Consumer research for older and disabled people

Text Size:

Current Size: 100%

Secondary car controls

Jeff Gosling push-pull indicator control
Push-pull indicator

Secondary car controls

  • the car ignition
  • lights - on/off, main beam, flash
  • indicators, hazard lights and the horn
  • windscreens (front and rear) - wiper, washer, defogger
  • heating, ventilation, air conditioning and in-car entertainment.

Standard secondary controls on some new cars can help:  push-button ignition, remote central locking automatic windscreen wipers and lights, cruise control and audio equipment on the steering wheel, and a few have voice controls for these.

Find out more about car technology that can older and disabled drivers here

Simple adaptations to secondary controls

Alfred Bekker transfer rod fitted to car turn indicator
Indicator extension
  • include several systems that bring all the controls together
  • can be fitted and adjusted to meet your needs
  • can eliminate stretching and be used by people with little strength and/or dexterity
  • can be placed so you don't have to take your hands off the steering wheel

For example:

  • an indicator extension -  a rod that transfers the indicators from one side of the wheel to the other, so you can operate the indicators with your right hand.
  • push-button ignition - fitted, either as a separate button, or as part of a control system.

Complex controls

Lodgesons steering ball grip
Steering ball grip

Switches to secondary controls can be built into many hand controls.

Keypad secondary controls

  • can be mounted on steering spinners or on the dashboard, door panel or elsewhere.
  • can be multi-function keypads, particularly useful for people who have the use of only one hand, as everything is in the same place. You do need some dexterity in your fingers and must be able to tell the buttons apart. The control can be mounted on the right or left but if you'll be using your less-dominant hand, it can take practice to get used to it.

Look for buttons

  • that are well spaced and within easy reach, taking into account the size of your hands.
  • shaped or positioned so that you can tell them apart by touch.
  • that are clear for you to use and avoid any you could confuse.
Safety: At first, some people need to look at the control to make sure they're pressing the right button. If this means there is a danger of not being able to concentrate enough to control the car, get professional tuition. Practice finding the right button by touch when the car is stationary.  If in doubt, find your local Mobility centre here or find specialist driving instructor here.

Touch controls

EMC Digipad car control from DS&P
EMC Digipad
  • are easy-to-operate switches that can be placed in a position that suits you.
  • come in a range of designs and attachments, and their sensitivity can be adjusted to your needs.
  • touch pads need just a light touch from any part of the body in reach; levers can just be nudged by an elbow, for example. You can fit several touch pads to control as many features as you need.

Headrest controls

  • can have buttons for up to six different controls, though most people find it difficult to manage more than three
  • mean you need good control and upper-body stability.
  • can come as a one-button headrest which can be used with a bleeper system.
  • need you to have an assessment to help you decide what you need

Bleeper and tone systems

  • are for people who don't have enough dexterity for individual buttons
  • can be a single button system to control several functions - the number depends on the make and model of the unit.
  • work by pressing the switch to hear a series of bleeps or tones, each for a different control.
  • press the switch until you reach the one for the control that you want. e.g. the fourth bleep may switch on the sidelights.
  • can be combined with touch pads and cost from about £1,500+
Companies supplying secondary control systems
Supplier Product Price
Adaptacar Comdis 12-way steering ball £1,290
Sojadis 12-way bleeper £1,249
DS&P Mobility
Electronics
Digipad Econo touchpad n/a
Digipad Gold touchpad n/a
Power headrest n/a
Elap 12-way steering ball from £709
Push-button unit n/a
Lodgesons 7/10/13/18-way steering ball from £1,500
7/10/13/18-way lollipop grip from £1,600
9- or 12-way bleeper n/a
Techmobility 9- or 12-way steering ball n/a
Headlight dip/main and flash switch n/a
Prices shown were from the time of our research. For current prices, check with the car adaptation supplier and fitter.

Voice-control systems

  • mean you don't need to move any kind of switch.
  • such as The Digivoice recognise voice commands to operate up to 18 secondary controls, including selecting gear.
  • are usually programmed to recognise only one voice, so there's no danger of anyone else accidently taking control of the car.

Instruments, navigation and communications

New car technology can help you drive in safety and comfort and include:

  • heads-up display, which projects instrument readings on to the windscreen
  • parking sensors and cameras
  • satellite navigation
  • hands-free mobile phone system
  • cruise control

Find out more about car technology that can older and disabled drivers here

Last updated: June 2012


Previous: Parking brake | Secondary controls | Next: Custom-built controls