With this week’s bulletin looking at transport, I thought I’d cast my mind back a few weeks to Naidex Scotland 2013. A number of disabled cars were present and it’s interesting to consider some of the ingenious ways that driving has been made accessible to so many.

 

At Naidex we saw some very impressive designs for drivers with a disability, e.g. a fully automatic hoist that stored a person’s wheelchair in a roof box. There was also the driver’s seat that mechanically came right out of the car thus allowing the disabled driver to transfer easily into the car.

And making a vehicle accessible is a great start, but the hope, ultimately, is to give the disabled traveller a greater degree of independence. So it’s definitely worth taking a look at what further adaptations are in place to make independent driving an option for many who otherwise wouldn’t have it.

Here are a couple of examples I came across:

1)    Brig-Ayd Controls are a company that specialise in independent driving for people with a disability. An interesting feature they have is the silverline II push/pull hand controls, which consists of a lever on the right hand side of the steering wheel to control the speed of the car. This, combined with the automatic gear box, makes the pedals redundant and allows drivers who have lost the use of their legs to get back behind the wheel. The lever comes in a couple of different forms and can be accompanied by steering aids attached to the steering wheel.

2)    Auto Adapt offer a similar service with the Carospeed Classic except that the lever has a broader purpose. Not only does it allow the driver to regulate the speed they’re travelling at without the use of their legs, but it also controls the indicators, the headlights and the windshield wipers, all of which require only a flick of the thumb.

3)    If you have limited movement in your upper body, Motability (who were present at Naidex) are one of a number of companies that can provide you with a remote control to activate and deactivate things like the car’s windshield wipers, headlights or horn. This remote is attached to the steering wheel and can make driving much simpler for some.

4)    Lastly, I came across a really interesting little adaptation which I didn’t even suspect existed. I always figured a car’s gearbox was either manual or automatic, with a pedal or without. Well it seems I was oblivious to a third option offered by www.elap.co.uk which is the semi-automatic clutch. In short, if you drive a car with a semi-automatic clutch, the car has a gear stick that you have to shift into gear manually but that requires no pedal for it. This is ideal for drivers who have little or no mobility in their left leg as it is operated (according to the website) via “an infrared sensor on the gear knob [that] detects the hand when changing gear and performs complete operation of the clutch pedal for the driver”. Equally available is the ‘duck clutch’ which has a little lever on the gear stick that serves as the replacement for the pedal.

 

Have you used any of the above devices? What other driving add-ons or adaptations do you think people should know about? Please comment below.

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