Tag Archives: Driving Controls

Options For Driving From A Wheelchair

There are two options for a person who uses a wheelchair to drive an accessible vehicle. They can drive from their wheelchair and or transfer to the driver’s seat.

Drive from your wheelchair
Driving controls can be adapted to operate from your wheelchair. Usually this means some form of hand controls, though other solutions are possible. There will also be an automatic docking system to secure your wheelchair. All of this will be designed around you and your wheelchair as part of your assessment from an experienced mobility installer.


  • Because you have the opportunity to travel by yourself, you need to be sure you are able to get out in an emergency.
  • Typically wheelchair accessible vehicle have fail-safe devices for the doors, ramps/lifts and docking systems. These include battery backups and manual over-rides.

Other drivers

  • In many wheelchair accessible vehicles, the front passenger seat can be switched to the drivers side, and there is a docking system on both sides so you can travel as a passenger.

Assessment and training

  • If you’re going to be using adapted controls, you will need a professional driving assessment and training.

Transfer to the Driver’s Seat
Some wheelchair users prefer to transfer to a driving seat because they find it more comfortable or easier to drive. Sometimes it’s necessary because your wheelchair may not be suitable for driving. Using the standard car seat also means that you don’t need to fit a specialist seat belt.

By contrast, transferring into the driver seat may not be suitable if you have a specialist seating system in your wheelchair and may be difficult if you have limited mobility.

Wheelchair accessible vehicles can be adapted to allow you to enter with your wheelchair or scooter (by ramp or lift), secure the wheelchair or scooter in the vehicle, and then transfer to the driving seat. You can replace the standard car seat with one that swivels and slides so that you can transfer into it more easily.


  • You will need a docking system for securing the wheelchair – you need to be able to do this by yourself.
  • Because you may be traveling by yourself, you need to be sure you will be able to get out in an emergency.


  • Transferring between the wheelchair and the seat does take some effort – make sure you can do it even on a bad day.
  • Make sure there is enough room in the vehicle to let you transfer comfortably and that there are handholds and supports where you need them. You may need to fit extra hand rails or other supports.

Assessment and training

  • If you’re going to be using adapted controls, you will need a professional driving assessment and training.

How to Choose the Right Mobility Vehicle for You

With several mobility vehicle options available, how do you know which one is going to be the best fit for you?

Most vehicles can be modified with hand controls, foot pedals and adaptive equipment to make driving easier for someone who has limited mobility. While those modifications help you drive, they don’t actually help you get into the vehicle. Picking the right mobility vehicle should start with entry.

When you use a wheelchair to get around, it’s important you have a vehicle that allows you to get in and out in the most convenient way possible. If you have good upper-body strength and can’t stand the thought of driving a van, you may be able to get by using a sedan or coupe – at least for a little while. If you use a large power chair that won’t fit in the back seat of a car or have no one to help you get it there even if it could, a full-size or minivan might be more appropriate.

To find out the differences between mobility vehicles so you can pick the right one for you, consider the benefits and disadvantages of each type below.

Sedans and Coupes
Having a sedan or coupe usually means you have to transfer from your wheelchair to the car seat, which can put a lot of strain on your arms and shoulders – or those of your caregiver. When you think about a long-term solution, having to transfer and load a wheelchair for many years may not be practical. Not only that, but if the weather isn’t ideal (snow, rain, excessive heat), this all becomes even more difficult. Standard cars can have motorized lifts or platforms attached to them, but those are generally just for loading a wheelchair in the back or trunk and don’t help with your transfer.

While cars might not be the most practical solution for all wheelchair users, many people still choose them because they are more stylish than a van and tend to be less expensive. The cost of the vehicle with gas is generally less on an unconverted sedan or coupe than a converted van. Plus, if you already own a car, getting assistive equipment is cheaper than buying a brand new mobility vehicle.

SUVs are similar to sedans and coupes in that they usually require a transfer from the wheelchair to the car seat. That means they don’t work for wheelchair users without much upper-body strength or strong caregivers, especially since SUVs sit higher and the transfer involves more lifting. SUVs also don’t have a lot of interior space and may not fit larger wheelchairs – even in the trunk.

One of the major benefits of having an accessible SUV is the All-Wheel Drive feature, which makes driving in inclement weather a little bit safer, especially when hand controls are used.

Wheelchair-accessible minivans are one of the most practical options for someone with limited mobility. Converted minivans usually come with a ramp system and automatic sliding door to make entry and exit into the vehicle easy – without having to leave your wheelchair. This makes getting in and out much quicker and puts almost no stress on the body of the wheelchair user or caregiver. In addition, some wheelchair-accessible minivans offer different seating options so you can sit in the front and avoid feeling like cargo.

Converted minivans are one of the most convenient options, as they are large enough to fit a wheelchair user, but not so large they may be hard to drive and park for if you have limited mobility. While these might be the perfect solution for many wheelchair users, some people don’t like the idea of driving a minivan and you always have to park with enough space on the side to lower the ramp.

Full-Size Vans
Full-size mobility vans are a great option for larger wheelchair users or those in heavy power chairs. While these vehicles offer the most space, having a full-size van also usually means you use a lift, which takes up space inside the vehicle and may rattle around when you drive. Lift operation may also take longer than that of a ramp and often requires the assistance of another person. Having a lift, however, does make loading and unloading possible without having to transfer from the wheelchair.

