by Wendy McBrair, MS, BSN, CHES
There are many other car features that may appeal to people with arthritis. Some of them are factory options you have to select when buying a new car; others are standard. The following are some you might look out for.
For people who are in wheelchairs or need more extensive accommodation, there are modifications available that go above and beyond the factory options offered by the manufacturer. For example, a van can be fitted with ramps, lifts, and hand controls to help people in wheelchairs get in and out. If you feel that you are in need of these kinds of modifications, an occupational therapist can help advise you. However, customized equipment can be costly. To help ease the burden, most major carmakers have a “mobility program” that can help pay for outfitting cars and vans with these types of modifications, offering a rebate of up to $1,000 for adaptive devices added to a new vehicle. You can contact your local dealership for more information on their mobility programs.
There are other ways to get help paying for modifications to your car. You can contact your state’s vocational rehabilitation services to see whether you qualify for help paying for modifications (although for these benefits, you must use your car for work or work training). If you are a veteran, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) may reimburse you for mobility adaptations. Finally, you may be able to write off modifications to your car on your federal income tax form. Download Publication 502, “Medical and Dental Expenses,” as a pdf; view it on the Web; or contact the IRS for more details.
For many of us, buying a new or used car or leasing a car isn’t in our plans. We have to make do with the car we have. Fortunately, there are many ways to make an old car more user-friendly if your arthritis makes driving difficult. The following are some devices that can allow you to adapt your car to your changing abilities. You can find these devices and more at companies such as Aids for Arthritis (800-654-0707) and North Coast Medical (800-821-9319). For illustrations, see "Arthritis-Friendly Car Devices."
Gas cap turner. In most states, buying gas means pumping it yourself. If you can go to a full-service gas pump, you should. If not, a gas cap turner allows you to more easily twist the gas cap open and closed.
Seat belt handle. Pulling the seat belt over your chest and lap and attaching it by your side is difficult for some people with arthritis. A seat belt handle attaches on to the seat belt, making it easier to pull the belt across your body. It is very helpful for those with limited range of motion in the elbow or shoulder.
Key turner. Turning the key to start the car can be painful and difficult for hands with arthritis. The key turner fits onto your key and provides a large, wide handle to help turn the key.
Swivel seat cushion. The best and safest way to get into your car is first to sit on the seat and then to swing your legs over. The swivel seat cushion, which is placed on top of your normal seat, allows you to swivel your body around more easily.
Lumbar back support. If your car’s seat does not support your lower (lumbar) back, a curved supportive back pillow can make long drives more comfortable.
Handybar. This hand-held support handle inserts into your car’s door frame and helps you support yourself as you get in and out of your vehicle. It can also be used in an emergency to cut your seat belt or break a window.
Mirror add-ons. There are a couple of modifications you can make to standard rearview and side mirrors to make it easier to see the road behind you without turning around. A panoramic rearview mirror attaches on to a standard rearview mirror but offers a broader picture of the road. Similarly, mirror extenders sit on top of your side mirrors and eliminate “blind spots” that can make changing lanes or merging hazardous.
Last Reviewed on March 21, 2012
Get the latest arthritis news and the most useful self-management tips delivered to your inbox twice a month! Sign up for our free e-mail newsletter today.
Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.