The term “mobility solutions for handicapped or disabled persons” conjures up images of big ugly vans with wheelchair lifts and buses designed to take those who are wheelchair-bound to the store and back home. This doesn’t have to be the case, however. Although it’s not regularly discussed, just because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you have to give up your love of going fast or feeling the wind in your face on a bike. There have been options for disabled persons for years. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Converting Your Hot Rod for Hand Control
Hand controls for cars have been around since I was a kid in the ’80s. These are a system of rods and levers connected to the brake and accelerator pedals and mounted on the steering column, similar to a double shot of the old “three on the tree” manual transmission set up. They can also be mounted under the steering column.
Instead of “mashing the gas” with your right foot, you push a lever behind or under the steering wheel, and when you need to stop, you push another lever. Other mobility systems utilize a single lever and have you twisting the handle to go fast and pushing the handle to stop. Mastering the set-up takes a little practice. Some of them can also be modified to allow for manual transmissions.
Also, with the technological advancements we’ve seen since the 80s, they can be controlled electronically, making it so everyone can drive the car comfortably. Newer systems such as these get rid of the rods and levers that hamper the normal use of the pedals. Other automotive advances also allow for you to remove the driver seat and clamp your chair into the car so you don’t have to have someone to help you get in and out of the car and store your chair for you, while still keeping you as safe as possible in the car, not relying solely on the wheel block locks on most wheelchairs.
Getting In and Out of the Car Used to Require Huge Wheelchair Lifts
Once upon a time, being able to get in and out of a vehicle when wheelchair-bound meant big and heavy wheelchair lifts. However, when you want to go fast, weight is your enemy. That’s one reason companies like Autoadapt created systems like their Carony. This is a combination of a customized wheelchair and a replacement seat mounting system. The chair itself weighs about 30 pounds, making it easy to store on your own with a couple minor modifications to your hot rod.
Motorcyclists Can Convert Their Bikes to Trikes
I have an old friend who was a firm believer in the saying “Ride to Live; Live to Ride.” He ate, slept and breathed hopping on his bike and riding Skyline Boulevard in the South Bay Area. Then one day, he had an accident and lost the use of his legs. He thought he couldn’t ride anymore, and thus, his life was without value.
He was on the verge of doing the unthinkable when a biker buddy of mine was introduced to him. “Tiny” was also an avid biker. He had also lost the use of his legs, in the military. However, he didn’t let a little thing like being a paraplegic stop his enjoyment of the open road on a bike. Because he had no motor function below his waist, though, he knew he couldn’t ride a two wheel bike anymore.
One of his older (in age) friends in his bike club rode a trike because he had inner ear problems. He had converted his beloved Harley Panhead to a trike by cutting the back end off and welding a suspension and axle to the back of his bike’s frame. He used a system of cables and pulleys for the transmission and rear brakes and then practiced for hours in a local parking lot until he felt he had mastered the controls to the point he could take it out on the road.
Disabled persons who still want to experience the freedom associated with going fast on a motorcycle are going to need to do some extra modifications to allow for hand control of shifting the transmission and applying the rear brakes, but there are now electronic shifting kits and kits that allow the application of both the front and rear brakes at the same time by hand.
Don’t Want a Trike? How About a Wheelchair Sidecar?
Let’s say you’re more of an old school biker who doesn’t like the look of a trike or can’t get on or off the bike/trike without help, which might not always be there. There are kits out there that create a wheelchair sidecar and put the bike’s control in front of you – electronic start and shifting, hand control for both front and rear wheels, etc. You just roll your bike up onto/into the sidecar, lock yourself in, and off you go. There are also ready-made wheelchair sidecars that you can buy and connect to your bike.
Landing Gear Wheels Aren’t Just for Airplanes Anymore
Racer Steve “Wheels” Bucaro didn’t like either of the above ideas. He wanted to be able to keep racing bikes. So, when Bucaro was injured in a wreck in 1998, he added an electronic shifter and and what amounts to retractable landing gear to his Suzuki racing bike. He sometimes needs a little help getting on and off the saddle, but he can lean into corners as much as he wants without worrying about falling over. He can also ride his bikes on city streets without worrying about falling over at stop lights or stop signs.