Common Vehicle Modifications for Persons with Disabilities
America's highways and roads are dominated by personal motor vehicles, such as cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles (SUVs). People love the flexibility of such vehicles to travel where and when they want without having to schedule in advance, wait at stations, or endure other constraints. Indeed, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics' Omnibus Survey, over 95 percent of all U.S. adult residents drive or ride in personal motor vehicles. Among adults with disabilities, 83 percent use such transportation.1 And although disabled persons need the flexibility of motor vehicle transportation as much as anyone else, they first may require vehicle modifications to accommodate their unique needs.
Related to that topic, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asked BTS to summarize information from a Louisiana Tech University Survey of Mobility Equipment Dealers concerning vehicle modifications for persons with disabilities. The survey was conducted in the summer of 2000, and asked respondents (2,100 mobility equipment dealers in the United States) to provide information for a one-year period (June 1, 1999 through May 31, 2000). Responses were received from 101 dealers within 35 states.2
The 101 dealers reported making modifications to 10,129 vehicles during the period of interest. They reported that vans (full-sized and mini) were adapted most frequently, and that vehicles were modified more frequently for drivers (5,995) than for passengers (4,134). The distribution of modifications by vehicle type and consumer (driver or passenger) is shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Type and Number of Vehicles
Modified by the 101 Dealers
|Vehicle Type||Number of Vehicles||Percent|
|Lowered floor minivan||1,229||12.1|
For the 10,129 adapted vehicles, respondents reported a total of 30,907 modifications as shown by type in Table 2.
Table 2. Type and Number of Vehicles
Modified by the 101 Dealers
|Modification Type||Number of Modifications||Percent|
The 101 dealers reported that they made the most modifications in the vehicle-access category. Within the other categories, steering devices, wheelchair or scooter hoists, and removable driver seats were also installed with some frequency.
Cost of Modifications
The survey did not ask for the actual cost of modifications made by the dealers. But it did ask whether the cost was paid by the consumer or by a third party such as an insurance company or rehabilitation services organization. The 101 dealers reported that about 73 percent of the modifications were paid by the individual consumer, and about 27 percent by a third party.
The number of modifications made for people within each specified age range is shown in Table 3, regardless of whether the modifications were for drivers or for passengers. Interestingly, the number of modifications made for those aged 60 years or older exceeded those made for those between 21-35 years of age, indicating demand for vehicle modifications even into later years
Table 3. Consumer Age for Which the
101 Dealers Made Modifications
|Age Range||Number of
Driver Evaluation and Training
The decision to install special equipment for a driver and the task of identifying the adaptive equipment most suited to an individual's needs may be made by:
Of the 101 dealers who responded to the Louisiana Tech survey, it was the dealers themselves who made 37 percent of the decisions, compared with 30 percent for evaluators and 33 percent for consumers.
In terms of training to use the special equipment installed for a driver, 54 percent of training was provided by the vehicle dealer and 32 percent by a certified instructor. According to the 101 dealers, about 15 percent of drivers received no training at all.
This report was prepared by Amanda Cowen, a summer fellow from the Joint Program in Survey Methodology sponsored by the University of Maryland and University of Michigan. She was assisted by Sharon Durant from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Questions may be directed to Ms. Durant at (202) 366-6049.
2 The potential data bias introduced by an overall response rate of about five percent means that the data contained in this Note should not be used to draw national conclusions. Instead, they are best considered as information from the 101 dealers only.