Hit the Road!
Getting the Right Adaptive Driving Equipment for You
The needs of individual drivers are as diverse and unique
as the specialized driving aids available today. So it’s
important to take the right steps to find the equipment
that’s best for your particular situation.
No one questions the need to visit an optometrist to determine
your vision requirements. Nor do you ask an eyeglasses
provider to build you a pair of corrective lenses. That provider is
required to fill your prescription as determined by your medical
The adaptive driving industry works the same way. Before you
purchase and install adaptive equipment, you need an evaluation
by a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) or an
occupational therapist (OT) with specialty training in assessing
driving skills and providing driving rehabilitation.
Then, to get the best results, you’ll want to work with a qualified
adaptive automotive dealer — because not every automotive
dealer has the expertise and specialization to serve you best.
WHAT IS A NMEDA QAP DEALER?
The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA)
is a non-profit trade association made up of adaptive automotive
dealers, automotive manufacturers, adaptive equipment
manufacturers, driver rehabilitation specialists, therapists and
rehabilitation and automotive engineers. NMEDA members who
are automotive dealers — in other words, the companies who sell
cars to consumers — must do the following:
- Have documented processes in place and maintain an
approved Quality Control Manual.
- Undergo an audit once a year to make sure the dealer is
compliant with Quality Assurance Program (QAP) rules and
guidelines, Americans with Disabilities Act facility requirements,
Federal or Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (F/MVSS),
and any other state or provincial laws.
- Have technicians who are trained and certified in the specific
equipment they install.
- Use only calibrated tools traceable to national standards
(MIST) as required.
- Perform weight analysis using four-corner scales to assure
vehicle will not be overloaded.
- Archive detailed records of all adaptive work for a minimum
of seven years.
- Maintain proper insurance coverage so you and your vehicle
are protected while work is done and after it’s completed.
- Provide 24/7 emergency service with a dedicated phone
- Abide by Mediation Committee decisions should a complaint
be lodged by a consumer.
What if you do not have a NMEDA QAP dealer in your area?
Ask local companies that do install mobility equipment if they
abide by the practices listed here. If they do not, you may want to shop around for a company that does. It is important that the
technician installing your equipment is trained and certified on
that specific equipment.
THE ADAPTIVE DRIVING EQUIPMENT PROCESS
First: Complete a functional driving assessment. Driving a motor
vehicle is a complex task that involves more than the physical
ability to operate controls. Adequate vision, integrated reflexes
and appropriate cognitive skills are required to process what one
sees and how one reacts, in a manner quick enough to ensure
safe, efficient decisions behind the wheel.
An occupational therapist, who may or may not also be a
Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist, and is a member
in good standing of the Association for Driver Rehabilitation
Specialists (ADED) is the ideal professional to do the assessment.
Assessing the ability to drive with adaptive equipment and
prescribing the appropriate equipment are not done by a vehicle
modifier, family physician or other health professional. Only the
OT/CDRS can complete this assessment and provide a prescription
for the equipment. If your prescription for adaptive equipment
is not completed by the appropriate professional, you will
not be able to purchase and install the equipment. A functional
driver assessment has two parts: an “in-office” clinical assessment
and an “in-car” or behind-the-wheel assessment. The OT/CDRS will work with you to find the adaptive equipment best
suited to your specific needs.
There is a cost for the assessment, as well as costs for the equipment,
its installation and training to use the equipment. Ask
your OT/CDRS about funding options such as private insurance,
extended benefits or funding programs in your area.
HOW DO I GET ADAPTIVE EQUIPMENT
After you demonstrate the ability to use adaptive equipment, the
OT/CDRS will write a prescription for the recommended equipment,
and you will take the prescription to a dealer of your choice
to have the equipment installed in your vehicle.
Your OT/CDRS can provide a list of local dealers, or you can
enter your ZIP code into the Dealer Locator at nmeda.com.
After the equipment is installed, typically a functional inspection
of you and your vehicle is done by the OT/CDRS who did
the initial assessment to verify that the adaptive equipment and
modifications comply with what was recommended and that you
can drive with the equipment.
Whether you drive from your wheelchair, ride from your
wheelchair or care for someone who needs to be transported,
there is a definite value in working with qualified professionals to
ensure a driver assessment and conversion or installation is done
right the first time and that your vehicle can be properly serviced
down the road.