Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Making it easier to steer

If you have trouble handling the steering wheel, there's a range of solutions that can help you.

Spinners

The simplest adaptation is a steering ball or spinner that is attached to the steering wheel to allow you to drive one-handed. For many people, this is all they need. Spinners come with a variety of shapes to suit different types of grip - some are designed to be used with your hand vertical, others horizontal, and others include wrist supports. Most cost between £10 and £110.

Steering ball ('mushroom' spinner) from Alfred Bekker
Steering ball
('mushroom' spinner)
Three-pin spinner from Alfred Bekker
Three-pin spinner
 
Spinner with keypad for secondary controls from Autoadapt
Spinner with keypad for secondary controls

Spinners are often combined with keypads to work the secondary controls - lights, indicators, etc. Some have a quick release, so they can be easily removed when someone else is driving the car.

Look for:

  • comfort - if gripping is painful, look for softer materials
  • shapes that do not obstruct your view of the dashboard
  • fittings that do not catch on clothes when turning

Safety:

  • do not use a grip that would stop your hand being pushed away if the airbag inflated

Other ways of steering

There are other ways of steering. Often these are custom built to suit your needs and abilities, so it is difficult to give accurate prices. As you might expect, the more complex they are, the more expensive. Expect to pay at least £4,000, and considerably more for complex systems.

Joystick steerer from Adaptacar
Joystick steerer

Look for:

  • steering controls that you can use without tiring, either because of the force you need to operate them or because you need to maintain an uncomfortable posture
  • controls that allow you to use your full range of movement - this will give you more control

Safety:

  • make sure you can control the steering system properly on the road, when you may need to react quickly to hazards
  • as with all specialist control systems, ensure you have a proper assessment and training before you use one of these
  • modifying the steering wheel can affect the performance of airbags

Joysticks

Joysticks need only a very small amount of movement - the range and the strength needed can be adjusted.

More complex systems allow you to steer, brake and accelerate with a single joystick, which can be placed in any position that suits you. You push the joystick from side to side to steer, pull it back to accelerate and push it forwards to brake. It has speed-sensitive steering, which adjusts the action and feel of the joystick to your speed. This makes parking and manoeuvring easier. You can switch the system off if someone else is driving.

Foot steerers

Foot steerers are turntables or treadles. You may need to have the power steering lightened. Some turntables need to be used with an adapted shoe.

Mini steering wheels

Aevit mini steering wheel with joystick speed controller, from DS&P

Mini steering wheels come in various sizes and are usually custom built to suit you. They are for people who have little strength or very restricted movement. They will be fitted in the best position for you.

Some move out of the way to make it easier to get in and out of the vehicle. They might also be combined with a joystick for controlling your speed. 

Tillers

One-handed tiller from Jim Doran
One-handed tiller

Steering with a tiller needs less movement than a steering wheel, and some people find the horizontal grip easier to use. Holding the tiller can also give you more stability. Tillers can be fitted with other controls, including accelerator, main brake and parking brake. 

For example, with a two-handed tiller you might twist the handle to accelerate and push the tiller forwards to brake, whereas with a one-handed tiller you might twist the grip to accelerate and squeeze the lever to brake. The force needed and extent of movement can be adjusted.

Suppliers of steering adaptations

Companies supplying steering equipment
Adaptacar
Bristol Street Versa
DS&P Mobility Electronics
Jim Doran Hand Controls
Steering Developments

Last updated: June 2012


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