Car modifications for amputees

Car Modifications For Amputees: Regain Your Mobility!

Contrary to belief, people with disabilities can operate a motor vehicle. However, the vehicle must be modified with adaptive devices, such as hand controls for accelerator and brake, spinner knob, and modified gear shifter. All of these devices will ensure safety while giving individuals with disabilities the freedom to drive.

Car modifications for amputees mostly consist of adaptive devices. These devices allow double amputees (loss of both limbs) and other amputees to safely operate a vehicle and sit comfortably while driving. It is important to note that not all make and models make good candidates for amputee modifications. This is especially true for amputees who are bound to their wheelchairs.

Vehicle Modification Qualifications

As mentioned above, some make and models are not good candidates for amputee modifications. There are many factors to take into consideration when finding a vehicle to modify. The make and model will really depend on your needs and preferences. Experts recommend undergoing a driving assessment before attempting a vehicle modification. Everyone with disabilities has unique modification needs. Basically, this means that no two people with disabilities will require the same modifications.

A driving assessment will help you determine what type of vehicle and modifications are suitable for you. Taking the proper steps will ensure you make the right decision the first time around and potentially save you some money in the process.

Can One Legally Drive After A Lost Limb?

People that have lost limbs in battle or to diseases find themselves facing a whole new reality when all the dust is cleared. There is no denying that the whole process will be trying, but when everything is all said and done, the real work will begin. Of course, the real work being recovery and learning to do things differently. Depending on the type of amputation that you just underwent it might be possible that you have to learn to completely re-adapt to life. The most important thing to remember is that you do not have to let this very event identify you and you still can have your independence as long as you are willing to fight and strive for it.

Some individuals might be forced to switch to automatic transmissions, whiles others might be forced to adhere to other modifications. Whatever the situation is, when you feel like you are ready to get back out there, you will want to visit the doctor first. They will evaluate you and help you determine if you are, in fact, physically and mentally able to get back out there on the road. In some cases, your body might even require prosthesis as an aid during driving.

All that aside, if you want to stick within the confines of the law, you will need to contact your state’s driving licensing center. This will not only get the incident on record, but it could provide you with your next steps. The licensing office should be able to provide you with any legal steps that are required to ensure you can still drive legally. Unfortunately, this will probably mean that you will need to retake your license exam.

Automatic Transmission

One adaptive device that is often overlooked when it comes to vehicle modifications is the automatic transmission. This type of transmission eliminates the need for a manual shift and clutch. Instead of needing to manually switch gears at specific speeds, the transmission will automatically do it for you. People with right or left arm amputations will require an automatic transmission. This is also a good option for people with lower extremity amputations as well.

Power Steering

Before 1876, all automobiles were equipped with manual steering. This type of steering required a manual force to turn the wheels from left to right and vice versa. In most older automobiles, the manual steering was extremely difficult to control. It required a lot of force to steer the wheels. Fortunately, this is no longer the case.

It is believed that the first power steering system to be installed in a vehicle was in 1876. Power steering requires little force to turn the wheels. As long as the vehicle is going at a decent speed, the power steering will require little effort to turn the wheels. More effort is required when the vehicle is moving slowly or stopped.

Arm amputees and people with upper body disabilities and weaknesses will require power steering. Fortunately, vehicles no longer need to be modified in this case because most newer models are already equipped with power steering when they roll off the assembly line.

Power Brakes

Lower extremity amputees will most likely need power brakes. This braking system requires only a small amount of force to stop a vehicle. The system consists of hydraulics and other mechanisms to slow down and stop a vehicle. Before the introduction of power brakes, manufacturers of electric vehicles utilized what is known as regenerative braking. This type of braking system was a little more complex than power brakes. Regenerative braking had a lot of flaws, rendering it a “safety hazard”. Thanks to power brakes, amputees and other drivers can safely slow down and stop their vehicles with little effort.

Types Of Adaptive Vehicle Controls

Technology really is a great thing. It is opening doors where doors have never been opened before. Just look at what voice automated search engines and new hearing aid technology is doing for the deaf. Well, if you are an amputee, you should not feel left out because there are plenty of devices available to you as well. Car modifications and adaptions are truly vast and can be installed on a number of modern, newer, and older vehicles. Below, you will learn about the different types of adaptive controls available for your taking.

Hand Controls

Hand controls are amongst some of the most common types of car modifications for amputees available today. These types of control are designed to help correspond to the natural movement of the hands and arms of the driver. There are a number of hand controls available to the common public. Some hand controls can be activated by squeeze, some can be activated by pulling, and some can even be activated by touch. Whatever the situation is, these controls were specifically designed to help amputees accelerate and brake their vehicle on the open road.

Pedal Extension

Pedal extensions are an excellent tool for anyone with amputated or short legs. These controls are designed in a manner that can help you reach the pedal with reduced effort. Not only this, but they also make compressing the pedal even easier as well. An individual with just a left foot can have a professional pedal extension installed that will combine both the accelerator and brake on the left side of the vehicle. When most people are missing a leg they will usually opt for the left foot gas pedal because it prevents crossovers. In these types of setups, the pedal will usually be provided on both sides of the brakes for easier application.

Left Foot Accelerator

A left foot accelerator is a bit different than a pedal extension, as it usually includes an accelerator pedal on either side of the brake pedal. This setup will usually consist of two hinged pedals connected by a cable or mechanical rod. The best thing about this type of setup is that they are installed in a manner to prevent mishaps and accidents. There is no possible way for the driver to compress both the brake and gas at the same time.

