In 2010, almost 57 million Americans were living with a disability. Given the opportunity, or the right tools, some if not most of these individuals would be able to operate a vehicle or get around with some modifications.

Modern mobility

Mobility equipment is anything that is attached to the vehicle that helps a person operate that vehicle. This includes things like special seating with lift or swivels, transfer seats to move from a wheelchair to a car seat, wheelchair ramps, driving or hand controls, accelerators, lowering floors and raising roofs.

Often, public transit isn’t as accessible or even available everywhere. If a man in a wheelchair got a ramp installed with special tie-downs, he could drive his car or van while still seated in his wheelchair. Or he could get a transfer seat to help him move from said wheelchair to the car’s seat. If he doesn’t have full use of his legs, hand controls could be installed — and they come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, designed for left- or right-handed people.

In essence, he’s gone from wheelchair-bound to independence with a few adjustments.   

“Members of the NMEDA follow a strict set of standards and get audited every year to ensure these standards are met.”

Where to buy

The best place to start is with a reputable mobility dealer. Enter: The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA, which helps those with disabilities regain their freedom. Members of the NMEDA follow a strict set of standards and get audited every year to ensure these standards are met.

Next on the list is the Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists who govern the Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) program. These specialists will help evaluate a person with a disability and provide a full work-up and prescriptions, if necessary, to help get the exact type of mobility equipment that’s right for them. A CDRS can and will also train an individual on how to use the equipment effectively and advise them on what types of vehicles can accommodate the equipment. In fact, you can also find plenty of resources on both the NMEDA and the ADED websites about exactly what cars can be retrofitted, where to find a CDRS as well as some government funding.

Financial support

Speaking of funding, certain car manufacturers can offer up to $1,000 in rebates to help you pay for your equipment. Other funding is available through state-level grants, but varies state-to-state. The only federal-level funding is offered to veterans through the VA. You can also research other charities like the Christopher Reeve Foundation or the NOVA Fund.              

Whether you’re newly disabled or have lived with disability your entire life, don’t give up or settle. And if you think mobility equipment can help improve the quality of your life and ultimately provide you with greater independence, fight for it. You’ll be glad you did.