Adapting your vehicle

You can get your vehicle adapted so that driving is safe and comfortable and getting in and out of the car is easier. There are motoring accessories available for people with upper or lower body disabilities, or both.

Motoring accessories for disabled people

These accessories include:

  • hand controls to operate the accelerator and brake
  • steering wheel knobs that help you turn the wheel more easily and give greater control
  • accessories to help you get in and out of your vehicle like wheelchair hoists, ramps and tail lifts
  • cushions, covers and support
  • adapted mirrors
  • safety belts, seat belts and harnesses
  • rotating seats
  • people lifts
  • wheelchair hoists

The research charity RICA has published a number of guides that look in depth at the various types of adaptations available to help you drive if you have a disability, including:

  • car controls
  • people lifters
  • how to get a wheelchair into a car

The guides also contain details of suppliers who carry out adaptations.

For an independent assessment of your adaptation needs, contact the Forum of Mobility Centres.

For information on assistance with financing your adaptations, contact Motability.

Adapting your vehicle for upper body disabilities

If you've lost the use of one arm or have a weakened arm, you may consider adaptations including:

  • a steering wheel knob fitted to the rim of the steering wheel
  • automatic transmission
  • direction indicators and the horn within finger reach or as foot controls, which you can operate without letting go of the wheel
  • moving the handbrake to the right of the driver's seat
  • joystick steering

If you have an artificial limb fitted below the elbow you can drive a car using a special concave limb attachment fitted over the steering wheel or the gear lever.

Even if you've lost the use of both arms, you can still drive with redesigned car controls. You could also try a foot steering system.

Adapting a vehicle for lower body disabilities

If you've lost the use of one of your legs or have reduced usage in one leg, the adaptations you may consider include:

  • an automatic transmission car, which does not require the use of a clutch
  • moving the accelerator on an automatic car to the left side of the foot brake if you have a right leg disability
  • a semi-automatic clutch, which allows you to use a manual gearbox without clutch pedals

If you've lost the use of both legs, you may consider adaptations like:

  • hand controls, especially with an automatic transmission (these come in a variety of models)
  • steering assistance

If you get your car adapted or hire or buy an adapted car, it's important to get good advice and training on using the vehicle. This is especially true for adaptations like a left-foot accelerator.

Adapting your vehicle for easier access

There are accessories and adaptations that can make it easier to get in and out of your vehicle. This may be particularly important if you're in a wheelchair.

You may be able to get into your car from the driver's side, passenger side or rear (on a hatchback). Your choice of entry will determine the type of adaptations you need for your vehicle.

For entry from the driver's or passenger's door, you need wide doors and preferably a sliding and swivelling aid. Vehicle conversion specialists produce wheelchair accessible vehicles.

Transferring from a wheelchair to your car

It can be difficult to transfer from a wheelchair into a car. You can use a board, lifting belts or leg lifters. There are also hoists, lifts (to lift you and your chair into the car) and specially converted cars or vans that you can drive your wheelchair into.

Disability Action's Mobility Centre

Disability Action's Mobility Centre is the only centre of its kind in Northern Ireland and promotes the independence of people with disabilities by offering advice and assessment on all aspects of personal mobility.

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