Automobility: Self-determined living in everyday life
Automobility: Self-determined living in everyday life
Self-determination is one of the basic needs of every person. However, the everyday life of people with disabilities often becomes more difficult due to various barriers and restricted mobility. This frequently also applies when it comes to driving a car. Individual adaptations and digital solutions, however, often make this possible again.
Automotive converters can adapt vehicles to meet different needs.
The company F. Sodermanns Automobile GmbH has specialized in the conversion of cars and vehicles for people with disabilities. Since 1996 it helps to achieve new independence and quality of life. "It is very important to try out the individual driving assistance before the conversion. This starts with a force and reaction time assessment at our Driver Test Station where we scientifically determine which driving supports can be considered. In the course of the consultation, we try out together how the person can best get into the vehicle. Finally, we take a test drive in one of our converted driving school vehicles on our traffic practice area. This ensures that the individual conversion concept works perfectly," says Ralf Sontag from F. Sodermanns Automobile GmbH.
Because whether getting in, buckling up, steering or accelerating – there are some challenges to overcome in order to be fully mobile again. The driving assists needed always depend on the disability in question.
From getting in ...
As a rule, the assistive device is placed behind the driver's seat in the second row or in the trunk – if physically possible. Fully automatic wheelchair loading systems are common here, for example. The vehicle door can also be converted to automatically open or close at the push of a button. The transfer from the wheelchair into the car is done via a transfer device mounted on the vehicle in the form of a folding sliding board – however, a certain upper body stability is necessary for this.
If the transfer is not possible due to physical limitations, it is possible to enter the vehicle with the wheelchair (usually an electric wheelchair) via a lift or ramp. Steps or lift-swivel seats on the driver's side are also used to enable people with disabilities to enter the vehicle.
... lift seats...
... and steps make it possible to enter a car in different ways.
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If it is not possible to fasten the seat belt due to mobility restrictions, seat belt assistance systems are available that are easier to grasp. However, a belt system that is coupled to the driver's door and automatically secures the person when the driver's door is closed can also be used. In rare cases, hoop systems can also be used that wrap around the person at the touch of a button.
"If you use a power wheelchair like the PR50, the seat belt and headrest are already an integral part of the wheelchair. Since the wheelchair is secured via a docking station when driving over it, this takes care of everything. The PR50 is approved as a driver's seat according to the German Road Traffic Licensing Regulations and is crash tested," explains Sontag.
... right up to the steering
Various solutions are also available for steering, braking and accelerating. Wheelchair users with paraplegia and sufficient strength (50kg pressure force according to the law) can use various handheld devices that are used for braking and accelerating. "These are usually controlled with one hand. With the other hand, you hold, for example, a multifunction steering wheel turning knob, which can be used to turn the steering wheel and at the same time operate the most important secondary functions such as indicators, horn, lights and windshield wipers," says Sontag.
If the driver's own strength is not sufficient, digital driving assistance devices can be used. These so-called input devices – such as a mini-steering wheel, joystick or accelerator-brake slider – transmit information to a computer, which in turn controls the system's motors. This can also enable driving with foot steering if that is not possible with the hands. Important secondary functions – such as the operation of the turn signals, hazard warning lights, horn or window wipers – can be operated by voice control if necessary.
Different adaptations inside the car meet the individual needs of the drivers.
"Nowadays, technically a lot is possible and even severe physical limitations can be compensated for by an individual conversion. Independent mobility is one of the most important goods we have. For many of our customers, having their own vehicle marks the beginning of a whole new phase in their lives, characterized by freedom and self-determination. That makes us particularly proud and grateful. Sodermans also offers individual options in the area of camping for people with disabilities. In this article on REHACARE.com you can learn more about mobility in leisure time.
The intention pursued by Sodermanns and many other companies from the assistive technology sector is obvious: to increase the mobility of those affected and thus improve their quality of life. Some REHACARE exhibitors have therefore joined forces to achieve even more. Read in this article on REHACARE.com how people with mobility impairments benefit from these cooperations in everyday life.