When buying or adapting a car, there are a number of things to consider. For disabled drivers, there are additional things that may affect your decision. Here we provide an outline of the key things to look for, detailed information about the specialist products and techniques that may help you and tips and advice from other disabled drivers.
Motoring with a particular disability
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Advice from disabled drivers
- think about what you may need in the future as well as about what suits you now
- get an assessment or test drive a new car when you are your least able - at the end of the day, when you feel tired
- make sure you get what you know you need and want, and not what others think you should have
- see as many controls as you can
Four steps to getting on the road
1. Ask some basic questions
Prepare to compromise, as you may not find everything in one car. Think about what you need now and what you may need in the future. Ask:
- Who'll drive the car? Will you drive the car, or be a passenger? Either way, think about how you'll be getting in and out and how to be sure you'll be comfortable. (See Getting into and out of a car and Wheelchair accessible vehicles)
- Will I need special controls? There is a big range - from simple gadgets to more complex controls. (See Car controls)
- What equipment will I need to carry? Think about what you'll need every day and what you might need occasionally or for special trips.
- Will I transfer from my wheelchair? Your nearest Mobility Centre can advise you about vehicle converters and adaptations. (See Getting a wheelchair into a car and Getting into and out of a car).
2. Collect information
- Check online
- Read motoring magazines
- Manufacturers' brochures
Other sources include:
- Motability has a list of accredited car dealers that have specialist knowledge and facilities for disabled people. Its guides to adaptations and wheelchair accessible vehicles can be downloaded from their website or a print copy can be ordered for free.
- Mobility Centres and organisations of disabled motorists, which give independent advice and provide a range of services. Mobility Centres can assess if you can drive and tell you what equipment may suit you. Charges vary from centre to centre - from about £50 to £180 for drivers. In Scotland and some other areas, assessment is free if you are referred by a GP. Adaptation firms can use the assessment report to help them find the most suitable equipment for you.
- Mobility Roadshow events with cars and adaptations. These are also useful because you can test drive vehicles there.
- Reviews by disabled drivers that appear regularly in Motability's magazine 'Lifestyle', and in the newsletters of Disabled Motoring UK
3. Try out before you buy
- Try out before buying any car you are considering.
- Dealers may bring one to you and should be able to find an automatic version.
- Try getting in and out several times.
- If you use a wheelchair, check that it fits.
- You might be able to try out adapted cars at a Mobility Centre, a Mobility Roadshow event or a Motability One Big Day or an adaptation firm. They'll tell you whether your adaptations can be fitted to the car.
4. Get plenty of practice
- It's a good idea to have lessons with an instructor using any adaptations you have chosen
- It's essential when you're learning to use a left-foot accelerator. Mobility Centres can provide details.
- Make sure that you are not driving with adaptations for the first time when you collect your car!
- If you're learning or returning to driving, Mobility Centres and Disabled Motoring UK can help you to find a specialist driving instructor with cars with adapted controls or who'll teach you in your own vehicle.