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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Finding the Right Vehicle for Your Disability

These Tips Will Help You Choose One That Best Suits Your Needs

Selecting a vehicle for modification requires collaboration among you, your evaluator, and a qualified vehicle modification dealer. Although the purchase or lease of a vehicle is your responsibility, making sure the vehicle can be properly modified is the responsibility of the vehicle modification dealer. Therefore, it behooves one to take the time to consult with a qualified dealer and your evaluator before making your final purchase. It will save you time and money. Be aware that you will need insurance while your vehicle is being modified, even though it is off the road.

The following questions can help with vehicle selection. They can also help determine if you can modify a vehicle you own:

• Does the necessary adaptive equipment require a van, or will another passenger vehicle suffice?
• Can the vehicle accommodate the equipment that needs to be installed?
• Will there be enough space to accommodate your family or other passengers once the vehicle is modified?
• Is there adequate parking space at home and at work for the vehicle and for loading/unloading a wheelchair?
• Is there adequate parking space to maneuver if you use a walker?
• What additional options are necessary for the safe operation of the vehicle?

If a third party is paying for the vehicle, adaptive devices, or modification costs, find out if there are any limitations or restrictions on what is covered. Always get a written statement on what a funding agency will pay before making your purchase.

Select a Qualified Dealer to Modify Your Vehicle
Lowering a van floor just half an inch can affect a driver's ability to use equipment or have an unobstructed view of the road. Therefore, be sure to have your vehicle modified by a qualified dealer. Ask about credentials, experience, and references. Find out how they operate. Do they cooperate with evaluators? Will they inspect your vehicle before you purchase it? Do they need a prescription from a physician or other driver evaluation specialist? How long will it take before they can begin working on your vehicle? Do they offer training on how to use the adaptive equipment?

If you are happy with the answers you receive, check their references, then make an appointment to visit the dealer's facility. Here is some additional information to consider:

• Do they belong to the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association or other organization that has vehicle conversion standards?
• Has the staff received training?
• Do they guarantee their work?
• Do they offer ongoing service and maintenance?
• Are replacement parts in stock?

Once you are satisfied with the dealer's qualifications, you will want to ask specific questions like:

• What is the cost of modification?
• Do they accept third party payment?
• How long does it take to modify the vehicle?
• Is the equipment transferable to a new vehicle in the future?
• Will they need to modify existing safety features to install the adaptive equipment?

You will probably need to be available for fittings while your vehicle is being modified. This saves additional waiting time for adjustments once the equipment is fully installed. If you don't get proper fittings, you may have problems with safe operation of the vehicle and have to go back for adjustments.

Get New Equipment Training
To safely use new adaptive equipment, both new and experienced drivers need special training. Your equipment dealer and evaluator will provide information, instruction, and demonstration. Practice driving with your qualified driving instructor until you both feel secure with your skills. It’s important to have someone else who can drive your vehicle in case of an emergency, so bring a family member or other significant person who drives to all your training sessions.

Depending on some circumstances, some state vocational rehabilitation departments will pay for driver training, and their staff can help you find a qualified instructor. If your evaluator does not offer on-the-road instruction, ask him or her to recommend one. You can also ask at your local motor vehicle administration office.

Maintain Your Vehicle
It’s important for keeping your vehicle and adaptive equipment safe and reliable, and regular maintenance may also be mandatory for compliance with the terms of your warranty. The time period during which adaptive equipment must be inspected is often specified on its warranty. These equipment "check ups" may differ from those for your vehicle. Submit all warranty cards for all equipment to ensure coverage and so that manufacturers may contact you in case of a recall.

Is your teen a safe driver? The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has developed a new Teen Injury Prevention course to emphasize driving safety for teenagers. For more information, including a Driver Education Book for Parents, visit

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The National Safety Commission, Inc.
PO Box 3359
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32004-3359

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