Occupational Therapists (OT’s) are healthcare professionals who work to help people participate in the activities of everyday life. They can answer any questions that you may have about buying cars and sitting for your licence. An OT will assess the transport needs of you and your family and make sure you choose the best possible vehicle modifications for your needs. They can liaise with your doctors and Willshire Mobility, help you apply for funding and explain regulations and paperwork.
If you don’t already have an Occupational Therapist, ask your doctor to provide you with a referral. If you are planning on driving the car yourself, you will need to see an OT with specialist driver qualifications and obtain medical clearance from your doctor and state regulatory authority. On your first visit make sure you take along your doctor’s referral and any relevant medical records. If your carer will be driving the vehicle or operating hoists or other equipment, the OT will need to take their needs into account as well.
An occupation therapy assessment should take into account all aspects of your transport needs, these include:
- Whether you have the physical, cognitive and psychological ability to drive a car.
- Your ability to enter and exit a vehicle. Can you transfer? Are there ways to make transferring easier? If not, what is the best way for you to travel safely in your wheelchair?
- Your carer’s needs. Carers should be comfortable and confident with any equipment that they will be required to use.
- The size of your family. Your vehicle should have enough seating for everyone.
- Budget. There are often multiple options available for vehicle modifications. Your OT should help you find one that you can afford.
- Height and weight. Your vehicle and any ramps, lifting or storage equipment should be strong enough to hold you, your wheelchair and any other equipment (such as ventilators) that you carry.
- Safety and comfort. Your OT will help to make your vehicle both safe and comfortable for all your needs. For example, you should not need to bend or tilt your head when using hoists, ramps or other lifting equipment. If you experience seizures there should be a mechanism for your carers to quickly and safely change your position in case of emergency.
- Environment. Do you regularly travel on dirt roads or over speed humps? Does your garage have a low ceiling? Your OT will ask you about the kind of terrain you usually travel on. They may even visit your home or work place to assess any possible obstacles.
- Storage space. If you need to travel with extra equipment like walking frames, oxygen bottles or commodes, you vehicle should have space to safely store all your gear.
- Changes over time. Buying a vehicle is a long- term investment. Your assessment should take into account any changes that are likely to occur to your condition or equipment over the next decade.
Once your assessment is complete your Occupational Therapist will discuss the results with both you and your vehicle converter to come up with a plan that best suits your needs. Once your vehicle conversion is complete, ask your OT to inspect it before purchase, to ensure that the design meets the requirements set out in your plan.