Driving is a fundamental activity in our day-to-day lives, allowing us to move from one place to another quickly. The lack of accessible infrastructure and transportation is one of many limiting issues facing prople with quadriplegia.
However, for people with quadriplegia, the ability to drive may seem out of reach due to physical limitations. Quadriplegia is a severe paralysis affecting all body areas below the neck.
Despite this, with modern technology and advancements in vehicle customization, people with quadriplegia can now operate a vehicle and experience the freedom of driving like anyone else.
In this blog, we’ll explore how people with quadriplegia drive and the innovative methods they use to achieve their independence on the road.
Introduction to Adaptive Driving for Quadriplegics
As a person with quadriplegia, you may wonder if driving is feasible. The good news is that adaptive driving allows individuals with limited hand and arm function to hit the open road. Even if you have minimal arm movement, you can still drive using a joystick from the comfort of your wheelchair.
A tri-pin electric hand control system is widely recommended for those with more arm movement. Steering adaptations, blinkers, and lighting systems for quadriplegic drivers are also possible with various adaptive devices. Keep reading to learn more about adaptive driving solutions for people with quadriplegia.
Vehicles Options for Quadriplegics
As a person with quadriplegia, selecting the right vehicle that suits your needs is crucial. You may need to drive from your wheelchair, which can limit your options, but fear not, as many vehicles can be modified. From minivans to full-size trucks, plenty of options are available to suit your taste and lifestyle.
If you can transfer on your own, you can drive a classic car with a push-pull gas brake lever that can be swapped into other vehicles, including rental cars. It’s crucial to assess your needs and level of injury to select the best vehicle and adaptations to ensure your safety and independence on the road.
Assistive technology for quadriplegics
Assistive technology has come a long way in helping quadriplegic drivers operate a vehicle safely. There are various devices available that can make driving easier for individuals with limited mobility in their limbs. These include adapted steering mechanisms, hand controls, and ramps for wheelchair access.
Special modifications can also be made to a vehicle’s pedals and settings to accommodate a quadriplegic’s needs. It is important to consult a specialist to determine the best adaptive technology for each individual’s unique situation.
Adapting vehicles for quadriplegics
Adapting a vehicle for people with quadriplegia is essential for regaining independence and hitting the open road. The level of injury will determine the necessary adaptations and vehicle options. For those unable to transfer from their wheelchair, modified minivans, SUVs, and trucks allow driving directly from the wheelchair. Hand controls, such as tri-pin or push-pull systems, allow gas and brake operation with limited arm movement.
Lateral support and chest straps can aid in maintaining balance while driving. Driver assessment programs are available to ensure safe driving. Funding options are available for those seeking assistance with adapting a vehicle.
Driver Assessment Programs for Quadriplegics
As a person with quadriplegia, it is important to participate in a driver assessment program to determine your ability to drive safely. This program is conducted by a rehab specialist who will assess your functional abilities and suggest techniques and car adaptations that will help keep you safe while driving.
Many rehab facilities offer driver assessment programs, and it is recommended to research nearby hospitals to see what is available. These one-on-one classes with instructors will help you adapt to driving and determine which driving adaptations you’ll need.
Hand Controls and Options for Quadriplegics
Driving may seem daunting, but it can be done with the right-hand controls and options. Tri-pin hand controls, placed on the steering wheel and gas and brake pedals, are a great option if you cannot move your fingers. For those with limited arm and finger movement, a push-pull gas brake lever under the steering wheel is a good option. Electric hand controls are another option, though more expensive. Finding the hand control that works best for you and your specific needs.
Maintaining Balance While Driving
They are maintaining balance while driving is of utmost importance for quadriplegic drivers. While many people with quadriplegia use a chest strap to keep their balance, this may not be enough for some. Lateral side supports can be used to improve balance when driving.
These supports are placed along each side of the torso to help the driver sit upright. Finding the right balance and support that works for you is important to ensure safe driving. Remember, driving with hand controls is possible, and with the right adaptations and equipment, you can confidently hit the open roads.
