Useful Information and Related Links
Need Funding Assistance?
Mobility for Independence is an ACC preferred provider and Lotteries provider and modifier.
ACC clients: Contact your local ACC office and Case Manager
Lottery Grants: Lottery Individuals with Disabilities subcommittee. This committee makes grants to people with mobility and communication related disabilities for the purchase and adaption of vehicles, scooters and other mobility and communication equipment. A driver assessor report will be required along with the application. Apply at Grants Online.
For the Greater Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty Areas, contact the Lotteries approved driver assessor: OTRS.
Choosing A Vehicle
Choosing a car can be a complicated decision. Manufacturers’ brochures and the Internet will help you weigh up and compare such things as performance, running costs and reliability. However, if you have a disability or are just getting older, there are additional things you may need to consider.
Many cars have features that will make your life easier, and there are simple gadgets and more complex adaptations that can help with almost any driving problem.
We describe some of the simpler equipment that can make driving a car easier. Once you know what features and specifications you need, you can find the car that best matches your needs.
Steps to getting on the road
Prepare to compromise, as you may not find everything in one car. Think about what you need now and what you may need in the future.
1. Ask some basic questions
Will you drive the car?
If not, you only have to think about getting yourself and any equipment you use into the car and your comfort once inside.
If you are going to be the driver, you need to think about how you’re going to drive safely and comfortably, and whether you’ll need specialist equipment to help you.
Will you need specialist equipment?
There's a wide range of specialist controls, from the simple such as wider mirrors and steering knobs to the more elaborate - Hand Controls, remote control signalling aids and Left Foot Accelerators that make it possible for almost anyone to drive.
You can also get specialist equipment to help with getting in and out, from swivel cushions and transfer boards to powered lifting and swivelling seats and hoists. Note the powered lifting options work mostly for passenger side transfers due to the restrictions imposed by most steering wheel placements.
Will you travel with someone?
If not, will you need any equipment to help you get in and out, or to help with anything you may carry?
How will you transport your wheelchair?
Think carefully about how you will carry your wheelchair in any car you are considering. How will you transfer from the wheelchair to the car? Will the wheelchair fit in the boot or rear cargo space? Will you need equipment to help you?
If transferring is difficult, or if you prefer to travel in your wheelchair, some cars and vans can be adapted to make this possible.
2. Collect information
There's a lot to think about when choosing a vehicle, and it's unlikely that you’ll find all of the information you need in one place. Comfort, reliability, performance - including fuel consumption and CO2 emissions - price and running costs are things everybody needs to consider. Motoring magazines, the internet, newspaper reviews and manufacturers’ brochures should help you piece together the information you need.
Particularly helpful sources of general information
There’s a wide range of motoring web sites with advice, news and car reviews. Most reviews tell you about equipment that is particularly useful for older and disabled motorists, such as automatic transmission, air conditioning, power steering, remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, electric seat adjustment and remote door opening.
There’s a wealth of information elsewhere on the internet. Try these sites for safety-testing information, reviews, features and specifications:
Things to think about if you have a disability
After you’ve looked at articles in magazines and on motoring web sites as well as manufacturers' brochures, you’ll need to work out how all of this applies in relation to your disability.
If you need to find a car that is easier to get into and out of, or one big enough for your wheelchair, draw up a shortlist. Find cars with, for example, with the widest doors, lowest sill, most headroom or where the car seat is the same height as your wheelchair. If you need to stow a wheelchair or other equipment, work out the minimum rear storage you will require.
Most people will simply choose a car at a dealer. However, if you need specialist or made-to-measure adaptations, you'll have to discuss this with a specialist adaptation company before choosing your car - to make sure they will fit.
3. Try out before buying any car
Try out before buying any car you are considering. Dealers may bring one to you and should be able to find an automatic version. Try getting in and out several times. If you have to stow a wheelchair or scooter, check that it fits.
Loading scooters & wheelchairs into vehicles
Sometimes, without the right equipment, getting a wheelchair or mobility scooter may seem a daunting task… Here are a few solutions to consider.
