Transportation and Driving

Transportation and Driving

One of the most independence-enhancing things you can do after a spinal cord injury is drive a vehicle. Many people with quadriplegia are able to drive again with just a few added features thanks to amazing technological inventions. And people with paraplegia are able to drive with just a few added features. More and more people are interested in returning to the roads again after their spinal cord injuries.

Fortunately, many states offer grants to help pay for adaptations to make your vehicle accessible. If you purchase a minivan, for example, your state may pay to install the lowered floor, ramp, or lift and hand controls.”This is paid for through the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS). Make sure to inquire if your state offers this.

Reword: “There are a few places that give assistance for vehicles for the disabled despite the significant population that requires it for transportation. One such place however, the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation, donates up to $10,000 for a van if you have a spinal cord injury. Another place called The Brighter Tomorrow Grant offers a $1,000 grant through the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (having MS is not required). People can also fundraise to get a new vehicle with assistance online using fundraiser sites like HelpHopeLive.”

If you have the funds for an assisted vehicle, the options are abundant and the hand controls are better than ever. Check out our Transportation & Driving learning portal to explore vehicle options, hand controls options, and alternative transportation options if you cannot drive.

Vehicle Options

Vans and minivans have been the standard accessible vehicle for wheelchair-users for decades. It is unlikely that wheelchair-users can access vehicles other than these options unless they are able to transfer independently. Thankfully, this disparity is changing due to an array of new vehicle options that have emerged in the last two decades.

There are several trucks and SUVS that can have a ramp or a lift addition that allows access for both quadriplegics and paraplegics.”. If you’re looking for a vehicle that is not a van, you couldn’t be looking at a better time. In the past, companies have made both the PT Cruiser and the Honda Element accessible. Those are no longer being made, and now several trucks and SUVs are becoming accessible.

Currently, they are making a slough of vehicles accessible, including the Ford Explorer, Dodge Journey, Buick Enclave Essence, Kia Soul, Chevy Traverse, Chevy Silverado and the GMC Yukon.

If you can transfer by yourself, you can use almost any car as long as the transfer is not too low or too high and there is enough room for your wheelchair. Because of this, compact cars can be trickier to use. Mid-sized cars that only have two doors are much easier for wheelchair-users to transfer.

There are lifts available for cars to help store your wheelchair as well. These lifts take the headache out of retrieving your wheelchair. Instead, the lift grabs the wheelchair and brings it right to your door.

Hand Controls

When hand-controls were first invented, they were made for those who had full hand-control, like paraplegics. Originally, you had to squeeze the controller that connected to the foot pedal to maneuver. But now, there is a wide array of hand-controls available for people of all types of mobility. You can have full to zero finger function and still pass your driver’s test.

Can’t Drive? Other Options

Unfortunately, having some kind of arm movement is necessary to drive. If you cannot drive, autonomous vehicles are just being rolled out in both Texas and California; a first in the nation. This means that if they’re successful, you may find them as a new public transportation option near you. This technology may even be available in personal vehicles one day.

Also, don’t be afraid to try your nearby public transportation, whether it is a bus system, a light rail system or a subway system. We know most subways are not accessible, but many of the new light rail systems are. A lot of work, effort and money has been put into making light rail systems accessible across the country so don’t be shy and try it out.


Spinal Cord Injury
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Bethesda MD  20814
Phone Number: +1 703-795-5711