While each type of mobility vehicle has its perks and drawbacks, it’s important to find the one that works best for you. It is critical to find a reliable wheelchair-accessible vehicle or adaptive equipment manufacturer so you get a product that will last. If you need additional assistance in determining which option is ideal for you, talk to an authorized mobility dealer and ask for a demo of the vehicles that interest you.

Reduced and no effort Advanced Quadriplegic and Paraplegic Driving Controls

We have installed Advanced Driving Controls, or “High-Tech Driving Systems”, creating options for wheelchair drivers with higher levels of disability for over 25 years. Our driving controls are truly a custom mobility solution for todays quadriplegic driver. As a result, the key components of these systems are combined, fitted and installed based on an extremely thorough process developed over decades of evaluation, prescriptions and fine-tuning experience.

We have installed quadriplegic assistive driving controls and adaptive mobility devices for individuals with disabilities with more severe higher levels of injury that require more sophisticated types of assistive technology to enable them to drive safely in hundreds of vehicles.
The mobility driving controls and technologies we install have been accepted by the Federal Veterans Administration Agency for sale and distribution throughout the United States.

We are a leading installer of adaptive driving systems in the New England Area. Automotive Innovations offers an electro-mechanical driving system that gives people with disabilities an opportunity to drive.
We believe independence is an important part of life, which is why we strive to build the best Adaptive Mobility vans on the market.

A quad servo driving systems can be installed into almost any vehicle. We can install systems into anything from a Lamborghini to a Ford. We always tailor our driving systems to meet the Independent needs of the individual. Each of our vans is designed for a specific individual and there adaptive mobility equipment needs.

Servo driving systems are designed with our customers in mind. All secondary controls (i.e.. heating, AC, windows) are on touch pads or toggle switch consoles that are within inches of your hands so they are easily accessible. The steering can be a zero effort, reduced-effort or servo steering system. This allows our customers the ability to make turns with very little effort. The Gas and Brake system is also a hand-controlled function, which is built custom for each customer’s unique needs.

Automotive Innovations has a long history of providing adaptive vehicle mobility solutions and modifications for quadriplegic drivers.

We install a variety of primary driving control options designed to operate the gas, brake and steering controls of a motor vehicle. In years past, we developed a number of independent driving systems such as the popular Electronic Gas Brake, Servo Steering, and Joystick steering.

Primary driving control system provides low-effort control and mobility solutions for your specific requirements to operate the factory gas, brake, and steering controls. A variety of unique interfaces to the control system are available and can be mounted nearly anywhere in the driver’s area of the vehicle. These “input devices,” as they are called, have the look and feel of factory driving controls, but are designed specifically for the purpose of maximizing your abilities.

Servo steering and servo gas brake utilizes a sophisticated design to convert your limited mechanical input into the ability to manipulate the factory gas and brake pedals and or the factory steering column. Whether you require just gas and brakes, or just steering, or gas, brakes, and steering, Automotive Innovations Bridgewater, MA has adaptive mobility equipment solutions for you!

Reduced Effort Modifications

Reduced effort steering systems. All the modifications that are done in Bridgewater, MA are used in conjunction with hand controls and other accessible adaptations to reduce the physical strength required to perform the operations of braking and steering. Reduced effort braking and reduced effort steering are modification packages that make the steering wheel or brake pedal easier to turn or push. The level of assistance or “reduced-effort” is adjusted to the level prescribed by the driver rehabilitation specialist, based on the strength of the driver.

Reduced Effort Steering

Reduced Effort Steering modification to steering boxes and steering racks are available for most all American vans and most cars with factory power steering. Standard factory power steering requires approximately 40 ounces of effort to operate. Steering modifications can reduce the required effort to 20-24 ounces (low effort) or 6-8 ounces (no effort). (These statistics will vary depending on model of car and tire size)

Reduced effort steering modification reduces the amount of effort it takes to move a steering wheel. There is low effort to no effort available depending on the model of car and tire size.

Low effort and no effort braking modifications significantly reduces the required pressure needed to press down on a pedal to brake.

Backup Steering Systems

Emergency power assisted steering if factory power steering system fails. Test circuits are provided which enable customers to check system prior to driving. Audio and visual alarms alert driver to factory power steering failure–backup system instantaneously activates. Does not require low or no effort steering modification.

Custom Steering Column Extensions

We install custom steering systems, columns, and extensions.

Foot Steering Systems
For those customers without arms or the use of them, the foot steering system is usually combined with sensitized steering and adaptations for other dash controls. Automotive Innovations understands that most items concerning foot controlled steering need to be customized and built to and individuals specific needs.
Automotive Innovations Bridgewater, MA can install your custom foot steering system. Call us today 508-697-6006 and speak with one of our mobility experts.  We recommend mid- to full-sized American cars and some minivans for this modification.

Servo Hand Controls

Gas Brake Hand Controls in the advanced driving aid category are of course more advanced and are typically for individuals with very limited mobility and strength for operating a vehicle. A slight touch of various adaptive devices allow the car to accelerate and brake with ease.
Electric Gas and Brakes are operated from an electric servo in the form of a joystick, Tri-Pin or lever input device. Individuals can then use their hands to control their speed and to brake.

Servo Steering Controls

Servo steering allows the steering control to be located almost anywhere to assist the operator and can be fitted with a miniature or small steering wheel.

Horizontal Steering Systems

Horizontal Steering System accommodates a limited range of motion when the driver cannot use a conventional steering wheel.

The horizontal steering system is customized to meet the needs of those with high-level spinal cord injuries and all others who experience limited arm strength and range of motion. It is usually used in conjunction with our servo hand controls.