Putting Handicapped Drivers Back on the Road

When an injury or illness leaves a person disabled, the feared loss of mobility in our hyper mobile society can drive a person to despair. Yet in many cases, options are still open to learn to drive to the supermarket, go out to meet with friends and adjust to a life different from the one you lived before your disability but is not constricted by a lack of independent mobility.

There are three steps for a disabled person to achieve automotive mobility:

1. Assessment and training;

2. Adapting technology to a vehicle;

3. Financing for a customized vehicle.

All these steps can be challenging, but don’t assume any of them are insurmountable. You just need to meet the challenges one step at a time.

Assessment and Training

In most states including Michigan, a handicapped person cannot be denied the opportunity to apply for a driver’s permit or license, but depending on the disability, you will likely need to be assessed on your ability to drive. Yet even quadriplegics can drive provided there’s only partial paralysis of arms and hands. The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists offers an online database listing certified driver rehabilitation specialists and organizations that offer driver rehabilitation assessment and training. Michigan has a number of locations for handicapped driver’s assessment and training in the Detroit area, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Ann Arbor and elsewhere in the state.

Kalamazoo Area Rehabilitation Service’s Driving Rehabilitation Program, similar to services offered by other rehab centers, provides driving assessments for young adults and adults who are pursuing a driver’s license for a first time or individuals who want to get back behind the wheel after an injury or illness.

The organization describes its assessment program as consisting of a pre-driving clinical evaluation and an on-the-road assessment. A detailed evaluation report outlines recommendations to improve a person’s community mobility. The recommendations may include installation of adaptive equipment to a vehicle to compensate for a disability, training to use the equipment, and physical therapy to compensate for physical deficits.

Adapting Technology to a Vehicle

Clock Mobility, a Michigan-based company with offices in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Traverse City, specializes in customizing vehicles for handicapped drivers, from minivans and full-sized fans to pickup trucks and even farm tractors, off-road vehicles and motor homes.

Besides lifts and ramps, Clock Mobility installs a number of specialized diving aids such as gas/brake levers, left-foot accelerators, steering devices and electronic controls to enhance the independence for the driver. Clock can modify the driver’s compartment to fit these driving aids together to meet the individual needs of its clients.


While Medicare/Medicaid and health insurance does not pay for modified vehicles, other funding sources include the Veterans Administration, Michigan Vocation Rehabilitation Services, no-fault auto Insurance, community mental health agencies, Centers for Independent Living, Lions Clubs, Children’s Special Health Care Services, churches and more. If you’re contemplating purchasing a customized vehicle for a handicapped driver, Clock Mobility’s sales department can offer guidance with funding sources.

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