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Driving as a Paraplegic with a Spinal Cord Injury using Drive Controls

Updated on August 29, 2012

Paraplegic Driving

Is it still possible for me to drive?

The question of whether you as a paraplegic can drive is not an easy one to answer and it depends on many different things which I'll go over.

The good news is that on the whole there's a good chance that you're going to be able to drive again as a 'regular' paraplegic. This regards those who cannot use one or both of their legs but who have no other major issues.

Unfortunately as is the case with spinal cord injuries this isn't the end game answer nor can I account for every possibility, however by the end of this hubpage you're going to be well versed as to who will be able to drive... and for those unlucky few those who will not be able to drive.

Ultimately you'll find that hand controls for paraplegic drivers is required for driving as someone without use of one or both of their legs.

Situations when you cannot drive...

There are several common reasons why as a paraplegic you won't be able to drive a vehicle, the next section is going to go over these reasons.

  • The most common reason is unfortunately the money side of things, hand controls cost 250 dollars for the most basic, around 700 dollars (including installation) for permanent decent models and around 2,000 dollars for top of the range products. Not everyone can afford this. It's also worth remembering the additional driving equipment which is almost always necessary, such as pedal guards, wrist grips, steering knobs and secondary car function control keypads - many of these are required and none are particularly cheap.
  • Not legally being allowed to drive due to other ailments, due to disability equality laws in both the US and UK you'll be allowed to drive as long as you can pass the test along with everyone else (and yes, you can use your hand controls for this of course), but if you have seizures, blackouts, low energy levels or other problems which affect paraplegics then you'll find that you may not legally be entitled to drive if you're putting the public's health and safety at risk.

Ford Escort for Paraplegics

Disabled Driving, a Concise Guide...

When it comes to driving as a handicapped person there are a number of different stages which you must go through which I'll outline below.

  1. Recognizing whether it's possible for you to drive a vehicle with regards to your specific condition, as a paraplegic with no other complications then they shouldn't be able problems.
  2. Finding the hand controls and disabled driving equipment which is specific to your condition, preference or requirements. For example having mechanized, electronic or manual hand controls.
  3. Finding somewhere to purchase and install the driving equipment, disabled car dealerships can be sparse - especially in large countries such as America where there are vast distances in between everything.
  4. Getting the lowest possible price which involves both the cost of the product, installation fees as well as any additional costs which can greatly affect the overall sum. Most people tend to think that the installation won't be very expensive when in fact it can cost easily around half of the overall price.
  5. Learning to drive as a disabled person; going through the process of driving with your hands and not your legs - or for some people learning to start driving completely!

As you can imagine this is only the very basic outline of what you should be doing, and each step is compromised of lots of other little things which you need to know about in order to achieve the best possible driving experience at the lowest possible price! It's worth checking out the website on my profile if you're interesting on getting to grips with everything regarding paraplegia and driving.

Laws for Paraplegic Driving

When it comes to driving as a disabled person one important aspect which must be looked into is with regards to the laws pertaining to its legality.

There are simple regulations in place for the USA and UK to maintain fairness in equality across all aspects of disabled life. A good example with be the Americans with Disabilities Acts that was introduced in 1990.

In the case of driving then it's safe to assume that as long as you can pass your driving license test just like everyone else (using your assistive equipment of course) then you'll be allowed to drive as long as you don't have other ailments such as blackouts or seizures which are occasional enough not to show up during your test but frequent enough to potentially cause a fatal accident.

If you're unlucky enough to fall into this category then a professional assessment by a doctor must be sought to assess the legality of you being able to drive.

You can find out more about the laws and regulations for disabled drivers here.

Paraplegic Driving Aids

Driving for handicap people in the past would simply have been impossible, but in today’s ever growing accessibility sector catering for those less able, it has become a reality in recent years in the form of handicap aids.

Handicap aids are a great way to allows disabled people to drive and they can come in a lot of different forms. The most obvious type comes in the form of hand controls which allow the user to control floor pedals using their hands. Unfortunately the market isn’t big enough so that cars are being specifically designed for use by disabled people, but it does mean that handicap driving modification kits have been released. This allows the disabled driver, via a system of pulleys and handles to control the pedals using only their hands. This may seem like a daunting task for someone who drives a car normally, but then didn’t simply driving itself seem daunting when you first started?

One thing I definitely feel I should point out is that although these kits come with a guide for installing and driving, you definitely need to have a real practice for when you start to drive on the roads again. Also if you’ve been disabled your whole life, you will have to take regular driving lessons and take the test like everyone else. One great way to start driving again if you already have a license is to get a friend to drive you to somewhere like a supermarket car park where you can practice. This means you can drive around and get the hang of driving again without endangering anyone’s life.

Something else that’s serious to mention is that driving using only your arms and hands is very strenuous work. Regular driving takes mental concentration but is rarely seen as physically tiring muscles out. With handicap driving aids it’s the exact opposite and you don’t want a crash to happen simply because your arms had packed it. If you are confident in driving around where you locally are, test driving longer distances before making any long trips (for example on a motorway). If possible you should try to find a handicap driving instructor that can teach you tips and tricks for driving using the mobility hand controls. Small nuances that you would have otherwise had to figure out yourself can be gained instantly through an experienced instructor as well as intuiative handicap aids.

Paraplegic Driving Poll!

Did you encounter problems when learning to drive once more?

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