Modified motor vehicles: the experiences of drivers with disabilities

Claire Louise Hutchinson, Angela H. Berndt, Susan Gilbert Hunt, Stacey R. George, Julie Ratcliffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Driving is often a rehabilitation goal of people with acquired disability, and vehicle modifications are typically required to facilitate this outcome. Though there have been several survey studies on vehicle modifications for people with disability, there has been no qualitative work on understanding people with disabilities’ experiences of being a modified vehicle driver.

Method: An interpretative phenomenological approach was used to understand the lived experiences of drivers with disability. Semi-structured interviews were conducted (n = 8) with drivers who used a variety of vehicle modifications from simple to highly complex. Using NVivo, Stage 1 of the coding involved case by case analysis and Stage 2 cross case analysis to identify themes that best captured drivers’ experiences.

Results: Four core themes were identified: knowing vs. challenging limitations, making complex driving considerations, considering undesired alternative transportation options, and responding emotionally to temporary vehicle loss. The Person-Environment-Occupation model was used as an orientating framework to discuss findings.

Conclusions: This explorative small scale study highlights that less than full utilisation of modified vehicles is not a result of driver choice, but rather a complex interface between drivers’ physical and psychological limitations, and physical environments that do not support the needs of drivers with disability.

Implications for Rehabilitation

The development of resources that identify environmental factors in public spaces (e.g., number and location of parking for people with disability, steps, slopes, ticket machines and their height and location) could support the driving choices of people with disabilities.

It is important to assess psychological limitations of driving as well as physical limitations.

Driving goals and driving capacity across different locations requires periodic review post-rehabilitation.

More advocacy for improving community accessibility is required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3043-3051
Number of pages9
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number21
Early online date23 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2020


  • rehabilitation goal
  • Driving
  • modified vehicles
  • Disability
  • driver rehabilitation
  • Vehicle modifications
  • lived experiences
  • qualitative research
  • drivers with disability


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