How are cars modified for disabled drivers?
Driving is one of those things that is open to nearly everyone, and there are some great companies around the world that help disabled drivers get behind the wheel of a car. You won’t just find them out on public roads though; British motorsport is open to those with the skills to keep up with the country’s best drivers, even if they’re missing a limb or two. The cars receive modification to keep things fair, but the principles of operation remain the same.
One of the major hurdles is the fact that those who are disabled often aren’t able to access all of the things that a normal car requires. This could be difficulty in changing gear, or being able to press all of the pedals when they are needed. This is the main way in which cars are modified; an extra attachment is added which means that the driver can operate things with a different part of their body to what you might expect.
On The Track
The gear lever can be a particular challenge for those who have trouble moving it. You’d think that an automatic car could be used, but this is not always ideal. Most racing drivers prefer to have the control of manual transmission when they’re controlling the car, and in many race events, the transmission is stipulated, meaning all cars must either be manual or automatic. To get round this issue, modifiers will install a system similar to paddle-shift, but which mimics the act of pressing the clutch as accurately as possible.
On the other side of things, drivers with a missing leg cannot use all three pedals as is traditionally required. Again, automatic transmission makes things easier, but does not always solve the issue. Cars designed for these drivers will have extra mechanisms up by the steering wheel which can be operated by hand. These additions can control whatever the driver might need, whether it be the throttle, brake or clutch.
Modifying a car to be suitable for a disabled driver isn’t always difficult or expensive for those who wish to use the vehicle on public roads, but fairness is essential when it comes to racing. It’s very important that nobody, including the disabled driver, has an unfair advantage.
On The Road
There are a huge number of ways road cars can be changed to accommodate the needs of the driver, some of which you might never have thought of. Some people have trouble raising their arms for instance, and while the basic operation of the car is no trouble, pressing the horn and turning on indicators can be difficult. Foot switches can be installed to solve this issue.
Of course, there are a great many people who have no trouble operating the car, but getting into it can be difficult. For this reason, companies like Allied Mobility provide used wheelchair accessible vehicles so that getting in and out isn’t a problem.