Many people can be challenged by limited mobility at some point in their lives. This may be due to a sprain or break as the result of a sports injury, or it could be that you regularly transport relatives with reduced physical movement. These challenges when using the car can result in discomfort and frustration. This guide aims to point you in the right direction to improve the driving experience depending on your circumstances.
Certain cars are more accessible, such as people carriers or estate cars with large luggage space for wheelchairs and frames but there are also many in-car driving aids available that can transform many vehicles and make them more practical for either temporary or long term mobility challenges.
Drivers with limited mobility
While there are certain vehicles designed for accommodating a wheelchair in the back, some people can find this less than dignified. Instead, there are wheelchair systems which can be installed in many vehicles that replace a car seat, meaning users don’t have to get out of their wheelchair. Assistance is required to use them, but it can be a preferable option for many. For people with very limited mobility, there is the option to have your car adapted and expert help and support is available through schemes such as Motability. For younger drivers wanting to learn to drive their wheelchair adapted vehicle (WAV), Motability can offer grants for driving lessons which can help ease financial pressures.
Transfer boards are a useful tool for those who lack enough strength to rotate their bodies when getting in or out of a car. A transfer board is used to bridge the gap between the wheelchair and car seat, simply placed between the two and the user slides across. They are often varnished to make the transfer process quick and comfortable and cost from around £20. There are also folding transfer boards available which are bolted into the car and folded up when not in use.
For those who have moderate to severe mobility issues, there are a few more complex driving aids available that will often require assistance to use. Hoists are made up of a canvas seat sling which the user sits on, so it can be easily used with a wheelchair. This is then attached to the hoist, which is a mounting point permanently bolted to the vehicle. Another arm is also attached to the sling to help ease the user in, which should be removed before driving away. These hoists can be fitted to many vehicles, on both passenger and driver sides. Specialist mobility aid providers can advise on these products and some offer finance packages to spread the cost.
Passengers with limited mobility
Extra hand holds
There are two main additional hand holds which can be installed to help getting out of the car. A Car Caddie attaches to the top of the inside of a car door and is made from string nylon with a cushioned grip to aid with pulling yourself up. It’s height adjustable and can easily be unattached and used in another vehicle. A Handy Bar is inserted in the door catch and is a soft yet sturdy handle which is ideal for pushing yourself up or lowering down for additional leverage. It can also be easily removed and used in other cars. A Car Caddie can be bought from around £15.
One of the most difficult aspects of getting in or out of a car for relatives with limited mobility is twisting and turning to get in the right driving or passenger position. Swivel seats and/or cushions are an excellent solution. Swivel cushions are the cheaper option and can be used in any vehicle; they have two layers joined together with a swivel and act like a turntable. More expensive yet permanent options are swivel seats, whereby the whole seat will swivel to face out of the car and then turns back to its normal position. These replace the original seat, so may not be the most aesthetically pleasing choice but are highly practical. Swivel cushion prices range from around £10.
A standing frame is one of the simplest driving aids, which can also be used in other areas of life. Essentially comprised of two height and width adjustable handles and a supportive base, it allows the user to push or pull themselves up from any seat, whether an armchair or in a car.
Drivers with chronic back pain
Driving with a bad back can be a daunting prospect. Many car seats offer lumbar support but an additional form of relief can be found through placing a massage and heat pack in the driver’s seat of your car. Homedics offer a range of options to suit varying budgets. This entry model is priced at £39.99 and includes a 12V car adaptor and includes a two year guarantee.
Drivers who work shifts
Whether you’re a nurse, taxi driver or factory worker, driving home from a night shift can be a real challenge. Leading road safety charity Brake estimates that one in six road traffic collisions is due to driver fatigue. Thanks to the development of technology, companies such as STOPSLEEP are working to provide products aiming to make driving at irregular times safer. Their wearable monitor works by assessing concentration levels from electrodermal activity in the skin and warning users via vibration or an alarm if levels drop before a reasonable level. More information can be found on their website.
Whether you have driving challenges yourself, or you regularly transport relatives with reduced mobility, these aids should help you to increase comfort and safety when accessing and driving your car.
Image courtesy of iStock.