Consumer research for older and disabled people

Text Size:

Current Size: 100%

Car controls to help people with restricted growth

There is a range of adaptations that make motoring easier for drivers with restricted growth. The ones that are most relevant are listed here; for further details of these and other products, please see the main guide: Car controls. Click on any of the main headings below to go directly to that section in the main guide.

The size, position and shape of pedals can sometimes be altered to suit your needs. Clutch, accelerator and brake pedals can be extended to bring them nearer. There are bolt-on extensions (from around £85 a pedal) with a raised platform below, attached to the car floor (around £100 fitted) or a raised platform with extended pedals attached to it (around £350 for three pedals fitted).

Steering

If you steer one-handed, you will need a grip fitted to the steering wheel - a steering ball or spinner - and probably a car with power-assisted steering.

Spinners come in several shapes to suit different types of grip. Most cost between £30 and £110.

There are very small steering wheels and horizontal steering wheels, which can be custom built to suit you - but these systems are very expensive.

Changing gear

Changing gear is likely to be easier with automatic transmission. To stop the car rolling back on slopes, you will need to use a handbrake or have an adaptation such as brake assist. If you can't use a mechanical gear selector, there are systems that electrically set the gear for you, but these can be costly. It might not be worth adding them to older vehicles.

A manual gear stick can be extended so that it is within reach. Some cars have easy-to-use manual gears, where you can nudge the gear stick and don't have to use a clutch pedal.

Push-button clutches have a touch-sensitive switch mounted on the gear stick (around £1,800 and up). Some clutches work automatically as soon as the gear stick is moved.

Types of semi-automatic clutch vary from mechanical levers to servo-assisted systems, but they require manual dexterity.

If you drive an adapted manual car but your licence is for automatics only, you'll need to have the clutch pedal removed.

Accelerating and braking

Adaptations for these are usually fitted at the same time and can be combined for these functions.

Hand controls

If you cannot use pedals, different types of system can be fitted on an automatic car. They can be powered and come in various shapes. Have a pedal guard fitted, which is easily removeable.

Combined controls

There are a number of options for devices that control both acceleration and braking:

  • steering-column-mounted controls - push a lever to brake, and pull the lever towards you to accelerate; from around £350
  • floor-mounted push-pull levers - the height, length and strength needed to operate these can be set to suit you; from around £700
  • clamp-on controls - these simply bolt on to the pedals; they can be used temporarily and cost around £350

Separate accelerators and brakes

Some motorists find it easier to drive using separate controls for accelerating and braking:

  • accelerator rings - these need less effort than a push-pull lever, and you can steer with both hands on the wheel; from around £1,500
  • hand-operated floor-mounted brakes - these cost around £350
  • custom-built accelerators - these can be worked by different parts of your body

Parking brake

Bolt-on attachments make using the parking brake easier. These include simple levers to take the effort out of pressing the release button, and handles you pull to operate the whole brake. These mostly cost from £70. An alternative is an electric brake worked by push buttons; these vary in cost, from around £750.

Secondary controls

Once you have determined which primary controls are best suited to you, you need to consider what secondary controls will make it easier to drive. These secondary controls are used for things like lights, indicators and the horn. Simple attachments - such as extended indicator stalks - make them easier to use. For more information, see the main guide's section on secondary car controls.

Mirrors

Panoramic mirrors fit over or replace the rear view mirror (around £25 from adaptation firms). Stick-on 'blind spot' mirrors (from £2 in motor accessory shops) extend what you can see in door mirrors.

Last updated: November 2011


Main page: Motoring with restricted growth