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Cars are fun to drive, and everyone should be able to enjoy them equally. Physical disabilities limit some people from driving the same way as others. Still, there are ways to make accessible cars and inclusive. What modifications can you make? Are there already cars on the market with accessible features? This guide tells you everything you need to know about cars for people with physical disabilities.
How Can You Make Accessible Cars for Those With Disabilities?
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) says over 13 million American adults between 18 and 64 have travel-limiting disabilities. These conditions require modifications to make their vehicles more accessible. Here are six examples of improvements to make more accessible cars.
Among the most common modifications you’ll see is the wheelchair lift. This mechanism raises wheelchairs up and down, making getting in and out of their vehicles easier. Wheelchair lifts are convenient because the person doesn’t have to exit their wheelchair — the machine does the work for them. You’ll typically see a wheelchair lift in the rear — especially if it’s a van or SUV. Though, wheelchair ramps can be on the side as well.
Some vehicles are hard to get into because they’re high off the ground. Trucks and SUVs, especially when lifted, are challenging even for the average Joe. Seniors and those with disabilities significantly benefit when they have handrails.
These rails make entrance and exit much easier because they reduce the risk of falling and increase independence in the vehicle. The CDC says Americans report 36 million falls annually, so handrails effectively mitigate this problem.
Handrails and wheelchair lifts are awesome, but you need wider doors to get in the car in the first place. Some cars don’t have wide enough doors, but you can modify them to fit your needs. The most common fix is extending the door hinges, typically done with new hinges or extensions. You can also cut the doors and make them longer, thus making it easier to enter the car.
Some people with disabilities elect not to drive. However, plenty of individuals still need to get behind the wheel. They use special tools to operate their cars as safely as everyone else. Hand controls are one of the most valuable mechanisms because they don’t require footwork. You control the brakes and accelerator with your hands, making them terrific for people with arthritis, amputations and other disabilities.
Imagine going on a long road trip with your pals. You should prioritize comfort for everyone if traversing will take more than a few hours. People with disabilities often modify their seats to make them more comfortable as the ride progresses. For example, they may put positioning cushions to relax their body more. Another option is to put additional headrests and neck support to comfort the body — especially if you get rear-ended.
Another common modification you’ll see is adjusted brake and acceleration pedals. Pedal extensions suit those with a hard time reaching the pedals. Sometimes, the car owners will reposition a particular pedal to put it in a more accessible spot. Electronic car pedals are a newer and more expensive adjustment, but they’re worth the price for most vehicles.
What Makes and Models Are Accessible Cars?
People with disabilities drive all types of vehicles, with some makes and models more accessible than others. These four accessible cars stand out as disability friendly.
The most accessible car on the market is the MV-1 from Vehicle Production Group LLC (VPG). The Miami-based manufacturer produced the MV-1 between 2011 and 2016. Still, you may be able to find a used model in some markets.
The MV-1 stands out because it includes a power ramp with no modification needed. This feature is convenient and stands out among similar cabs on the market. The ramp leads to a comfortable interior for riders, making it easier to get around town. Production ended because of VPG’s financial issues.
Ford Tourneo Connect / Volkswagen Caddy
While Ford is famous for its Transit model, the Tourneo Connect is another disability-friendly model on the market. You may also know this vehicle as the Volkswagen Caddy, which debuted in the United States over 40 years ago. The Tourneo Connect is a joint design by Ford and Volkswagen, serving people with disabilities well.
The Tourneo Connect is low to the ground for a van and easy to enter and exit. The doorways are wide, and there are no steps to climb for entry. You could argue this Ford model is the best van and one of the most accessible cars on the market.
Besides vans, there are a few solid options on the car market to make driving easier. While the Caddy is great, Volkswagen also has the Passat for inclusivity. This model is one of VW’s large family cars and is easy for people with disabilities.
The accessibility starts with its vast space inside. The spacious seats and interior provide plenty of room in the front and back seats. Passats are wheelchair accessible and easy to enter and exit. Plus, you can easily modify a Passat to accommodate any unique fix you need.
The Chevrolet Silverado is an excellent choice if you’re looking for an inclusive truck. Trucks are becoming more popular nowadays because they’re terrific workhorses for anybody and any job you do. The Silverado stands out for inclusiveness because it provides a wheelchair lift and hinged doors, making entry and exit much more accessible for those with disabilities.
The cherry on top is the Silverado’s excellent safety rating. Chevy boasts a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), making it one of the most reliable big rigs on the market. With trucks in high demand, the Silverado is a truck to consider for your needs.
Making Accessible Cars for Everyone
Millions of Americans drive cars daily, whether to work or the nearest beach. Driving a car may feel routine for most people, but some with disabilities need assistance going around town. Fortunately, these six modifications and more help these drivers get in and out of their cars and operate them. Also, there are makes and models on the market prioritizing accessibility and making their vehicles beneficial to all.
Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.