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Expert Advice: Modifying a Vehicle to Accommodate Wheelchairs

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Modifying a Vehicle to Accommodate Wheelchairs

If you or a loved one has a disability that affects their mobility or their ability to comfortably drive a vehicle, there is hope. 

Thanks to vehicle modifications and the Americans with Disability Discrimination Act of 1990, you have options.

To make sure you have access to quick and affordable transportation, here are some helpful tips about obtaining and driving with vehicle modifications. 

We’ll also cover how car insurance for wheelchair-adapted vehicles ties into the Americans with Disability Discrimination Act of 1990.

What modifications can be made to a vehicle to accommodate disabilities?

There are a variety of ways that a vehicle can be modified to accommodate a wheelchair, depending on the needs of the driver. 

Some common modifications include:

  • Installing a wheelchair lift or ramp.
  • Widening doorways and hallways.
  • Lowering the car’s floor.
  • Adding a swivel seat.
  • Adding hand controls or other adaptive devices.
  • And more.

Be aware, however, if any specific disability has legal limitations on the road, for instance, the limitations and safety constraints of driving with one eye. 

This could mean you will be unable to obtain a license or undergo additional testing.

The Americans with Disabilities Discrimination Act (ADA) of 1990

From a public transportation perspective, you do have more options now thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Discrimination Act (ADA) of 1990. This Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including transportation.

The ADA requires that newly designed and constructed buses, trains, and other public transportation vehicles be accessible to people with disabilities. 

If you have a disability and use a wheelchair, you have the right to use any public transportation service that is available to the general public.

In addition, when it comes to car insurance, companies are not allowed to discriminate against people with disabilities. 

This means that car insurance companies must provide the same coverage and rates to people with disabilities as they do to people without disabilities.

How to Find a Reliable Mechanic

There are a few ways to find a reliable mechanic who can help you modify your vehicle to accommodate a wheelchair. 

You can ask for recommendations from friends, family, or other people in the disability community. 

You can also search online for mechanics in your area who have experience working on adaptive equipment.

Once you’ve found a few potential mechanics, be sure to ask them about their experience with adaptive equipment and car modifications. 

You should also ask for a quote to get an idea of how much the work will cost.

Making the decision to modify your vehicle to accommodate a wheelchair is a big decision. However, with the right resources and support, it can be a very positive experience.

The Benefits of Modifying a Vehicle to Accommodate a Disability

There are many benefits to modifying a vehicle to accommodate a wheelchair. 

Some of the most common benefits include:

  • Increased independence.
  • Improved mobility.
  • Greater access to transportation.
  • Enhanced safety and security.

You’ll find that any options in life to make your surroundings more accessible will be well worth it in the long run. 

Whether it’s installing a swivel seat and hand controls in your vehicle or simple things at home like installing the best bath chair possible.

The Benefits of Modifying a Vehicle to Accommodate a Disability

The Cost of Modifying a Vehicle

The cost of modifying a vehicle to accommodate a wheelchair will vary depending on the type and extent of the modifications. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a new vehicle that is fully modified with adaptive equipment could cost anywhere from $20,000 to $80,000.

Some common modifications, such as installing a wheelchair lift or ramp, can cost between $500 and $5000. 

More extensive modifications, such as widening doorways and hallways, can cost upwards of $10,000.

If you need help paying for the modifications to your vehicle, there are a few options available. 

Many states have programs that can help cover the cost of car modifications for people with disabilities.

There are also a number of nonprofit organizations that offer financial assistance for car modifications. 

Some of those agencies and funds promoted by the Northwest Access Fund include:

  • Alyssa V. Phillips Foundation.
  • Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation.
  • Travis Roy Foundation: Quality of Life Grant.
  • Veteran’s Affairs – Automobile Allowance and Adaptive Equipment.

You can also reach out to your state government office responsible for persons with disabilities to learn about additional local resources.

Tips for Driving a Modified Car

For many people with disabilities, a modified car can be a lifesaver. 

By making simple modifications, such as installing a ramp or hand controls, people with mobility limitations can regain their independence and enjoy the freedom of the open road.

However, driving a modified car can take some getting used to. 

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your modified car:

  1. Practice using the car’s controls and features before hitting the road. This will help you feel more comfortable behind the wheel.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. This is especially important when backing up or entering traffic.
  3. Drive defensively and give yourself plenty of time to brake or make turns. (Insurance tip: Taking a defensive driving class could reduce your rate by 5-10%.)
  4. Follow all laws and regulations regarding modified cars. In some states, for example, you may need to have special license plates or insurance in order to drive a modified car.
  5. If you have any questions or concerns about driving a modified car, don’t hesitate to consult with your doctor or an occupational therapist who specializes in adaptive driving.

With a little practice and precaution, you’ll be behind the wheel in no time.

Hitting the Road

Modifying a vehicle to accommodate a wheelchair or other disability is a big decision. 

However, it can be a very positive experience that enhances independence and mobility. 

Be sure to do your research and consult with experts to ensure that the process is done correctly.

Additionally, car insurance companies should be notified of any changes made to your vehicle. 

With the right resources and support, you can make the modifications you need to live a more independent life.

Luke Williams writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, His passions include insurance and helping disabled drivers travel with ease and comfort.

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