Handicap Hand Controls: Not for the Heavy-Handed
Owning a car and driving for fun is a unique, American experience. In the last three decades, the one-car garage has become the two-car garage, which has transformed into the three-car garage. In light of the central role of the automobile, it is no wonder that adaptive driving, and handicap hand controls, play a pivotal role in promoting independence for people with disabilities.
People without disabilities often wonder how folks with limited function in their legs drive a vehicle. If a driver doesn’t use his or her feet to drive, they use their hands. Commonly referred to as ‘hand controls,’ the adaptive equipment used to operate the gas and brake pedals of a vehicle allows for an invaluable independence, sans the local public transportation system.
While this article does not provide information on the entire line of handicap hand controls available (single lever, multi-lever, push-button, slot machine handle, etc.), it does cover the most popular systems on the market.
The Mechanics of Handicap Hand Controls
Hand controls are simple to use, but they are a pain in the rear axle to install. Therefore it is imperative that anyone who purchases a set of handicap hand controls has them installed by an authorized dealer or mechanic. Besides, you don’t want your hand controls to fall into your lap when you hit the brakes.
There are a variety of hand controls on the market. Some hand controls come with an optional mounting bracket that allows the user or installer to adjust the controls so they can be transferred from one vehicle to another. However, you should know that most hand control devices may require some cutting of the underside of the dashboard for proper placement.
For instance, a 2002 Ford Ranger Edge had to have a part of its ‘under dash’ sliced for the placement of hand controls. When the owner sold that vehicle and had the hand controls removed and placed on the new vehicle, he simply went out and purchased a new ‘under side’ for $60.
Now for the whammy: hand controls cost anywhere from $500 to $800, depending on the options chosen. When you add another $200 for installation, the whole ordeal can cost an arm and a leg. However, when purchasing a new car, most automotive manufacturers offer incentive programs wherein they offer up to $1000 for the installation of assistive devices, which includes handicap hand controls. Also, state rehabilitation agencies (every state has one) have been known to foot the bill for hand controls and hand control installation.
How Hand Controls Work
First, you must have an automatic transmission for hand controls to be of use. Tightened to the steering column underneath the steering wheel of the vehicle, most hand controls use a series of levers, attached to the upper part of the gas and brake pedals, to put the vehicle in motion and make it stop.
If you live in a hilly area or in mountainous terrain, make sure you buy the hand controls that allow you to apply the brake and gas pedals at the same time. These are found in hand controls where the driver pushes ‘down’ to engage the gas pedal and ‘forward’ to apply the brake. Other hand controls use ‘forward’ for the brake, but the driver must pull the lever toward them to apply the gas, making it impossible to apply both at the same time.
A majority of the permanent hand controls on the market do not interfere with use of the vehicle by nondisabled drivers, that is, the gas and brake pedals still work.
All hand controls come with an optional headlight dimmer and horn that can be placed directly on the lever, within easy reach.
Agor Enterprises provides and designs vehicle and in home mobility solutions making the world accessible for people with disabilities. Agor Enterprises is a member of NMEDA and is QAP certified. Agor Enterprises is committed to providing the highest standard of safety and service in the industry. Built on the principal that dedication, service to the customer, and quality are paramount in running a successful business, Agor Enterprises continues to be a leader in customized solutions for the physically challenged. Agor Enterprises has also equipped golf carts, lawn mowers, tractors, and houses with various adaptive devices. We continue to welcome challenges to provide solutions that enable independence.