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Destination Freedom and Vehicles for the Physically Challenged

There are many wonderful people with some sort of physical disability that they’ve had since birth or from an incident later in life which caused the disability to come about.  All are inspirational people.

Being allowed to drive when you are physically challenged offers you so much more independence and heaps more confidence.  Driving offers a sense of freedom to do what you want whenever you can, so it gives you more opportunity to find a job and get to work, volunteer for others, and go to the other side of the continent solo, or with family and friends, when you want to just as you see fit.

Being physically challenged is on its own a significant hurdle to overcome on all fronts when it comes to being able to do life like a person with a fully functional body.  There are many difficulties for a physically challenged person to deal with, and one of those is simply getting from Place A to Place B on time.

If you were/are a person with a physical disability who wants to be able to drive to your own Destination Freedom, then finding and owning the right vehicle that’s just right for you will be the first box to tick.  Sometimes the vehicle may need to be modified to suit your own unique requirements.  My Uncle Frank, a 2nd World War veteran who has since passed on, suffered a war injury from flying shrapnel.  This brief fateful moment caused Uncle Frank to become paralysed in his left arm as well as partially in his left leg.  He was still able to walk with a shuffle, drive a car (an always-shiny brown Toyota Corona) with an automatic gearbox, and give everyone a good laugh with his great sense of humour.  A small bracket with a fixed swivelling knob was attached to the steering wheel of the car so that he could turn the car with ease, using his good hand and arm to steer.

Many other people have had accidents that even left them a paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair for mobility.  Any accident can be life changing, none more so than a spinal cord injury.  Yet still it is possible for these people to drive.  A former New Zealand equestrian champion, Catriona Williams, who is now a tetraplegic after falling from her horse in 2002, still enjoys an independent life filled with fun.  Enjoying adventurous road trips with family and friends is made possible with her modified Volkswagen Caravelle van, which has been set up for her to be able to drive securely from her wheelchair.

There are clever people who have the engineering skills enabling them to modify a vehicle for many people with physical challenges.

Some of the special equipment you can use to modify a vehicle include:

  • Infrared remote control systems that enable easy access and operation of a vehicle from a wheelchair.
  • Controllers for wheelchair movement (i.e. ‘Slip and Puff’ systems via sucking and blowing through a straw-like device.).
  • Headrest indicators ­ the indicators are activated by head movement on the head rest.
  • Mini steering wheels that enable people with limited upper body strength to steer the car with ease.
  • Joystick or foot steering, which can be combined for steering, acceleration, and braking.
  • An array of hoists and roof racks for various reasons.
  • Seatbelt modifications, harnesses, and special seating.
  • A left foot accelerator pedal instead of a right foot one.
  • Various hand controls that can of themselves incorporate up to seven unique functions – i.e., steering, high beam lights, horn, wipers, indicators etc.

These are just some of the possibilities.  Pretty much any car can be modified, new or old.  MPVs and vans are ideal for a person who is looking to drive the vehicle from their wheelchair.  It’s awesome there are great opportunities out there for enhancing quality of life.