Extended Indicator Arms

Extended indicator arms are perfect for any individual with amputated or short arms. These devices are pretty much what the name suggests. They are extensions of the turn signals and other hand controls. These controls give the driver quick and driver access to turn signals, windshield wipers, and other essential hand controls.

Steering Wheel Spinner Knobs

Steering wheel spinner knobs are modifications that can help one more easily control their vehicle. These items are somewhat common to what you would find on a race car. They are simply knob or spinners that are installed on the steering wheel. They give a one-armed or one-handed individual complete and total control of the steering wheel. There are even some models like the Sure-Grip that utilize a push/rock style system of driving that makes controlling the vehicle even safer and more stable. Simply put, with a system like this, any amputee will be able to experience a more pleasurable and safer driving experience.

Swivel Seats

If you are missing a leg or need a wheelchair to get around then swivel seats are going to be essential for you. These seats are not only completely unique, but they allow the driver to easily and quickly transfer from their wheelchair to the driver’s position in the vehicle. It is important to note that the swivel seat system usually involved the utilization of electricity to slide the seat backward and forward. This means that you will probably have to turn to a professional for installation unless you have a background in automotive electricity.

Turny Orbit

A turny orbit is basically like swivel seats on steroids. These modifications are usually intended for trucks or other vehicles that are really high off the ground. These revolutionary systems utilize seats that rotate, come out of the vehicle, and lower directly to the ground, eliminating the need to climb and twist into the seat. These systems also utilize electrical adapters and devices and will even be more complicated to install when compared to the swivel seats. In addition to this, they are going to be more expensive.

Getting Re-Evaluated

There is no denying that losing a limb is going to be stress-inducing. It also means that you will have to learn to do many things over again. Losing a leg and learning to walk might seem like learning to walk again. Driving is going to be the same way. Fortunately, there are tons of modifications that can help accommodate these losses, but this doesn’t mean it is going to lessen the load of everyday life. When you couple this with the cost of vehicle modifications it can be truly troubling for any amputee.

Luckily, there are a number of charities and coalitions out there that are willing to help. However, before you venture this far in, you will need to get re-evaluated by a driving instructor. You can find information about the process at any DMV office, but it is basically just a process that will help you determine whether or not your vehicle needs to be modified. Not only this, but the instructor can help you determine the safest method of driving based on your condition.

This evaluation will need to occur after any prosthetic fitting if there is going to be a prosthetic fitting. Just keep in mind that a re-evaluation might not only be necessary, but it might be required by law, as there are several limitations and restrictions that can be placed on an amputee’s license. For instance, some amputees might only be legally permitted to drive automatic vehicles, whereas others can drive both.

Full- Or Half-Dropped Lowered Floor

A vehicle modification that is required for amputees who are wheelchair-bound is the dropped lowered floor. Both the full- and half-dropped lowered floor are designed to provide wheelchair-bound amputees the independence to drive a vehicle. This type of modification is mostly subject to conversion vans and minivans. The modification will allow the van to accommodate a wheelchair or other mobility device.

Full- or half-dropped lowered floor modifications are extremely complex. To ensure the proper fit, a full evaluation is recommended in advance. The assessment will deliver the best results. The goal is to make sure the driver can get in and out of the van with ease. Since the conventional van entrance is not designed for wheelchair entrance and exit, modifications are required. A higher profile entrance is required for wheelchairs to eliminate the need to duck the head and upper body.

Lowering the floor will provide additional space for entering and exiting the vehicle. It will also ensure adequate headroom, so you don’t feel cramped when you are sitting in the van.

Wheelchair Ramp

Amputees who utilize mobility devices will most likely need a wheelchair ramp. Fortunately, these devices are available for all make and models. This is one of the most popular car modifications for amputees. Wheelchair ramps are available in a broad range of designs, including plastic, rubber, foam, and aluminum. With that being said, the most popular wheelchair design is aluminum. The surface is layered with a non-slip covering and rails are added to reduce the risk of accidents.

Wheelchair ramps are not only suitable for amputees who utilize wheelchairs and powerchairs but also amputees who utilize walkers and canes.


No one wants to lose a limb. No one ever plans on losing a limb, but sometimes life just throws a wrench into even the most well laid out plans. Whether you lost an arm in battle or a leg to diabetes, you do not have to let this define you. As you can see, there are plenty of car modifications for amputees that can help you be more independent than ever. With the above modifications and information, you can even learn to legally drive.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the process won’t be hard or it won’t come with a learning curve, but there is nothing more rewarding than living for yourself the way you want to, regardless of your current situation. The best place to start is with an assessment, which will tell you exactly what type of vehicle modifications devices you need to drive safely and comfortably.

Related Questions

Can You Get Help Paying For A Modified Vehicle?

There is no denying that purchasing a modified vehicle is expensive. In fact, any expert would tell you that buying a modified car would be like going to the dealership and buying the latest model with the flashiest paint job. However, do not give up just yet because there is relief out there depending on the cause and nature of the disability. Some of these programs might pay for part of the vehicle, while others might cover the entire cost. Once again, this will depend on the nature of the accident.

What If Space In The Rear Of My Car Is Limited?

Hauling around a wheelchair might be necessary for some, but this doesn’t make the process any less tedious. This is especially true if you are currently driving a modified car. Of course, with a van or truck, you won’t have to worry as much because you will have all the room you need. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case with some smaller cars. Luckily, there are also a number of alternatives available for cars as well. If the space in the rear of the vehicle is limited, you always have the option of opting for a rooftop hoist and storage. This will cost you more, but it will make loading and offloading the wheelchair possible.