Independence within the disabled community is becoming far more of an important focus and as such the use of one’s own vehicle without assistance is an integral part of that, says Dominic Sierra, Mobility Consultant at Chairman Industries.
The need to adapt and convert vehicles for use by the disabled is vital and is whole-heartedly endorsed by the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Association (RMI). Chairman of MIWA, Dewald Ranft, says as able-bodied people we often take for granted the ease of mobility. “Through the correct conversion and servicing of vehicles for the disabled they too can enjoy the freedom of being independent.”
Sierra explains that the hand control conversion is done in-house by its technicians as well as at select agents that are trained by Chairman Industries and are more than competent to fit the system. “Generally, a client will either call us before buying a vehicle for our opinion or advice on the suitability of it, or bring us a vehicle they already own. In certain cases, the dealership will contact us and bring a car through for conversion before it’s delivered to the client.”
He says the system is compatible with almost any automatic vehicle regardless of model or brand. “It is, however, a lot easier to do the conversions in both bigger vehicles because of the bigger cabin space and also in simpler vehicles, such as entry level hatchbacks, due to the simplicity of the cabin and space surrounding the driver.”
The hand control system is only available for automatics for someone without the use of their legs. “We will also do a clutch conversion for operation of just the clutch in a manual generally for a client with an amputation or a walking impairment,” says Sierra.
Due to the conversion not actually changing anything within the vehicle other than how the pedals are operated, there is no extra licensing or documentation required for the vehicle itself. “First time drivers are requested to make use of disabled driving schools and retake their driving test to obtain a supplemented license,” says Sierra.
Ranft adds that while the average servicing of the vehicle can be done at an independent workshop, such as a MIWA workshop, the servicing, fitment or removal of the hand control or clutch control needs to be done by those specialising in these products. Chairman Industries offers a free service to its hand control system once a year for a user. The vehicle will be test driven and all the components will be checked to be in safe working condition and any necessary adjustments made.
“As with all vehicles we strongly urge disabled drivers to ensure that their vehicles are serviced regularly. Safety on our roads as well as the safety of you, the driver, need to be the priority,” says Ranft.
While they have yet to see the market itself growing, Sierra says there is definitely a drive towards more independence for the disabled community. “We believe strongly in the safety and function of our hand control system and would like to see it used in more disabled-friendly vehicles,” he concludes.