Independence is becoming an important focus within the disability community. With it comes the desire to have a private vehicle for personal use. Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), Dewald Ranft, says most people take for granted the ease of mobility.
“Through the correct conversion and servicing of vehicles for people with disabilities, they can enjoy the freedom of being independent,” he says.
Dominic Sierra, mobility consultant at Chairman Industries, explains that hand control conversion is done in-house by its technicians or by select agents who are trained by Chairman Industries and more than competent to fit the system.
“Generally, a client would either call us before buying a vehicle for our opinion or advice on its suitability. Or they bring us a vehicle they already own. In certain cases, the dealership would contact us and bring a car through for conversion before it’s delivered to the client,” he says. He adds 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 bigger vehicles with more cabin space, and in simpler vehicles such as entry-level hatchbacks, due to the simplicity of the cabin and the space around the driver.”
Sierra explains that the hand control system is only available on automatic vehicles for drivers who lack mobility in their legs. “We would also do a clutch conversion, which allows operation of just the clutch, in a manual vehicle for a client with an amputation or a walking impairment,” he says.
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 a disability driving school and retake their driving test to obtain a supplemented driver’s licence,” says Sierra.
While the regular servicing of the vehicle can be done at an independent workshop, the servicing, fitment or removal of the hand or clutch control needs to be done by someone specialising in these products, says Ranft. Chairman Industries offers users a free service of its hand control system once a year.
The vehicle would be test-driven and all the components checked to ensure it is in a safe working condition and any necessary adjustments are made.
“As with all vehicles, we strongly urge drivers with disabilities to ensure that their vehicles are serviced regularly. Safety on our roads, as well as your own safety as the driver, needs to be the priority,” says Ranft.
While they have yet to see this market grow, Sierra says there is definitely a drive towards more independence for the disability community.
“We believe strongly in the safety and function of our hand control system and would like to see it used in more disability-friendly vehicles,” he concludes.
Watch this video to find out how the hand control system works.