For example; foot pedals can be raised, or replaced with hand-controlled devices. Automotive adaptive hand controls also make it possible to adjust acceleration as well braking.


The introduction of new technology continues to broaden opportunities for people with disabilities to drive vehicles with hand controls and adaptive automotive products and devices. As we're all unique, one specific product rarely suits the needs of everyone. This is true when it comes to mobility vehicles as every person with a mobility issue has individual requirements and will need specific features to make them feel confident and comfortable when they drive.

In recent years, technological advances have introduced automotive adaptive devices which either reduce the physical effort required to control and/or operate a vehicle or alter the way in which driver control initiatives are applied to the vehicle control systems. These adaptive devices provide the possibility of driving a vehicle for many drivers with disabilities.

There are two main types of automotive adaptive controls;

Generally, these are referred to as servo-type motion control systems and reduced effort or zero effort control systems, respectively.

Adaptive vehicle control products are commonly prescribed by rehabilitation centers and installed by mobility equipment dealers and installers who specialize in vehicle modifications for persons with disabilities, seniors, and persons who have a need for greater mobility.

Driver rehabilitation specialists perform comprehensive evaluations to identify the adaptive equipment most suited to your needs. They assess the type of seating needed and the person's ability to exit and enter the vehicle. They provide advice on the purchase of modified vehicles and recommend appropriate wheelchair lifts or other equipment for a vehicle you own. The use of wheelchair car and van hand controls usually requires the driver to take and pass a special training class which educates on the nuances of driving with the controls.

Adaptive hand controlsCosts Associated with Modifying a Vehicle Vary Greatly

A new vehicle modified with adaptive equipment can cost from $20,000 to $80,000. Therefore, whether you are modifying a vehicle you own or purchasing a new vehicle with adaptive equipment, it pays to investigate public and private opportunities for financial assistance. There are however programs that help pay part or all of the cost of vehicle modification, depending on the cause and nature of the disability.

Adaptive Vehicle Controls May Include

Car adaptations for the disabled include hand controls that are designed to correspond to the natural hand-arm movement of the driver: pull the control back, push down, or use a twist grip to accelerate, push it forward to brake. There are many hand controls available such as an easy use handbrake which is ideal if you find squeezing and pulling the handbrake lever difficult.

Pedal extensions help the person with short legs to reach the pedals. In this kind of arrangement, the brakes and accelerator pedal height are raised. The pedal extension enables the driver to apply the brakes with reduced effort. A left foot gas pedal requires professional installation in which modifications are done for the braking and acceleration systems. For a missing leg, the left foot gas pedal is used as it prevents crossovers. In left foot gas pedal adaption, the pedal is provided on both sides of the brakes.

Left foot accelerator adaptations for automatic vehicles provide an accelerator pedal to either side of the brake pedal. The left foot accelerator consists of two hinged pedals connected by a cable or mechanical rods. They are set up in such a way as to ensure it is only possible to have one of the pedals down at any time.

Extended indicator arms for ease of use operating a vehicles turn signal.

Steering wheel spinner knobs and devices for one hand control of the steering wheel for vehicles with power steering. Sure Grip hand control users use a push/rock style of driving with products specifically designed to give drivers the benefit of controlling a vehicle with both hands on the wheel for a safer, smoother driving experience.

Swivel Seats - Among other advantages, swivel transfer seats provide drivers with disabilities the ability to easily transfer from their wheelchair in the center section of a van to the driver position. The swivel seat base is usually electronically controlled using actuators and gears that slide the seat backward and forward, and there are swivel up and down controls.

Turny/Turny Orbit - This revolutionary system for higher vehicles provides easy access to an automotive seat. The seat rotates, comes out of the vehicle, and lowers toward the ground, eliminating the climbing and twisting normally required to enter a higher vehicle.

Reduced effort braking systems, gas or brake pedal extensions and many other adaptive vehicle solutions for drivers with restricted capabilities or prosthetics.

Portable hand controls are available for the paraplegic or amputee with a need for a car or van hand control that can be conveniently carried as luggage. Portable hand controls install in an automatic transmission vehicle in minutes. These hand controls are designed for use by individuals with normal upper body strength and coordination. Hand motions are pull to accelerate, push to brake. As with all hand controls, power brakes and steering are a must.

One option available for some drivers is to install electronically assisted hand controls. This technology has revolutionized how people in wheelchairs approach driving. EMC offers two types of controls. Primary Controls manage gas, brakes, and steering while the Secondary Driving Controls manufactured by EMC are designed to operate vehicle functions other than Gas, Brake and Steering.

Transporting a Wheelchair

If you use a wheelchair then it's likely that you'll need to store the chair while you're driving so you can use it at your destination. Modifications which could make the process easier including installing a ramp to the rear of the car to make loading the wheelchair into the rear space much easier.

Other alternatives include rear hoists which can lift wheelchairs into the back of most cars and will give you more independence as you may not need others to help lift the chair with you. If space in the rear of your car is limited you could decide to have a rooftop hoist and storage solution installed. These gadgets mechanically lift a manual wheelchair up from ground level and securely store it in a storage rack unit on top of your car. When you get to your destination your wheelchair can simply be lowered again at the touch of a button.

Subtopics and Associated Subjects

Disabled World is an independent disability community founded in 2004 to provide disability news and information to people with disabilities, seniors, their family and/or carers. See our homepage for informative reviews, exclusive stories and how-tos. You can connect with us on social media such as Twitter and Facebook or learn more about Disabled World on our about us page.

Disclaimer: Disabled World provides general information only. Materials presented are in no way meant to be a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Any 3rd party offering or advertising on does not constitute endorsement by Disabled World.

Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2019, January 4). Adaptive Driving: Vehicle Hand Controls and Available Products. Disabled World. Retrieved October 21, 2021 from