Expenses and Funding Options for Quadriplegic Drivers
- Look into government funding options such as the Federal Transit Administration’s Section 5310 program, which provides funding for transportation services for elderly and disabled individuals.
- Talk to your insurance provider about coverage options for adaptive equipment needed for driving after a spinal cord injury. Some insurance providers may cover the cost of specific adaptations.
- Check out non-profit organizations such as the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, which may offer grant programs to help cover the cost of adaptive equipment needed for driving.
- Consider crowdfunding options such as gofundme, which allows friends and family to contribute towards the cost of adaptive equipment and modifications needed for driving.
- Look into vocational rehabilitation programs in your state which may offer funding for adaptive driving equipment and services for those seeking to return to work following a spinal cord injury.
- Explore state-specific funding options, such as California’s Department of Rehabilitation, which offers financial assistance for adaptive vehicle modifications for those with disabilities.
Importance of Relearning to Drive after Paralysis
It is important to remember that paralysis does not necessarily mean the end of your driving days. Relearning to drive with the help of a qualified driver trainer and adapted driving equipment can offer a sense of freedom, independence, and adventure for people with quadriplegia.
Proper evaluation and assessment of vision, muscle strength, hand-eye coordination, reaction time, judgment, and decision-making abilities are crucial in determining the specific modifications and equipment necessary to ensure safe and efficient driving. With the right support, you can get back behind the wheel and regain your independence.
Selecting the Right Vehicle for Your Needs
When selecting the right vehicle for your needs as a person with quadriplegia, there are several factors to consider. First and foremost, your level of mobility will determine whether you need to drive from your wheelchair or if you can transfer into a car seat. Beyond that, it’s important to consider the specific adaptations and equipment you will require for safe driving and the size and style of vehicle that will best accommodate your needs.
Opting for a flashy sports car may be tempting, but a more practical minivan or full-size truck may better fit your lifestyle. Consulting with a qualified evaluator and vehicle modification dealer can help you make an informed decision.
Tips for Adapting a Vehicle for Quadriplegics
To adapt a vehicle for people with quadriplegia, there are several tips to remember. Firstly, individuals must consider their spinal cord injury level and the extent of their mobility limitations to determine which adaptations are necessary. Hand controls for steering, brake, and gas are recommended for people with quadriplegia with minimal arm movement. Installing an automated lockdown system for wheelchairs can also provide added driving safety.
Additionally, elbow-controlled systems for blinkers, lights, and other important features are useful for individuals with limited hand dexterity. A steering knob or smaller wheel can also aid those with limited arm movement. It is important to consult with a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist to ensure these adaptations are installed properly and receive personalized training.
In conclusion, driving is still a possibility for those with tetraplegia. The level of SCI and age play a significant role in a person’s ability to operate a vehicle independently. Hand controls are available that can adapt to a variety of injuries and levels of movement. Toilet transfer ability is also a reliable indicator for driver training.
Driving is an important factor that allows individuals with tetraplegia to participate in work and sports-related activities. Using the appropriate equipment and tools, driving remains accessible for those with spinal cord injuries.
How much do hand controls cost?
A hand-control system for people with quadriplegia can cost a minimum of $1500. Joystick-type controls to control the accelerator and steering are more.
Do people with paraplegia need hand controls?
People with paraplegia usually require some type gas and brake lever under the steering wheel for driving. Functional level will determine the amount of adaptive equipment required.
Can people with quadriplegia drive from their wheelchairs?
People with quadriplegia who can’t transfer independently can drive from their wheelchairs using an automated lockdown system that locks their chairs to the car floor
Do people with quadriplegia need extra support for balance while driving?
Most quadriplegics wear a chest strap to keep their balance while driving, but some may require side supports traditionally used for wheelchair seating.
Jim was a healthy and active man until a football accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. He has since learned to navigate life as a person with quadriplegia, which has not slowed him down. Jim is proud of his many accomplishments, including traveling to foreign countries and most regions of the United States. He currently lives with his wife and family dog near Austin, Texas. Jim’s latest accomplishment is authoring “The Last Tackle.“