woman in a power wheelchair next to her blue minivan

Video Tour of Adapted Van

This article contains a video
Content via Words I Wheel By
Words I Wheel By

“One of the most common questions I get is ‘How do you drive?'” shares Emily. Emily has Larsen syndrome, a genetic physical disability that affects her joints and muscles, and she is a power wheelchair user. To answer the burning question about how she drives, she made a step-by-step video of how she does it!

Emily has a modified 2014 Honda Odyssey (which she named Parker!), that has a side entry ramp. At 0:34, Emily demonstrates how with the push of a button on her key fob, the right side door of the van opens, and the ramp automatically lowers.

Once Emily enters the van, she turns her wheelchair to face the front of the vehicle, then demonstrates how she uses modified tie downs to secure her chair. At 1:07, Emily explains why the tie downs in her van are located on bars mounted underneath the front passenger seat rather than on the floor in most traditional modified vehicles. “Those are specially designed for me so I can reach them myself,” she says.

At 1:30, Emily shows viewers how the driver’s seat can be moved backward and sideways in order to allow her to transfer easily from her chair into the driver’s seat.

After a successful transfer, Emily talks about the modifications on her steering wheel that allow her to drive the van using only her hands. At 3:11, she demonstrates the spinner knob attached to her steering wheel which she explains is “pretty standard for people who drive with their hands like I do.” The spinner knob allows Emily to safely and smoothly turn the wheel with her right hand while her left hand controls the gas/brake lever. Another safety feature Emily has is a turn signal extension handle that she demonstrates at 4:00.

A little later in the video (4:40), the camera moves to the left side of the steering wheel to allow Emily to demonstrate the hand control that operates the gas and break. “If I want to put the brake on, I push forward at sort of a downward angle,” explains Emily. “And if I want to rev the engine, or push the gas, I push down.” Emily further explains that her hand control is a “low effort gas and brake” meaning she only has to exert minimal force on the control to engage it. This is helpful for people who have limited strength in their upper bodies, like Emily.

At 5:43, Emily points out the backup emergency system buttons located to the left of the steering wheel. This would be used in the event that any of the hand controls fail.

Lastly, at 6:00, Emily demonstrates how she exits her vehicle starting with opening the door and ramp by pushing a button on the dashboard. Emily then transfers back to her wheelchair, and makes her way down the ramp. 

Share this post with someone who wants to take the leap into driving a modified vehicle.

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