Mobility Means Freedom

The loss of mobility is a serious concern when you’re living with a spinal cord injury. Getting around home as well as out and about present different challenges. But they can be overcome with determination, planning and the help of adaptive technologies.

On the road

In North America, we love our cars and the freedom of the open road or even the downtown streets. The ability to get mobile gives us choice and autonomy, both of which are important aspects of mental health. We also value the safety features in our cars. Today’s modified vehicles offer both: adaptive equipment that provides independence as well as reliability. Whether you are considering purchasing a wheelchair-accessible van or converting your own vehicle, the journey begins by reviewing your options. Why not think about attending a Peer Support event on the subject of vehicle modification, or chatting with someone who’s taken the plunge and modified their vehicle. The more you learn, the more confident you’ll feel in making the decision to drive.

Choosing the right features

After an assessment with your health care team to determine a range of appropriate modifications, the next step is to speak to an experienced provider of vehicle conversions. These are specialists who can offer mobility solutions and ensure the right fit for every need.

Here are some basic considerations:

  • Will you be the driver or the passenger?
  • Can you transfer to a seat or will you stay in your wheelchair?
  • If you can transfer, how and where will you store your wheelchair?
  • If you can’t transfer or prefer not to, will you use a manual ramp with the help of a caregiver or a powered ramp you can operate yourself?

 

Click the photo above to view some examples of vehicle modification.

A driver who uses a wheelchair requires more modifications than does a passenger, such as hand controls for accelerating and braking. You can also acquire a van that accommodates both a wheelchair and a regular car seat in the driving position. The front passenger seat slides along a rail to leave a gap on either the driver or passenger side for a wheelchair to be locked down. This way, several drivers can use the vehicle.

A driver who can transfer, on the other hand, will have more options as to the type of vehicle and will require fewer modifications.

Getting the right training

It takes some time and practice to learn how to drive a modified vehicle, and there are certified driver rehabilitation specialists who offer this support. Ministry of Transportation approved driver rehabilitation services are available to ensure you are capable and confident in your driving.

What about the costs?

Modified vehicles cost more than standard, drive-off-the-lot options. There are a number of organizations that will provide financial aid if their requirements are met. These include the Easter Seal Society, the Ontario March of Dimes, some Kin Canada and Lions Clubs, some religious organizations, and Veterans Affairs Canada for those who have served.

There are also tax refunds, medical expenses programs and car manufacturers programs available, such as the Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen mobility programs.


Here is additional information from our topic sponsor, Universal Motion.