Hit the Road!

Getting the Right Adaptive Driving Equipment for You

Adaptive driving equipmentThe 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 professional.

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.


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 number.
  • 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.


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.


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.