Monday, January 31, 2011

What it might take to make my car more accessible

In recent years due to the progression of my Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy the current vehicle that I drive has become a little bit of a problem for me. You see as my leg muscles grow weaker it becomes increasingly difficult for me to get up from a low seated position. This has even gone onto caused a few issues around the home as well especially when it comes to getting up from a chair. This has caused a few other issues mainly related to getting in and out of my current car. Like most small cars it sits pretty low to the ground and it creates major issues for me when it comes time to exit my vehicle. Thankfully my arms are still strong enough that I can still use them to push off of the car or even one of my legs to help get myself up and out of the car. Currently I am unable to upgrade to a small sized SUV or mini-van, two types of vehicles that would make a world of difference for me. But as we all know our budgets dictate what we can afford and for many of us a vehicle that are set up to handle our specific needs are simply out of reach. With my current condition I would love to be able to go out and buy a small sized SUV's like the Hyundai Tucson or even the Chevrolet Equinox. Even small sized mini-vans like the Kia Rondo or the Mazda5 would be a great choice as well. Each of these vehicles would help to make my life much easier when it comes time to get in and out of a car. At this time like many we make due with what we have hoping one day we might win the lottery. Even with the challenges I currently face I am still happy driving my current vehicle and I know have to focus on the positives like at least I am still able to drive.
My advice for anyone with a physical disability that progresses slowly is to plan ahead. If possible look into purchasing a vehicle that is set up to handle your future needs that way when the time comes you are fully prepared. 
Vehicle modification is always a possibility
   If you already own a vehicle it is possible that simple modifications can be made to make your current vehicle compatible with your specific needs. Thankfully these days there are many different companies out there offering some great options to driver with limited mobility. There are even a few charities that do offer financial assistance when it comes to covering the costs of these types of vehicle modifications. My suggestion is to search for charity organizations that offer these kinds of supports. It's these types of programs that can help especially when the cost of these modifications for some are out of reach. Recently these type of vehicle modifications got me thinking; maybe they could simply take my car and raise it a few more inches off the ground to help make it easier for me to get in and out of. Maybe it is possible to customize my car and simply turn it into a 4x4? Now obviously I'm am just kidding as this type of vehicle modification is pretty much strictly reserved for aftermarket show cars. The other day I had some free time and what you see below is a image I created to jokingly illustrate what it might just take to make my car more accessible.
It sure would be a lot easier for me to get in and out of.
 When it comes to my current situation related vehicle accessibility the best thing I can do right now is simply make due with what I have after all it still is a great little car. I am just hopeful that I might win the lottery and be able to afford to buy an SUV like the Hyundai Tucson or even the sports car of mini-vans which happens to be the Mazda5.
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  1. You should talk to someone with a lowrider that has those air-bag things that boost it up -- see what that's all about. But seriously I wish those seats they have that swivel out could also lift you up once you're out of the car -- maybe you can talk to the Freedom Seat people and see if they have something. There's also something they use in those Range Rovers that can raise/lower the vehicle practically instantaneously...but probably pricey too...

  2. Brad - One of the major hasells of Becker Muscular Dystrophy is the gradual and continuing need for different assistive devices as our muscles get weaker.

    Since the mid-1980’s, I have owned numerous vehicles and have gone from driving manual to automatic transmission as my legs got weaker. The height of the vehicle has also played a major role too.

    I have found that the height of most mini vans works for me at this stage. When I started using my scooter I also needed room to transport it too. A 6 foot folding ramp worked fine initially but as I got weaker it was too heavy to use by myself. In my latest vehicle 2003 Chevy Venture, I had a hoist installed. My next vehicle will have to be totally automated to allow me to use my power chair,

    Anyway, I’ve been thinking about your situation where purchasing a new vehicle may not be possible at this time.

    My wife suggested using a combination of Lifting Power Cushion (available at Home Health Care stores for around $80) and a swivel transfer device (I’ve seen them – it’s like a lazy susan that sits on your car seat). This would allow you to swing out and then use the power lift to raise you up so you can stand. You would have to watch your head though.

    Another thought was to contact the Terra Society of North America in BC at They are a non-profit group that recruits skilled volunteers to create custom assistive devices for people with disabilities. You tell them your problem and they will put their heads together for a solution. You may even see some devices they have already assembled that could help too. I know I saw a couple of ideas for me.