by Mark Dvorak
Note: this is Mark’s experience and thoughts – please check with your insurance company and local authorities
I learned quite a bit about hand controls while I was shopping for the type I wanted to have installed on my van. I am by no means an expert on the subject, but I would like to share a few of the things I learned during the process of getting my controls. Let me start by saying that I have HSP. I describe my symptoms as "everything from my waist down is affected in one way or another, especially my leg weakness and balance." My upper body seems to be working just fine.
There are electronically and mechanically controlled hand controls on the market. The electronic controls seemed to be designed for individuals that have mobility problems with all four of their limbs and the mechanical type seemed to be more suitable for individuals with lower extremity problems only. (The mechanical type was the best application in my case)
Going to a driving school and getting evaluated to determine which type of control is best for your situation might be available in your area and may be covered by your insurance. Check it out!
My insurance company considers hand controls as a durable medical good "but" they did not cover the cost of the controls or the installation cost at all (Even with a prescription from my doctor). Their reasoning for this was "installation of hand controls is considered a modification to your vehicle, therefore we will "NOT" cover the expense to purchase them or have them installed". Check with your insurance company about the above and check to see if they can be deducted as a medical expense on income taxes.
Mounting a spinner knob on the steering wheel will aid you in the task of steering. For safety’s sake a person needs a "spinner knob" while using hand controls. I have heard of people that don’t have a spinner knob on their steering wheel to go along with their hand controls. That seemed kind of dangerous to me since I was going to be removing one of my hands from the wheel to operate the controls.
There are many types of spinner knobs on the market. For about $70 I purchased one that matches the interior of my vehicle nicely. It connects to the wheel like a clamp using hex screws. I was able to move it around until I found a location that was comfortable for me. The task of moving it around is possible by using the hex wrench that is supplied with the knob, so keep track of the wrench! The knob itself is removable by pressing a button. This allows an individual to operate the vehicle without the knob being in the way. Here is a web site you can view my spinner knob; http://suregrip-hvl.com/spinmaster.html
NOTE: If you are in an accident, you are forced forward by the impact the majority of the time. Some hand controls accelerate by pushing the control forward or down. This action could cause you to push on the gas. I would encourage you to stay away from those types of hand controls unless the application for your situation calls for the them.
My hand controls are model # CT-100 and are made by Wells Engberg. You push down for braking and twist the handle (like a motorcycle) for acceleration. These particular hand controls allows the vehicle to be operated with or without the use of the controls.I am not selling hand controls for Wells Engberg but here is a web site that shows the controls I have along with the other types of controls they carry: http://www.wells-engberg.com/. The approximate cost of my hand controls was $300 and it cost approximately $300 to have them installed.
Finding a certified installer might be a little difficult in your area because you will need a mechanic/mobility technician to install the controls. A prescription may be required by the installer and there may be some paperwork to be completed. A driving test and license restriction may be required in your area by the Department of Public Safety.
EDITORS NOTE: CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL AUTHORITIES ABOUT LAWS CONCERNING HAND CONTROL INSTALLATION AND USAGE!
When I first got my hand controls I practiced on country roads where the traffic is lighter. I also went to the mall parking lot and practiced parking, braking, and backing. You should be able to go to a driving school in your area and have some training if you feel the need. Some insurance companies might cover this expense. You need to give it some time and you will become more and more comfortable with using your new hand controls.
Good luck on the purchase of your hand controls and I recommend doing a little bit of research before you decide on which type of controls you want to have installed on your vehicle.
Saturday, September 8th, 2012
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