Car Rentals for People with Dwarfism

Click to share this on facebook.Click to tweet this blog post.
A close framed picture of car keys in a car's ignition. Under the Where it's AT logo, the text reads Car Rentals for People with Dwarfism -

Dan Okenfuss – Public Policy Manager, California Foundation for Independent Living Centers

It’s summer! Time for vacations to faraway places! Whenever I fly on a pleasure trip, I am usually renting a car at my destination, especially when visiting friends who live far from reliable public transportation. That way, I can comfortably drive with my family of four and carry our luggage.

Picking out a rental car for most travelers is fairly simple: just pick the appropriate size and capacity of car at your particular price points. However, it’s a lot more challenging for a family of four individuals with dwarfism (skeletal dysplasia) who are less than 4 feet 6 inches tall.

To accommodate this accessibility challenge, I usually rent a car with hand controls because I’m usually the driver and I can’t reach the brake or accelerator due to my short legs. I used to bring my own pedal extensions, but I found it difficult to connect them to the rental car pedals as I got older and less flexible.

Video of Dan, made for AT Awareness Day, showcasing the extension pedals he installed on his car.

The hand controls look like a motorcycle or bicycle hand grip that sticks out of the left or right side of the steering column. Usually, you turn the handle down for the accelerator and push the handle in for the brake.

Most major rental car companies have cars with hand controls available upon request, as long as you notify them in advance. I try to give rental car companies at least a month’s notice that I need a car with hand controls ready at my destination.

Sometimes, you can’t select this option on the rental car reservations website. You need to search more creatively. Therefore, I try to avoid any online hassles and call the rental car agent directly and ask for its “accessibility” or “ADA customer” desk. That way, you get in touch with the right expert who can best take your request and ensure you have an accessible car waiting for you at your destination. Remember to always get names, phone numbers and emails from the contacts you work with. That way, you are more prepared to book for future travel.

One week prior to travel, I always contact the rental car agency once more to confirm that my accessible rental car is guaranteed to be available at my destination. This is extremely important to remind them, that if there’s no equipped car there, you are basically stranded!

Here are some helpful websites from major rental car companies that describe steps to take for consumers to reserve cars with hand controls: