Driving a car is one of the most common skills in the world today, and it’s easy to forget just how complicated cars have become. Older motor vehicles only required management of gas, brakes, and steering. Meanwhile, modern vehicles introduce a wide array of other essential functions.
In addition to managing necessary safety features like mirrors and the turn signal, the modern driver is also given the option to control music/radio, A/C, windshield wipers, hazard lights, horns, and more.
However, for individuals with limited mobility, these additional features can be difficult to manage, and in some cases even dangerous to try to access in a stock vehicle. This is where modified controls come in.
In this article, we’ll be exploring modifications to auxiliary hand controls. We’ll talk about who might need them, how they work, and how you can go about getting them installed in your car.
Driving with Limited Mobility or Strength
One challenge that can limit your ability to work many of these auxiliary controls is a lack of mobility, control, or strength within the driver’s seat.
For example, if you have any neurodegenerative condition, or have suffered a spinal cord injury, you may need extra support in the driver’s seat, or find it difficult to turn to reach controls on the dashboard of a stock vehicle.
Ultimately, you should be able to make use of all of your car’s controls, without worrying that you will compromise your safety.
How Controls Adjustments for Your Car Help
Extensions and modifications of your auxiliary controls work in one of two ways (or as a combination of both).
The first option is repositioning these buttons within the car and making them more accessible. This means that you can stay upright and positioned behind the wheel, where you are comfortable and safest.
The second option is to adjust the way that these controls are activated. Making a button easier to press, changing a button into a lever and vice versa, or otherwise modifying the way that you access controls all help you make sure these controls are easy and painless to activate.
Customizing to Your Unique Situation
PC: Spinal Cord Essentials
For example, in some cases, a new switchboard is installed to bring the functions of the dashboard to your right hand’s natural resting place (as seen above).
For others, adding a toggle or converting a mechanical hand control to an electronic button may make it much easier to access these functions.
Right-sided controls like the wipers or turn signals can be shifted with a turn signal crossover lever. Even the gear shifter can be modified to be more convenient to pull and manipulate.
Thanks to modern technology and the increasing prominence of electronics in cars, it’s easier than ever to customize your vehicle to your exact situation.
How Do You Get Adjusted Hand Controls?
As we mentioned above, the options to customize a vehicle continue to grow. However, all adaptive driving devices should be prescribed by trained professionals called Certified Driver Rehabilitation specialists.
While it’s possible to request these adjustments directly from a vendor, we recommend working with a CDRS for two reasons. First, they can help you pick exactly which adjustments you may need, and second, in many states, this additional equipment requires recertification before you’re allowed to drive with it.
The usual process is simple. By working with one of these professionals, you’ll be able to figure out your unique challenges, and how your car can adapt to you. Then, after having those new devices installed, you can work with your specialist to relearn to drive safely.
Finally, after training with your instructor, you can begin the process of getting recertified and back on the road!
Taking the Next Step | The Next Street Approach
Here at The Next Street Driver Rehab, we always start with a comprehensive clinical assessment, to help you understand your exact physical, cognitive, and visual challenges.
From there, our Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists can make a recommendation as to what equipment you might need, and help you start training!
Our instructors work with you extensively to make sure that you’re comfortable in any number of situations on the road. The end result is that you’ll be confident and safe when you start driving solo.
Finally, once you’re comfortable with your ability behind the wheel, our instructors can help you make the transition to getting safely certified to drive with your new equipment through your state and the DMV.
Our goal is to help every one of our clients safely, confidently, and comfortably enjoy the freedom of the ability to drive. And we’re thrilled to be able to work with you every step of the way!
If you’d like to learn more or schedule an initial free consultation, you can reach out to us at our Consultation Homepage or at 860-483-7009.