Adaptive Equipment is not a One-Size-Fits-All

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Written by Monique McGivney, Marketing Director for Ability Center
picture of a young woman with purple hair and glasses without limbs in her new van

Josette in her new van customized by Ability Center

Here at Ability Center, we get calls daily for people who want driving aids installed in their vehicle or to just buy a ramp to get their scooter/wheelchair into their vehicle. There are so many variations and things to think about when we think of adaptive equipment that it really takes a team approach to ensure you are driving and riding safely.

Just as we are careful not to put labels on disabilities, we must also be cautious as to not assume adaptive equipment is uniform, standard or equal. If you think of the thousands of individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries, not two of them is the same; just like every person with Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy or ALS is unique and has different abilities. If you use this analogy with adaptive equipment -it’s not a one-size-fits-all- it gets a little easier to understand, as it can be overwhelming when researching and shopping for these items.

For anyone who wants to drive with hand controls or driving aids; they must be evaluated and approved by a CDRS (Certified Driving Rehab Specialist) before we at Ability Center will install any equipment.

This particular story is unique in just about every way, and challenged everyone who was involved.

Josette was born limbless and was raised to be independent but she had been held back due to lack of independent transportation.

Four men and one woman stand in front of a van with Josette

Ability Center Staff with Josette

“I wanted to do so many things but I hate asking people for help,” said Josette. While Josette always had a will to drive, she lacked the funding to be able to make it happen; but that didn’t stop her from trying. At the age of 30, all the stars aligned and she obtained the necessary funding for an accessible van with driving aids through Vocational Rehab and financial help from a friend.

The first step in Josette’s journey to driving independently was the Driver Evaluation where she had 40 hours of training with adaptive equipment similar to what she would have installed in her wheelchair accessible van. Her evaluator was so impressed with her skills, she was approved to start her van conversion in just 20 hours of training.

The next step was choosing a van that fit her and her power wheelchair. After getting in and out of Hondas, Toyotas and Chrysler minivans, it was decided that the Chrysler van with the BraunAbility wheelchair conversion fit her the best. Now the fun could begin…making this van fit Josette, her chair, and all the necessary equipment. The first fitting involved Josette getting in and out of the van multiple times so our mobility technicians could see where her wheelchair turned in the van, how close to the steering wheel she would be and where the seat belt location needed to be.

a man making adjustments in car while Josette is in driver's seat

Making adjustments to van

Over the next 30 days, we had two more fittings with Josette as the installation of the high tech driving aids, wheelchair securement plate and seatbelt positioning were made exactly to her specifications. At her final fitting, her driver evaluator came back to continue driving training with all Josette’s equipment installed -not the practice van used before she got her van. She still had another 20 hours of driving training before she was signed off and released to drive.

Trying to get a hold of Josette those next few weeks was next to impossible. She started school that she attends twice a week, she takes and picks up her daughter to and from her school daily, and she took her first road trip down to Rocky Point Mexico with her family!  For Christmas, she is taking her daughter, mother and niece on a road trip up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, and having an adventure of a lifetime.

 Equipment Installed:

  • BraunAbility Chrysler Entervan
  • Q’Straint Lock wheelchair lockdown device
  • EMC high tech driving aids
  • Seat belt extension

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