Getting Mobile With Disability Driving Aids

Wheelchair van hand controls allow people with motor disabilities to have the same level of mobility as fully able-bodied people. For many with motor disabilities, the choice of whether to drive a manual or an automatic transmission seems to have been made for them. But those who want to do some amateur racing, or drive into the mountains controlling their gears while steering through hairpin turns, are in luck. Hand controls can allow those who lack the use of their legs to operate the clutch and shift gears. Unfortunately, such controls can be difficult to find.

Redi Auto Sport of Santa Monica, California, is one company that designs hand controls for vehicles with manual transmissions. Founded in 2001 by Daniel Reyes, the company offers a sport hand control system with three major components.

Most hand control systems use a push-pull or right-angle control arm to operate the brake and accelerator. The Redi sport hand control system instead uses a ring mounted on the steering wheel to control the accelerator, and a lever mounted by the gear shift to control the brake. The system eliminates the need for a foot to operate the clutch while shifting gears, allowing for a driver with lower-body motor disabilities to drive a manual transmission.

Another form of disability driving aids has been developed by Kempf, a European company. The Kmatic also uses a ring inside the steering wheel to allow fingertip control of the accelerator. Their system operates the clutch via a digital signal processor. When the driver touches the gearshift, a motor automatically pulls the clutch pedal. When a new gear is selected, the system determines how fast to release the clutch pedal based on preset parameters.

Either of these two types of wheelchair van hand controls will allow driver’s with motor disabilities to drive a standard 5 speed manual transmission, giving everyone the opportunity to be mobile and have fun the way they want to.