Vehicle Modifications

Vehicle Modifications

Key Takeaways

What is Assistive Technology (AT) for Vehicle Modifications?

  • Vehicle modification refers to changing a vehicle by replacing, adding, or removing a vehicle’s components/systems.
  • Equipment may be installed to enable an individual with disabilities to access and/or drive the vehicle.
  • Adaptive equipment, or AT, for vehicles is a device needed by a person with a disability to drive, enter, exit, or be transported safely.
  • Examples include seats, grips, handles, and ramps to assist in entering/exiting the vehicle; devices to assist with buckling and unbuckling the seat belt; hand controls for braking and/or accelerating; modified steering controls; adjustable driver’s seats; and automatic door openers.

Common No-Tech and Low-Tech Vehicle Modification AT Solutions:

  • Using some common household items, individuals may be able to safely make handles/grips to assist in getting in/out of the vehicle and other supports to ease with buckling/unbuckling.
  • Due to safety issues, it is advised that vehicle modifications should be completed by an experienced and reputable modified vehicle dealer.

Who, When, and Where is AT for Vehicle Modification Appropriate?

  • This AT is appropriate for individuals who want/need the independence of driving, entering, exiting, or being transported safely in a vehicle.
  • AT for vehicle modifications is needed when conducting a comprehensive evaluation to find the adaptive equipment most suited for an individual’s needs and medical condition.
  • This AT is appropriate for individuals with disabilities to use during driving exams and once the individual has passed the written and practical components of the exam.
  • Vehicle modification options depend on the type and severity of the person’s disability, role/function in the vehicle (whether passenger or driver), and whether the vehicle can accommodate the needed modification.
  • People who have upper body and/or lower limitations in strength, range of motion, and/or coordination may need vehicle modifications to drive. Anyone who needs to access their vehicle from a wheelchair will need vehicle modifications.

Why is Vehicle Modification AT Important?

  • A modified vehicle allows a person to stay more independently connected to the community and complete meaningful daily activities.
  • People with physical disabilities have unique challenges to driving, entering, exiting, and being transported safely that may be overcome with AT for vehicle modification.

Situations for Vehicle Modification AT:

School Environment

  • Commuting to/from school
  • Attending field trips
  • Commuting to off-site class buildings
  • Attending extracurricular activities

Work Environment

  • Commuting to/from work
  • Attending off-site work/lunch meetings
  • Leaving for lunch breaks/errands
  • Attending evening work events

 Home Environment

  • Traveling to family reunions/birthdays/gatherings
  • Attending baby showers and other holiday get-togethers

Community

  • Traveling to a doctor’s/financial appointment
  • Going to the grocery store, farmers market, gym
  • Visiting a friend’s house
  • Attending church, concerts, movies, theaters, fairs

Commonly Asked Questions about Vehicle Modification AT:

  • Q – Can people with disabilities drive?
    • A – All states allow people with disabilities to obtain a driver’s license unless the disability would inhibit the safe operation of a vehicle.
  • Q – What are common vehicle modifications?
    • A – The most common modifications are hand controls, steering aids, clutch conversions, seat belt modifications, custom seating, lifts, ramps, automatic door openers, remote switches, pedal extensions, space modifications, and wheelchair carriers.
  • Q – What if the need for a modified vehicle is temporary?
    • A – Modified vehicles are available to rent in Oklahoma. Please refer to ABLE Tech’s demonstration partners at Handicapped Vehicle Sales & Services at 918-622-8400, United Access at 877-578-1576, or Newby Vance at 405-518-0167.

   AT Solutions at ABLE Tech:

Visit ABLE Tech’s Short-Term Loan Inventory

Visit ABLE Tech's Vehicle Modifications and Transportation AT/DME Reuse/Exchange Inventory

Helpful Links and PDF Resources:

Guides and Articles:

Video/Webinar/Podcast Resources:

VEHICLE MODIFICATION CASE STUDIES

Case Studies of Individuals in Multiple Environments: Education, Employment, and Community Living with Vehicle Modification AT Needs and Recommendations

 Case Study #1

8-year-old boy, third grade, autism - demonstrating difficulty with body awareness, no safety awareness, carpools to/from school

The child uses a 5-point harness car seat in the family car due to poor safety awareness. The child will unbuckle, remove his arms from the seat belt, and slide out of the booster. The child carpools with friends to/from school. Carpooling requires the parents to regularly shift the large 5-point harness car seat from vehicle to vehicle. The family would like to find an alternative car seat that is safe and easier to transfer.

