Being able to get around is an important part of living a free and independent life, and one that many people take for granted. Specially adapted mobility cars, also called wheelchair-accessible vehicles or WAVs, have played an important part in providing this kind of freedom of movement to people who rely on wheelchairs or mobility scooters, and the drive to improve and diversify these cars has led to more than a few technological innovations.
Accessibility and Safety
Some of the special features of WAVs are distinctly low-tech, especially as far as safety and comfort are concerned. They typically feature three-point seatbelts and a set of adjustable restraints to be placed on the wheels to keep passengers in wheelchairs as still as possible during the journey. Another common adaptation, whether the car is converted from a standard model or a purpose-built WAV of the kind you can get from specialist dealers like Allied Mobility, is a lowered floor or raised roof to accommodate wheelchairs, which are generally taller than car seats.
Some other features in the same vein are a little more inventive however. Even mundane technology like accessibility ramps can be rethought; the lightweight EasyGlide ramp on the Peugeot Horizon can be tucked away into the floor after use, or collapsed behind the passenger wheelchair to provide extra stability. It’s also not uncommon for larger WAVs to employ lifts instead of ramps, which makes mobility that much easier for certain people.
Of course, the adaptations that allow for disabled passengers are not the only ones. For the most independent lifestyle, many people would want to be able to drive themselves where they want to go, and there are adaptations to allow for this as well.
This often means designing an entire car with the idea that the driver’s position should be accessible by a straight run from the tailgate, and the inclusion of adapted controls. These comprise things like spinners—specialised grips to allow for one-handed steering—and hand controls to allow those without motor function in their legs to brake and accelerate without the use of pedals.
There are many variations of any adaptation to make driving easy and comfortable for as wide a range of people was possible, and new innovations are being made every day.