Ramps are a (comparatively) cheap way of getting a wheelchair or mobility scooter into a car, if you have the dexterity and a large enough vehicle. Portable ramps are carried in the boot and sit on or over the back of the vehicle. You push the wheelchair or scooter up the ramp, or run it up under its own power if it’s electric.
Trifold Ramps and Suitcase Ramps
To make them easier to carry, many ramps fold in half (EzAccess® Suitcase and Trifold Ramps) or are telescopic. Most ramps have carrying handles so that they can be carried fairly easily by an able–bodied person.
Unless you have someone to help you at all times, you’ll need to be able to get the ramp out and into position, and put it away afterwards. You also need to be able to make your way round to the driver’s seat once you’ve stowed your wheelchair.
Check that there’s enough room to get the ramp in the car easily once the wheelchair is loaded. Ramps need to be secure. Also make sure the ramp is secured during the journey or you have a cargo barrier.
Ramps often need to be quite long, so that they aren’t too steep. You need to have enough room behind your car for the whole length of the ramp, plus the length of your wheelchair.
The height of the rear of the vehicle determines the length of the ramp required.
If the gradient is too steep, there is a danger the equipment may fall back on the person loading it and may also bottom out at the top of the ramp going into the vehicle.
2. Hoists & Lifts (to load unoccupied equipment)
Scooter and Wheelchair hoists
You can use a hoist to lift a wheelchair or mobility scooter into a car. The Bruno range of hoists have models for lighter folding manual wheelchairs and others for powered wheelchairs and scooters.
Hoists for lighter chairs are usually two way hoists. They lift the chair up and down by power, but you push the chair by hand to swing it into the car.
Four/six-way hoists use power to swing the wheelchair into the car as well as to lift it up and down and the Bruno VSL 6900 Curbsider has an extend/retract function to manouevre equipment into a tighter cargo space. You will need this if your scooter or wheelchair is heavy.
Some hoists can be fitted to almost any vehicle, while others are made for larger vehicles such as SUVs or MPVs where larger wheelchairs and scooters are to be loaded.
Using a hoist
You’ll probably need to use both hands to use the hoist. You also need to be able to stand 1–2 minutes without much support while you are hooking on and lifting the wheelchair. You may have to fold or dismantle the chair before you lift it, especially if you have a small car or a large or heavy wheelchair or scooter.
There are different ways of attaching the hoist to the wheelchair. Some hoists have open hooks and others have seat belt type attachments.. If you have limited grip or dexterity, check which is better suited to you.
You need to use both hands for some hoists – one to hold it in the right place to stop the hooks falling loose, and the other to take up the tension with the control unit. This may be difficult to do standing if you have poor balance.
All our hoists have hand-held control units. These are attached by curly cords however, there are cordless remote options. On some hoists, you have to remove the lifting arm when the wheelchair is stowed in the boot (Bruno ASL 325 and AWL 150 – Sedan version).
Platform lifts for Scooters and Wheelchairs
As an alternative to hoists, you can also use a platform lift to load an unoccupied wheelchair or mobility scooter into the cargo area. You bring the platform out of the vehicle under power, push or drive the wheelchair on and secure it, and then transfer the platform back into the cargo area.
This may be easier than a hoist, because you don’t need to fold or dismantle the wheelchair or scooter. You also don’t need the same strength or dexterity to load the wheelchair, and you can secure the wheelchair to the platform before loading.
Platform lifts are generally used for larger wheelchairs and scooters, and they need a load space to be at least 112cm wide & deep and a minimum height of 102cm. They are designed to fit in MPVs and vans and are suitable for vehicles where there are 3 rows of seating. You will need to remove (or fold in the floor) the third row of seats. You will also need the same amount of room behind the vehicle to load the wheelchair onto the lift platform.
An example of vehicles suitable for a platform style lift in NZ, include the Mazda MPV, Kia Carnival and the Chrysler Voyager.