Useful Car Tips

Features for Disabled Passengers or Drivers

March 08, 2019

When shopping for a car for the disabled (and whether as a driver or passenger alike) there are some important options and features which should be looked for. Convenience features like keyless entry can make ignition a breeze, automatic transmissions are easy to use, and miscellaneous controls, buttons, and switches can all be optimized for the disabled.

Adaptive equipment can also be installed by a certified mobility equipment dealer specialist. This term refers to devices set up by these professionals which serve to assist disabled drivers or passengers with getting the best experience possible. Devices such as wheelchair lifts and securement, scooter lifts, hand controls, and swivel seating are all available to be installed. These devices can be installed in most vehicles, but work best in tandem with disability-friendly ones, like the Honda Odyssey minivan and Chevrolet Silverado pickup. If you’re looking for a little more fun, say, with a big American V8 muscle car, the Ford Mustang may surprise you as an excellent platform for the installation of adaptive equipment. The point is, no matter what adaptation or vehicle you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find it.


Convenience features are small luxuries which can wholly enhance the experience for a disabled driver or passenger. For example, a feature as simple as keyless entry and ignition can make it substantially easier to start up a car depending on one’s disability. Car controls that are commonly in operation also benefit from some thought towards disability-friendliness. Again, depending on one’s disability, it may be very difficult or impossible to operate a manual transmission. Operating an automatic transmission is simple and more forgiving than a manual. If you’ve decided on an automatic, check out the vehicle to see if its shifter requires a button push before shifting gears. Those with particularly painful arthritis may not desire the extra effort it would take to regularly operate the button.

The ease of use of a touchscreen (versus a more conventional button-based system) is another feature that may be important to consider. A touchscreen is a component that’s interacted with constantly; changing a radio station, accepting a call, or even setting the air conditioner is all controlled through the touchscreen in some cars. Even if you’re used to a button-based system, it can be worth it to check out a new touchscreen. Other switches or controls you use everyday should receive some attention too. Consider the benefits of automatic window and lock controls, as well as adjustable pedals and adaptive cruise control. Again, these small features can add up and make the everyday-usage experience just a little bit better for a disabled person.


Installing adaptive equipment is another excellent way to improve the everyday experience. Before purchasing and installing the equipment, you’ll need to undergo an evaluation by a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) or occupational therapist (OT) who has specialized training. Afterwards, it’s best to work with a qualified adaptive automotive dealer to evaluate the best adaptive equipment options for you.

A wide variety of such devices is available. If wheelchair integration is needed, wheelchair lifts and securement are available. A lift gives one the ability to get into a vehicle with high ground clearance, while a securement—you guessed it—secures a wheelchair in place. Lifts for scooters are available as well. Lastly, hand controls and swivel seating make it easier and safer to drive for those with limited mobility.


While you’ll be able to take advantage of most of these features with almost any car, there are some that are especially suited for the disabled. Firstly, the Honda Odyssey. It’s reliable, affordable, and some higher trims have much of the safety technology we’ve grown to expect from modern cars. The Odyssey is an especially good contender, as several companies offer modification services which retrofit adaptive equipment directly. The Chevrolet Silverado is another stellar option, even more so because of General Motors’ Mobility Reimbursement Program that offers an adaptive equipment reimbursement of up to $1,000 (Honda offers this too, by the way).

Lastly, we mentioned the Ford Mustang as a good candidate for a disability-friendly vehicle. Still don’t believe us? The Mustang platform supports a plethora of adaptive equipment devices (with only a couple notable exclusions being wheelchair restraints and door openers). The bottom line is there’s a vehicle and equipment variation for everyone, and for anyone’s needs. Follow our tips, research what’s best for you, and soon you’ll be well on the road to driving independence.

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