One of the most difficult issues disabled people face is transportation. Many disabled people are able and willing to drive but, they are unaware of the options available to them. They are often times misguided by misinformation when purchasing the vehicle. I have found that many places that evaluate drivers often use equipment that is meant to serve a wide range of disabled people but may not be right for that individual’s needs. Many wheelchair users are often persuaded or advised to purchase an accessible van or mini van that continues to be the norm for disabled drivers. Although, for some, that is the best option. There are many other choices available right now.
I drove a full size van for about 10 years. It served me well but was difficult to park and very bulky to drive. When I purchased the van at the age of 18, I was advised it would be the best option for me as a wheelchair user. Being young and eager at the time I willingly went along with it. As time went on and I pursued my career in finance I continued dreaming of another vehicle. I always wondered what was out there and what I could make work for me. The search began for another option.
For many people including myself what you drive isn’t just a way of getting around it’s a symbol of social status. As a successful 27 year old business man, driving the van that I had was not going to cut it. What could I get? What would work? I looked at pickup trucks. There is a system out there that actually lowers the seat to transfer and height lifts you up and puts your chair behind you. That was a viable option and one I seriously considered. Chrysler has recently done conversions to their PT cruiser line. However, it resembled too much of a minivan so I passed. I spent over a year researching different models and makes, looking at everything from minivans to chair toppers. I spoke to many different people all with different ideas.
The best advice I could give a disabled driver looking to purchase a vehicle is to get information. Know what you want. Know what to ask and do not be afraid
to ask it. This is your vehicle. Not only should it be a form of transportation but it should also represent your personality.
I decided on a 2002 Saleen S 281 Supercharged Mustang. It has full hand controls and a chair topper where the wheelchair is stored. I had a special seat made due to my short stature. It’s the best thing I ever did. I looked around so much and tested tons of equipment. I learned a corvette could not utilize a chair topper but a mustang could. I worked with the best people I could find in my area. I asked questions and I took my time. Patience for me was never my strong point. Now everyday when I get into it I know I wasn’t pushed or persuaded it is what I wanted.
That is the most important thing. Get what you want. If you think something can’t be done research it. There have been so many advances in the area of disabled driving over the last 5 years alone it’s staggering. Everyone knows his or her own individual needs. When you speak to someone about equipping your vehicle throw your ideas out there. Most conversion places are happy to work with you and utilize your ideas. Prices vary depending on the type of conversion. Most of the major manufactures give rebates on equipment to offset some of the costs. Good luck.