Possible Recommendations:

A low-tech AT solution is a traveling car seat that is age-, weight-, height- appropriate, and safe for the child. A mid-tech to high-tech choice is a customized car seat. The family would need to have a comprehensive car seat evaluation completed by a professional.

Goals and Outcomes:

With the use of AT, the student will ride to/from school without unbuckling the seat belt.

SETT Framework for feature-matching forms based on the Student, Environment, Tasks, and Tools model.

Case Study Forms – SETT Framework
Sample Solutions:

Case Study #2

29-year-old, married, two children, Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, loss of fine motor skills in the hands

The parent has had significant loss of fine motor skills over the past year. The parent is unable to manipulate small items using her fingertips. This has affected many daily tasks but the most serious is unbuckling the car seats for the children while out on errands. The mother would like to independently take the children places.

Possible Recommendations:

The recommendation is to use a low-tech AT device to release the buckle of the car seat. There are several options, but the most appropriate choice would be to select a device that requires minimal dexterity.

Goals and Outcomes:

The parent will use AT to unbuckle the car seats independently.

SETT Framework for feature-matching forms based on the Student, Environment, Tasks, and Tools model.

Case Study Forms – SETT Framework

Sample Solutions:

Case Study #3

17-year-old, student, basketball player, extreme leg pain, diagnosis of sciatica, otherwise healthy

The student has been benched this basketball season due to a diagnosis of sciatica. The student is receiving physical therapy along with pain-relieving medication for treatment. The student is complaining of difficulties transferring out of the car due to the lower leg pain from sitting during car rides.

Possible Recommendations:

The recommendation is to use a sit-to-stand aid to change the position of where the person grips onto the car to stabilize or pull himself up from the car.

Goals and Outcomes:

With the use of AT, the student will sit-to-stand with minimal to moderate assistance.

See the attached HAAT (Human Activity Assistive Technology) Model form to see how to match the student to the needed AT.

Case Study Forms – SETT Framework

Sample Solutions:

Case Study #4

A 40-year-old, Progressive Muscular Atrophy (PMA), loss of strength in the left foot, fatigue, and lower extremity cramping

The gentleman has recently been diagnosed with PMA. Currently, he is having difficulty with increased falls and is unable to transfer from the car seat to a wheelchair and back independently. The caretaker can no longer lift the gentleman for transfers due to a back injury.

Possible Recommendations:

The recommendation is to use a transfer board to safely and easily move an individual from one surface to another. A transfer board assists individuals with disabilities and caregivers as it limits physical strain on the back and legs.

Goals and Outcomes:

The caregiver will use AT to transfer the gentleman in and out of the vehicle with minimal difficulty.

See the attached HAAT (Human Activity Assistive Technology) Model form to see how to match the individual to needed AT.

Case Study Forms – HAAT Model

Sample Solutions: 

Case Study #5

A 75-year-old, independent, increasing hip pain, living with spouse, otherwise healthy, enjoys hiking, gardening, and family events

The individual went to the doctor with complaints of increasing hip pain. The doctor noted right hip osteoarthritic degeneration. The doctor recommended a total hip replacement. The individual would like to obtain a piece of equipment to aid her right leg when getting in and out of the car after surgery to decrease dependence on the spouse.

Possible Recommendations:

The recommendation is to use an affordable leg lifter that offers a secure grip and is adjustable for added support and to aid in lifting the right leg to transfer in and out of the car.

Goals and Outcomes:

The individual will use AT to transfer in and out of the car independently.

See the attached HAAT Model form to see how to match the individual to needed AT.

Case Study Forms – HAAT Model
Sample Solutions:

Case Study #6

An 80-year-old farmer, retired butcher, moderate basal ganglia stroke, right-side neglect, fair balance, fatigues easily

The individual had a stroke while bailing hay. The farmer uses a wheelchair for most of the day due to balance difficulties and right-side neglect. He has minimal difficulty with activities of daily living around the home while sitting in a wheelchair. The farmer desires to keep his ranch but is having difficulty with sit-to-stand transfers in and out of the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) when checking cattle. He can stand for 15 minutes to account for cattle before becoming fatigued.

Possible Recommendations:

The recommendation is to use a standing aid to provide support during sit-to-stand transfers. The aid needs to be adjustable, easy to transport, and stable with a large handle to grip.

Goals and Outcomes:

The farmer will use a standing aid to transfer in and out of the ATV to count cattle without assistance.

See the attached HAAT Model form to see how to match the individual to needed AT.

Case Study Forms – HAAT Model

Sample Solutions:

Funding Sources for Persons in Multiple Environments with Vehicle Modification and AT Needs

Public Sources 

Private Sources