People with all levels of limb loss or limb difference can still drive a car. Depending on the level or type of limb loss or limb difference as well as your use or non-use of a prosthesis, you may need to choose an automatic transmission. Or, you may require modifications to a vehicle to drive safely, such as the installation of hand controls or a left-foot accelerator. While many people living with limb loss may not need to make any vehicle modifications, some individuals may be better served or may require adaptations. While not all vehicles can be successfully modified, and other circumstances might make driving a current car impractical, many vehicles can be modified to make driving as an amputee a reality.
In this factsheet, we are providing organizations and available resources that you can use to find options and support for modifying a vehicle to get back on the road.
For more general information on driving as an amputee, determining possible legal requirements in your state, as well as additional information on modification devices, please see our resource article, “Driving as an Amputee” at https://www.amputee-coalition.org/driving-as-an-amputee-what-you-need-to-know/.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also has an overview of driving with vehicle adaptations, how to obtain modifications, as well as how to access any training that may be required.
- NHTSA – Adapting Your Vehicle
- Watch a Brief Overview Video on the Vehicle Modification Process
Basic Types of Vehicle Modifications
The installation of hand controls allows a driver to control the accelerator, brakes, and clutch with their hand or prosthesis.
- Hand Controls are the primary modification needed for bilateral lower-limb amputees.
- A steering wheel spinner knob allows one to control the wheel more easily using one hand and is recommended when using hand controls.
For bilateral upper-limb or right leg amputees, the installation of foot controls can allow one to drive safely.
- A Left Foot Accelerator can be installed on the same side as the brake pedal, allowing a driver control of their gas pedal with their left foot.
- Installation of a Foot Steering System can allow a person to control steering without the use of their hands.
Specifically designed wheelchair vans or larger vehicles that can be modified with a wheelchair lift are available for purchase or rental throughout the country.
Finding an Installer and/or Equipment
While the Amputee Coalition does not make direct referrals to specific dealers, some companies and organizations in the United States provide tools and resources for people looking for vehicle modification devices and certified installers in their area. These groups will sometimes offer financial assistance either directly through their organization or through partnerships with nonprofits or local initiatives.
The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) is a non-profit organization which has resources to help consumers find a certified vehicle modification installer or dealer.
The Mobility Resource Adaptive Driving Marketplace also provides a few different adaptive vehicle modification resources in addition to resources for obtaining wheelchair accessible vans. Their goal is to educate individuals on the potential solutions available for vehicle options and to eliminate some of the daily struggles of staying active and mobile.
- The Mobility Resource
MobilityWorks® is a national chain of wheelchair accessible van providers. They have been serving the disabled community with wheelchair accessible minivans, full-size vans with lifts, and commercial fleet vehicles. They also have information on other types of vehicle modifications.
- Mobility Works
BraunAbility is a global company whose mission has been committed to changing the lives for people with physical disabilities through mobility solutions that provide independence and ease-of-use.
In many cases, driver rehabilitation training is required when driving as a person with limb loss or limb difference, particularly when a modification device is installed. The following resources are available to help you find a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist in your area.
Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED)
The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists has a list of driver evaluators and trainers across the country for drivers with adaptive technology in their vehicles. They have a directory for vehicle modification equipment installers as well.
- Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists
The American Occupational Therapy Association also provides a search engine to locate driver rehabilitation specialists near your area.
- American Occupational Therapy Association
Possible Sources of Financial Support
While there are many options available when seeking vehicle modifications, the cost can be the primary obstacle for many looking to obtain the proper modifications. The Amputee Coalition has collected a few possible sources for support in this area. The ability of organizations to financially assist can vary greatly during different times and in different areas. Still, these are some of the best resources the Amputee Coalition can recommend for seeking financial assistance or potential grants for modifications.
Centers for Independent Living
The Administration for Community Living’s (ACL) independent living programs work to support community living and independence for people with disabilities across the nation. This is based on the belief that all people can live with dignity, make their own choices, and participate fully in society. These programs provide tools, resources, and supports for fully integrating people with disabilities into their communities which, in turn, presents equal opportunities, self-determination, and respect.
Aging and Disability Resource Centers
Also, under the ACL, Aging and Disability Resource Centers across the country specifically assist seniors and community members with disabilities, on accessing and learning about any state/national grant or assistance programs that may be available in one’s area.
- Find your local Center for Independent Living and/or Aging and Disability Resource Center:
State Assistive Technology Programs
The National Assistive Technology Act brought about the creation of Assistive Technology Programs in each state wherein each program is devoted to helping those with disabilities acquire assistive and adaptive devices and funding.
- The Association of Assistive Technology Program
- Find your local State Assistive Technology Program
United Way 211
The local United Way is a good general source for finding ways to connect to different needs in your local area. 211 operators may be able to provide additional referral assistance on available assistance programs.
- Find your Local United Way
- Find your Local 211
In many areas, you can also reach the local United Way 211 simply by dialing 2-1-1.
Other Financial Resources
- The Mobility Resource – State Grant information for Wheelchair Accessible Vans
- Mobility Works – Grant and Assistance Programs to Help with Owning a Handicapped Van
- National Traffic Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Cost Savings
- NMEDA – Where to Turn for Help for Funding an Adaptive Vehicle
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Authors and Contributors
The Amputee Coalition is grateful to the many organizational members and individuals that have contributed to this work. The Amputee Coalition Scientific and Medical Advisory Committee (SciMAC) conducts expert peer view for the Amputee Coalition commissioned patient education materials. SciMAC contributes clinical and scientific expertise in developing, implementing, and evaluating the Amputee Coalition program and policy initiatives.
Suggested AMA format citation for this material:
Call A, Hurley C, Miller M. Vehicle Modification Resource Fact Sheet. https://www.amputee-coalition.org/vehicle-modification-resources. Published March 2021. [date].
It is not the intention of the Amputee Coalition to provide specific medical or legal advice but rather to provide consumers with information to better understand their health and healthcare issues. The Amputee Coalition does not endorse any specific treatment, technology, company, service or device. Consumers are urged to consult with their healthcare providers for specific medical advice or before making any purchasing decisions involving their care.
This project was supported, in part, by grant number 90LLRC0001-01-00, from the Administration for Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.
© Amputee Coalition. Local reproduction for use by Amputee Coalition constituents is permitted as long as this copyright information is included. Organizations or individuals wishing to reprint this article in other publications, including other World Wide Web sites must contact the Amputee Coalition for permission to do so.