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Voices

Fast (and Furious) Facts on Vehicle Modification

By: Emma Lavery

Freedom and autonomy are invaluable to our mental health, and in North America, one of the most celebrated feelings of freedom is driving down an open road. Feeling the wind in your hair and hearing those upbeat road trip tunes is an unbeatable feeling everyone should get to experience. With the help of a little research, vehicle modification and perseverance, you too can rejoin the road.

Here’s a speedy Q&A to introduce you to the world of vehicle modification.

  1. What types of assistive tech are available to me?

There’s an incredibly wide range of vehicle modifications and features catered to a variety of needs, including but not limited to:

  • Modification to access vehicles such as power wheelchair lifts, raised roof systems and lowered floors
  • Change steering systems such as emergency backup systems
  • Secondary controls such as power parking brake or extension levers, electronic touch pad controls and power gear selectors
  • Hand controls for brake or accelerator systems, pedal extensions or reduced-effort brakes
  • Drivers seats that are removable or power seat transfers
  • A variety of other options such as tie-downs for a wheelchair, suspension modifications, and battery backups
  1. How do I know which option is best?

Modifying a vehicle to suit your needs takes time but is absolutely worth the wait. After an assessment with your health care team to determine what your immediate needs are, and how those needs can be accommodated for in the vehicle, the next step is to speak to an experienced provider of vehicle modifications.

Here are some questions to consider when consulting with your health care team and vehicle modification specialist:

  • 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?

      1. What about the cost?

Unfortunately, modified vehicles are more expensive than your standard options. But thankfully, there are several institutions willing to provide financial aid if their requirements are met. These include the Easter Seal Society, March of Dimes Canada’s Home and Vehicle Modification Program, some Kin Canada and Lions Clubs, some religious organizations, Veterans Affairs Canada for those who have served and dealership incentives. For more information on funding, reach out to our Resource Centre.

  1. Let’s say I want to travel? Are accessible vehicles even available?

Thankfully, adapted vehicles are becoming more widely available for rental. With some careful planning (modified rentals are often available with 8-48 hours of notice) you can hop into the driver’s seat of a vehicle with hand operated breaks suited to your accessibility needs. Considering taking a trip and in need of some transportation? For more nuanced information on renting a vehicle check out this blog on the Top 10 things to consider when renting an accessible car.

So, there you have it, a very brief introduction into the world of vehicle modification. If you’re looking to modify your vehicle and hit the road once again, visit our vehicle modifications page for more information.

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