Hand-Control Driving Technology - Giving Back Independence

Hand-Control Driving Technology - Giving Back Independence

© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions

The ability to drive is a symbol of independence. In our teenage years it's a rite of passage, bringing freedom and adventure.  

At 21 years of age, Kate* longed to follow her contemporaries, reignite her social life and reclaim her independence after an accident causing paraplegia. 

Driving is possible for many people who are paralysed, even those with limited hand and arm function. It is made possible through modifying standard cars with manual and electronic trigger-like hand controls, and it is wonderful to see people use these tools to regain their independence.  

 

While each Australian State and Territory transport authority has its own requirements on how a person like Kate obtains a drivers licence, to generalise, it involves three steps: 

 

  1. Assessment - A GP or specialist referral for a driving assessment with an occupational therapist, specialised in driving assessments. The OT assesses Kate’s ability to drive. On passing that assessment, they then work together to determine what vehicle modification options are most suitable for Kate’s strengths and capabilities. (If you need an OT with these skills, we can introduce one.) 
     
  1. Modifications Review - A meeting at the showroom of a vehicle modifier where Kate examines and trials the various modification options available. With the support and expertise of her OT and the vehicle modifier, Kate makes her choice. 

  1. Apply for NDIS Funding - Assuming Kate is an NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) participant, she can apply for NDIS funding for the modifications and driving lessons on using the controls.   

 

Vehicle modification options

So what vehicle modifications are available to Kate? She has no voluntary control or sensation in her lower body, has good upper body strength, and uses a manual collapsible self-propelled wheelchair. 

For the engineering minded, the options are truly innovative. To learn more, we turn to Ali Akbarian, CEO of Mobility Engineering[1] 

In last week’s blog, Ali demonstrated the options for transferring a passenger into a car. Those same options are available to the driver. Today, we’ll focus on the hand control options available to Kate to drive her car. Ali presents four options: 

  1. Carospeed. The Carospeed controls acceleration and braking through a lever mounted on the floor to the left of the driver’s seat next to the transmission tunnel. To use the Carospeed, Kate will push the lever forward towards the dashboard of the vehicle to engage the brake and pull it back towards herself to engage the accelerator.

    Its left-hand positioning allows all the vehicle’s safety features to be retained, including the knee airbags. Take a look at Ali’s demonstration:


  2. The Accelerator Ring. This gas ring attaches to the underneath of the steering wheel. Kate simply accelerates the vehicle by pulling or pushing on the ring. Braking is controlled by pushing down on a toggle located to the right side of the steering wheel. The standout quality of this solution is the ability to easily detach (and later reattach) the ring from the steering wheel, allowing another person to use the factory pedals. This is such a wonderful innovation for those who are differently abled. Watch Ali demonstrate:


  3. The Hand Slider Control. This latest technology from Italy sees a hand control fitted to the side of the steering wheel.  The control features a slider. By moving the slider with her thumb, Kate accelerates the vehicle and by pushing the control toward the dashboard she engages the brakes. It’s best explained by Ali in this video:


  4. Conventional Push Pat/Pull. Older technology still stand and tends to be preferred by longstanding users. This hand control is installed on the right-hand side of the steering wheel and supported by the steering column. Kate pushes the control towards the dashboard to engage the brake and pulls or pats (downwards push) the control for acceleration. The drawbacks are that Kate cannot adjust the steering wheel position and the vehicle’s knee air bag safety system is compromised.

    Conventional Push Pat/Pull Hand Control Driving Technology


For a modern woman like Kate, Ali recommends the Accelerator RingCarospeed or Hand Slider in that order.

*Names have been changed for privacy. 

 

If you need support and guidance on seeking care assistance, including Allied Health Professionals, for your loved one, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions.  

Let’s have an initial discussion on how to set up the right care, support and assistance at the right time and in the right place. 

- Contact Danielle - For An Impartial & Confidential Conversation

 

Resources

[1] Mobility Engineering website

 

 

 

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