Consumer research for older and disabled people

Text Size:

Current Size: 100%

Car controls - consider your abilities

Rica's consumer information, aimed at older and disabled people, is based on independent research, the experiences of consumers and experts and is completely unbiased.

Man using steering knob to driveIf you've driven before, think about how your disability has affected you. This will give you an idea of how it may affect your ability to drive in the future, and which controls you'll need to adapt.

If you haven't driven before, just sitting in a car seat and trying the various controls will give you an idea of what you can do and what you'll have to adapt.

Mobility Centres

For advice on controls or adaptations, contact a mobility centre which:

  • provides an independent and professional assessments and advice service
  • has staff with expert knowledge and are independent - none of them has any interest in any particular company
  • are likely to have come across people with similar requirements to yours
  • for an assessment to see what equipment may suit you, helping you decide what controls may suit you with a chance to try them out either on a test rig or in a real vehicle. Assessments can vary in cost from £50 - £90.

Adaptation companies and equipment suppliers will advise on their own equipment.



If you're a Motability customer, Motability may pay for an assessment at a Mobility Centre and manage the adaptation process under their Managed Adaptation Programme.

Adaptation companies use the assessment report to help them find the most suitable products for you. Be prepared for the recommendations to change - the car you choose may not be the one you tried when you were assessed and the equipment may be slightly different too. The converter will usually discuss any proposed changes with the Mobility Centre that carried out the assessment. Don't hesitate to voice your own opinions during all these discussions.

Tips from disabled drivers

We carried out a survey of disabled drivers who felt they were the experts on their own abilities but appreciated advice from those who knew about car controls. They were impressed with companies that discussed options fully and listened closely to what they had to say. Here are some of their tips:

  • 'Be honest - get an assessment at the level when you are at your least able - at the end of the day when you feel tired.'
  • 'Make sure it will be what you need for the period of time you will have the vehicle, or if your condition worsens.'
  • 'Make sure everyone listens to what you have to say and what you want, and not what they think you should have.'
  • 'See as many controls as you can.'
  • 'A chance to try things is important - go to a Mobility Centre, the Mobility Roadshow or Motability One Big Days to try off-road 'then personal needs and experience takes over - you know what suits you.'

Is anyone else going to drive the car?

Most drivers stressed that it was important to consider the other people who used their car. Although some family members without disabilities learnt to drive with adaptations, most in our survey did not. Make sure any adaptation doesn't make it difficult for other drivers to get into and out of the car and doesn't make driving difficult or uncomfortable for them.

In January 2017, we held two workshops with new users of driving controls at QEF Mobility Services, Carshalton, Surrey and the research findings are presented in a research report, intended for professionals advising disabled people on motoring choices. Go to Primary driving controls research report here.


Last updated: May 2017

Previous: Introduction | Your abilities | Next: Choosing a car