Driving With Cerebral Palsy: On the Road to Independence
Cerebral palsy is a group of neurological disabilities that impacts a person’s ability to move and perform daily activities. Some people who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy lean on caregivers and family members to help them complete basic tasks.
Cerebral palsy doctors believe that helping children and adults with cerebral palsy achieve more independence can help ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety and promote a better quality of life.
For those with cerebral palsy, learning to drive or having access to adaptive equipment in their caregiver's car can open up a world of opportunity and independence. In fact, some people with cerebral palsy who learn how to drive may be able to travel to and from work, take themselves to treatment appointments, and participate in more social activities, which can help boost their self-confidence and make them feel less isolated.
Can People With Cerebral Palsy Drive?
Yes. Some people with cerebral palsy may be able to drive, depending on the severity of their disability.
Since cerebral palsy affects everyone differently, some people might need significant vehicle modifications to operate their vehicle safely, while others may only need minor adjustments.
To get started, a person with cerebral palsy will need to receive a driving evaluation from a driving rehabilitation specialist. The Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists has a searchable database to help you find a certified specialist near you.
Driving evaluations typically examine the following:
- Coordination and reaction time
- Decision-making abilities
- Flexibility, mobility, or range of motion
- Muscle strength
Those who are considered clear to drive after an evaluation may receive a list of required adaptive equipment or car modifications to help them drive safely.
Types of Car Modifications for Cerebral Palsy
There are several different options available for car modifications for cerebral palsy.
The most common type of modification is for someone with cerebral palsy who will be a passenger in a vehicle.
Passenger car modifications for cerebral palsy may include:
- Adapted seat belts to secure wheelchairs
- Car seats specifically designed for protective positioning
- Wheelchair lifts
- Wheelchair ramps
However, if someone with cerebral palsy is cleared to drive, they may need to receive additional adjustments.
Driver car modifications for cerebral palsy may include:
- Automatic windshield wipers
- Gas pedal accelerators
- Gas tank aids
- Hand controls
- Handles to assist them in getting in and out of vehicles
- Seat adjusters
- Steering knobs
- Swiveling car cushions to help turn the seat when getting in and out
These are just a few types of vehicle modifications that may allow people with cerebral palsy the freedom to drive on their own or ride with a caregiver.
Affording Vehicle Modifications for Cerebral Palsy
Unfortunately, one of the biggest barriers for people with cerebral palsy is the cost of vehicle modifications and other accommodations.
A new car with adaptive equipment can cost up to $80,000, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Thankfully, families do not necessarily have to pay for these important adjustments alone.
Some nonprofit organizations provide financial support for people with cerebral palsy, especially if accommodations could drastically improve their quality of life. There are also state-run programs that may help pay part or all of the cost of vehicle modification. A good place to start is to contact your state’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Additionally, some families may be able to pursue legal help for cerebral palsy if the disability was caused by preventable brain damage or an injury at the time of birth.
Our team of Patient Advocates at Cerebral Palsy Guide may be able to help you access the help you need. Contact us today.