Many features and innovations in the automotive industry are geared towards making vehicles more performance oriented and fun to drive. There is a however a huge segment of the population, perhaps as much as about 19 per cent, for whom just having mobility is an important issue. These are the disabled, or to use the more politically correct term, the differently abled, who may have varying levels of disability. There are at least a few people, who are capable of driving themselves if only a few changes are incorporated into the design of the vehicles they drive, facilitating wheel chair access and easier operation of the controls.
There are a few main features that are no-brainers when it comes to making vehicles easier for the disabled to operate. These include keyless ignition systems, automatic transmission, controls that are easy to see and use like touchscreens, automatic seats and locks. In any case, even vehicles having all these features need to undergo a comprehensive revamp to make them suitable for use by a disabled person.
Generally, the term “Adaptive Equipment” is used to refer to aftermarket devices that are installed in a vehicle in order to facilitate their use by people with disabilities. These are features and technological innovations that make it easier for people to enter, operate and exit from a vehicle.
There are a few models like the Honda Odyssey that are particularly suitable for adaptation when it comes to use by people who are permanently disabled. All of these share a few common features. They need to offer ample headroom as the person may be using a wheelchair. They also need to have a front seat that can be removed easily.
The Honda Odyssey is reliable and can be easily modified. Braunability has launched its Entervan here in the GCC which features “Step & Roll” front seats that can be easily removed to make way for a wheelchair. The VMI Northstar Odyssey and VMI Summit Edition are two other models that are easily adaptable, with the Summit Edition even having a fold-out ramp for easy access and storage.
Other models that have been used for adaptation are the Chevrolet Silverado and surprisingly, the Ford Mustang. The Ford Mustang may seem like an unlikely candidate but it does have features like parking brakes, power assist seats, hand controls and carriers that make it a good candidate.
In view of the relatively high number of people who have varying degrees of disability in the general population, this is definitely one issue that merits more attention from key players in the automotive industry.
Manju Mathew, an MBA in marketing, completed publisher training courses from the Oxford Brookes University and New York University. She started with marketing and PR roles before moving on to her current position as a full time writer. Currently living in Dubai, her life as an expat has sharpened her observation skills and flair for writing. She enjoys writing about luxury cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc even if she can only dream of owning them.
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