Rica's consumer information, aimed at older and disabled people, is based on independent research, the experiences of consumers and experts, and is completely unbiased.
If you've driven before, think about:
- how your disability has affected you
- which controls you'll need to adapt
- your ability to drive in the future
If you've never driven before:
- it can be frustrating sometimes so be patient with yourself
- get advice from a mobility centre, especially about seating and posture
- make really sure the controls are adjusted for your comfort and ask them to be re-adjusted if, after a while, you find they're not comfortable and are causing you to tire or have problems
- find a specialist driving instructor for disabled drivers
- its difficult to know how you will find driving with hand controls and its impact on your driving
- think about how frequently you'll drive and if other people will be driving the car as well
- sitting in a car seat trying the various controls will give you an idea of what you can do and what you'll have to adapt
- do you think you need an assessment?
- talk to other disabled drivers and read our driving controls research report
For advice on controls or adaptations, contact a mobility centre which:
- provides an independent and professional assessment and advice service
- has staff with expert knowledge and are independent - none of them has any interest in any particular company
- are likely to have come across people with similar requirements to yours
- can provide an assessment to see what equipment may suit you, helping you decide what controls may suit you with a chance to try them out either on a test rig or in a real vehicle. Assessments can vary in cost from £50 - £90.
Car adaptation suppliers and fitters will advise on their own equipment.
- If you're part of their Scheme, Motability may pay for an assessment at a Mobility Centre and cover any adaptations under their Managed Adaptation Programme.
- Adaptation companies use the assessment report to help them find the most suitable products for you.
- Be prepared for the recommendations to change - the car you choose may not be the one you tried when you were assessed and the equipment may be slightly different too.
- The converter will usually discuss any proposed changes with the Mobility Centre that carried out the assessment.
- Always voice your own opinions during any discussions.
Tips from disabled drivers
We conducted a survey of disabled drivers who said:
- many felt they were the experts on their own abilities but appreciated advice from those who knew about car controls.
- they were most impressed with companies that discussed options fully and listened closely to what they had to say.
- 'Be honest - get an assessment at a time when you're least able - at the end of the day when you feel tired.'
- 'Make sure it will be what you need for the period of time you'll have the vehicle, or if your condition worsens.'
- 'Make sure everyone listens to what you have to say and what you want, and not what they think you should have.'
- 'See as many controls as you can.'
- 'Trying out driving controls is important' - go to a Mobility Centre, the Mobility Roadshow or Motability One Big Days to try off-road 'then personal needs and experience takes over - you know what suits you.'
- think about your future abilities and ask how adjustable the controls can be set if you become weaker.
Is anyone else going to drive the car?
- Most drivers stressed that it was important to consider the other people who used their car.
- Make sure any adaptation doesn't make it difficult for other drivers to get into and out of the car and doesn't make driving difficult or uncomfortable for them.
- With some push-pull systems, the steering wheel is in a fixed position.
In January 2017 we held two workshops with new users of driving controls at QEF Mobility Services, Carshalton, Surrey. This research report, which is intended for professionals advising disabled people, is the result. It has useful comments and advice from disabled drivers: Primary driving controls research report (PDF).
Last updated: July 2017