7 questions about disability and driving


Question #1

Where can I find resources for funding the cost of car adaptations? Some people with disabilities have few assets.

Woman looking at a map

It's different systems all over the world, here are good starting points in a few countries: 

  • Germany 
    Contact your local adaptation specialist. They will help you get in touch with the right authority. For more information read this article (German).

  • United Kingdom 
    Driving Mobility / Motability - > for a more detailed look read this article.

  • France 
    Financing is provided by MDPH.  For more information read this article (French).

  • United States of America 
    This page features several tips on how to finance your adapted vehicle. 

  • Sweden 
    Contact your local adaptation specialist. They will help you get in touch with the right authority. 

Question #2

How much does it cost to adapt a car or van for a paraplegic?

Euro bills in different values

When it comes to adapting cars there's no such thing as an average cost. It all varies greatly depending user’s abilities, their vehicle and the adaptations needed. Then there’s the aspect of prices and funding. These differ from country to country which makes it really hard to say something at all. However, there is a way to answer this question. Talk to your local vehicle adaptation specialists. With just a few more details they can most likely give you a ballpark estimate.

To highlight how big of a difference various adaptations can be here are two examples. One on the low-cost scale and one on the high-cost scale.

Example 1 - lower cost 
A paraplegic able to transfer to and from their wheelchair and into their car without assistance of any kind. This person can also pick up their own wheelchair and disassemble their wheelchair for transport. Usually by taking off the wheels and placing everything in the front passenger seat.

This person would most likely only need hand controls, to control gas and brake. A steering device to facilitate using the steering wheel onehanded. Depending on their sensitivity in their legs and feet or spasticity a pedal guard could also be useful to prevent the feet from getting stuck under the pedals or accidentally engage them.

All these things are relatively easy mechanical adaptations. It does not require the technician to alter the car’s electronics in any way which always makes things faster and thus costs less.

Example 2 - higher cost 
Here we have a paraplegic that is not able to transfer, not even with the use of mechanical assistance. Instead, this person wants to stay seated in their powerchair while driving the car. Muscular fatigue in their arms makes it impossible for this person to handle a steering wheel for any longer duration of time. The solution to this is an electronic steering system in combination with custom armrests. This enables them to comfortably and safely control their car with the use of a joystick. Driving from a powered wheelchair also requires a wheelchair lock that secures the wheelchair as well as a ramp or wheelchair lift to get into the vehicle.

One of the more expensive adaptations you can make to a car is electronic steering. To be able to use a ramp it is quite common to lower the floor. This is a big invasive adaptation that requires extensive work. Vehicles like this are often sold ready-made or partially ready-made and later customised to fit their user’s needs.


I’m currently able to drive but my condition is progressive.

Question #3

Is it possible to adapt a car for one-sided arm and leg deficiency?

Handling the wheel with only one hand is not uncommon. The best way to do this is by using a steering device. These are attached to the steering wheel and come in many shapes and forms, from simple knobs to more advanced grips that provide relief, a good grip and excellent control of the steering wheel, even if your hands are lacking in strength or mobility. When using a steering device it is also common to do something called lightened power steering. This is not a product but a change made to the car’s factory-installed power steering. In short, it makes the steering wheel much easier to turn, which makes it easier to control with one hand.

As for pedals, their functionality can be moved, either from left to right or vice versa. In short, you change the foot you use to control gas and brake. Pedal adaptations are mainly done to cars with automatic transmission.

Windshield wipers, left/right indicators and other auxiliary functions can be moved from one side to the other. Or to any place where you have a better possibility to reach.

Question #4

What is the cheapest way to do this? Adapting the car I have or ordering a new adapted car?

If your current car has automatic transmission, it will be much more cost-effective to add the above-mentioned adaptations as opposed to getting a new car.

Question #5

Will the adaptations affect how my car looks? I want it to look as close to standard as possible. Will this be better if I buy a ready-made adapted car as opposed to adapting the one I already have?

Ultimately this comes down to personal taste. A skilled vehicle adaptation technician can be very good at “hiding” their work, really making it blend in with the car’s interior using materials in matching colours to mask the alterations. Whether or not this is done to your existing car or to an ordered car does not have to make a big difference. It is also worth noting that the above-mentioned adaptations require little to no permanent changes to your car. Meaning that you can sell it later without visible “scars”.


Question #6

What vehicle types (sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs etc) are the easiest to adapt or does it depend on the disability?

Different car types
Photo by Ford

Apart from size and room for the adaptations needed there’s really no car type that is better than one or the other to adapt. If anything, there’s most likely more difference between different brands. At the end of the day what type or brand of car is easiest to adapt has more to do with the adaptations you need.

One example of where size does matter is if you want a fixed frame wheelchair inside your car. Obviously, a larger vehicle has more room.

Another example is if you want to use a transfer board or maybe a swivel seat. In that case, a low built car like a sedan will make it much easier to transfer to and from your wheelchair whereas an SUV might even be impossible to reach. So for a higher car, a seat lift is preferable but these can also cost more.

The best advice in all questions regarding specifics like this is to talk to a specialist. Before you buy a car it is very smart to get an assessment. This will give you an indication of what solutions you will need and together with your vehicle adaptation specialist you can find a suitable vehicle. Perhaps they can even recommend a brand that they are familiar with.

Learn more here: The 5 best cars for people with disabilities


Question #7

Explain the different types of hand controls.

The two most common types of hand controls are the push/pull lever and the ring a.k.a. the gas ring. The latter as the name suggests is a ring that sits above or below the steering wheel. By applying pressure, in other words, squeezing the ring closer to the steering wheel will make the car accelerate. Braking is either steering wheel-mounted for example another ring or on a lever, either close to the steering wheel or on the side.

The other type of hand control is the push/pull lever. Depending on what way you move the lever the car either accelerates or brakes.

Learn more here: Disabled driver: Acceleration and Brake

To get a better understanding you can watch this video:

Sign up and learn more!

Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest articles on car adaptation for disabilities.

  Sign up here