“Lots of practice has gotten me to become really familiar and comfortable driving with my arms,” says Tasha Schuh, quadriplegic. She demonstrates driving an adapted van, including getting in and out of her house independently.
Adaptations for limited upper mobility to maximize independence
As a power chair user, she keeps a lot of remotes attached to the arm rest of her wheelchair with velcro. “I don’t have to worry about dropping them or forgetting them,” she says. The first button she pushes opens the door of her house so she can get out, and it automatically closes behind her. Another button opens the van door, lowers the van itself, and deploys the ramp. Tasha can even use a button to start her van before putting in the key!
Tasha’s wheelchair doubles as the driver’s seat, and she pulls into the space until her wheelchair clicks, indicating it’s safely locked in place. She uses a tri-pin system, one slot for each hand, which allows her to control steering with her right hand and gas and breaks with her left, without fear of her hand slipping out. Even changing gears is a breeze with an adapted lever!
Once she’s out on the road, she can’t take her hands of the steering wheel or the gas or brakes, so what about controlling things like blinkers and windshield wipers? With a few clicks of one of the pegs of the tri-pin she controls with her left hand, she is able to control it all. She can even receive a phone call while driving safely by pushing a button with her elbow. Other voice control system
“I go all over with this van. In downtown Minneapolis, rush hour traffic, I’ve driven through Chicago a couple times- I’ve gotten really comfortable and I actually prefer driving.”
There are many different systems that enable adapted driving, but Tasha admits hers is one of the most complex due to the electronic systems. The computer boxes alone cost $40,000! Despite the big price tag, Tasha feels it’s worth it.
“It’s my independence. It’s my freedom, and you really cannot put a price tag on that. I’m very grateful for technology.”
Once back home, Tasha removes her seatbelt and retrieves her key before releasing the lock system on her wheelchair. Once she’s free, she turns off her computer system and hits the same buttons she hit on the way out to get back home!
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