Perceptions of people with disabilities have changed dramatically over time, writes Andy Wady, Brand Director at Jardine Motors. Research from the British Social Attitudes Survey found that 83% of respondents viewed disabled people as the same as them, which is up from 77% in 2005.
With the shift in social perception towards disabled people, car manufacturers must also consider their needs when creating new cars. In this article, we’ll look at the importance of vehicles being more accessible for disabled drivers and how companies are working to make vehicles able to account for everyone’s needs.
The independence of driving
Driving is something that non-disabled members of society may take for granted, but for disabled people, it can help make journeys less painful. Having the option to drive can help reduce the feeling of relying on public transport schedules.
This can help significantly with any appointments they may need to make or even just travel to shop for groceries. The British government has financial schemes and tax exemptions for disabled drivers, including the Blue Badge scheme. In most car parks, from supermarkets to hospitals, accessible parking spots are located closer to the entrance of the venue or exit of the car park. For owners of a Blue Badge, this can improve their quality of life by reducing the distance they need to walk.
Accessibility features & modifications
Regarding accessibility in modern cars, there are plenty of accessible options to make driving more personalised for your needs. And thanks to the efforts of The Motability Scheme, a range of adaptations can be applied to a vehicle.
These can range from modifications to make your van a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) by installing a ramp and adding tie-downs for securing the passenger to electronic accelerators for drivers with hand-controlled brakes that reduce the need for excessive leg movement.
Say you have a disability that results in your hands being unable to grip your car’s steering wheel safely, or it’s uncomfortable to perform the motions of turning. You may qualify for a steering aid installed, such as a ball or a handle on the wheel, to give you access to the range of motion required for turning.
The future of accessibility
As technology expands for consumer products, we’re likely to see accessibility modifications for cars evolve as well. Driverless cars could be essential for disabled individuals who need to travel.
This could hugely reduce the need for excessive movement and could mean that in the future, car owners could simply program in their destination, and the vehicle could drive them there with sensors to detect other cars and the environment. The British government has committed driverless cars to be safely on the roads by 2025. Similarly, if you didn’t want to relinquish full control of the vehicle to feel a bit safer, artificial intelligence (AI) could be adapted to assist in taking partial control.
The future of accessibility could also mean that there’ll be more access to adaptations for drivers and passengers that need them. Whether this is through more adaptations being manufactured or more garages taking on installations, there are more options for where you can put them in your vehicle.
Having to depend on public transport if you have disabilities can be taxing as the schedule may not line up with when you need to travel. Giving everyone access to the freedom and independence of driving and owning a car, like a classic all-rounder Audi A4, regardless of their personal needs, is important. Studies have even shown that giving up driving can increase the risk of depression and impact your cognitive and physical abilities, so not even having the option could have a similar effect.