Help Make a Car Accessible
March 7, 2011 11:12 AM   Subscribe

How to adapt a vehicle for a disabled child and get reimbursement?

My daughter had a stroke when she was born, affecting her right side. She has very little fine motor control and little weight-bearing grip on her right side. Getting in and out of cars is a challenge. For example, getting her into my extended cab pickup is hard and getting harder because of the high step up and tight clearance. Getting into Mrs. Plinth's Impreza is a challenge because of the step down into the floor pans and the step up into the car.

Ideally, we would get a replacement for my truck in the short term and are looking for vehicles that would allow her to get in and out of the car with no assistance.

Some car manufacturers offer money back for modifications (Ford, GM, VW, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai).

Question 1 - has anyone had experience with getting running boards or side rails installed and getting reimbursement on them (for example Hyundai, won't reimburse Hyundai accessories - but what about aftermarket steps, like Romik?)?

Question 2 - for manufacturers that don't offer this program, can that be used as a successful bargaining chip? (I'd like to get your car, but I need to add side rails and you don't offer any assistance, but Honda does...)? If so, how would you approach it? (added bonus if it's compatible with the rizzo or fax attack).

Question 3 - who else should I be talking to - especially WRT finding other options? I've looked at a number of sites and they seem to be geared towards wheelchair lifts and associated tools, less about "how can I make this car easier to get in and out of without lifts."
posted by plinth to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
(This doesn't answer your question, but if you're looking pinched for money to make the vehicle more accessible, you might want to try contacting your local Lion's club. The one in our community regularly picks up the bill for this type of thing, funded by the worlds most awesome prime rib dinner fundraiser. I hope you find the information you need.)
posted by Nickel Pickle at 11:27 AM on March 7, 2011

I spend money on this kind of stuff as my every day job. I'm likely not much help to you, but I can try to be. What state are you in? how old is she now? What's the insurance picture?

Feel free to respond via MeMail, please don't share private details here.
posted by TomMelee at 11:28 AM on March 7, 2011

If you were in the Cleveland area, I'd point you at Truckin Vantastiks, which is a company that does nothing but adapt vehicles for various physical challenges, all day every day. My wife has cerebral palsy, and this is the company we've used to install her hand controls. It's a family business, and the patriarch who started it ("Red") is still there every day, and likes to chat; he might be willing to give you some suggestions even though you're not a potential customer. Even better, you might find a similar business in your area. I think you're better off deciding what modifications might be most helpful before you worry about how to pay for them.
posted by jon1270 at 11:30 AM on March 7, 2011

Response by poster: To clarify, we're pretty sure that a step up is the solution. Certainly, I feel like I can afford a running boards, either OEM or after market, but do I need to? And the direct experience with running boards or step ups is especially important to me since they are an unknown quantity and I was distinctly underwhelmed by Honda's OEM running boards, which flexed badly under my weight). Hence Question 1.

And Question 2 is directed by opinion experience with using this as a bargaining chip. I'm a firm believer in the adage that you can't cheap a car salesperson, so I want to have as much on my side when I work on the final deal. If I select a Nissan, I would absolutely want the dealer to believe that the reimbursement is a showstopper.

And Question 3 is based around the belief that I am probably operating in a vacuum and might be overlooking something else. For example, it took talking to other parents to find out that at Disney I can take her to Town Hall and get a tag that says, "Stroller = Wheelchair" which means I don't have to carry a 50 pound child through a line when she gets tired.

For more info, I'm in MA, she's 8, 50 pounds, about 42 inches (IIRC), has Down syndrome, and as mentioned, partial hemiplegia from her stroke.
posted by plinth at 12:49 PM on March 7, 2011

Response by poster: Hey mathowie, could you take out the feature that adds typos when you answer a question?

"...can afford running boards..."
" can't CHEAT a car salesperson..."
posted by plinth at 12:51 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not sure entirely what you're hoping to get answer-wise here, sorry, I may just not be reading well.

If you want it to be a dealbreaker, make it a dealbreaker. If you want a car with them, and absolutely don't want to pay more for that car, then say that up front. Or, tell them salesman you know you're going to have to spend a grand on them, and you're gonna need that off the sticker right this minute or you're walking away. Or install them aftermarket, they're pretty cheap

Regarding other funding options, she's 8 and was born with a disability. Many states offer funds (In our state they're called "Family Support") to pay for immediate needs for people born with disabilities, specifically children. These are typically medicaid-match dollars, and so if they exist they likely haven't been cut. She may or may not be eligible depending on your insurance picture and income and myriad other issues at hand, however it's worth investigating. Sometimes there are also dollars there via state funded rehab initiatives or more medicaid matches for vocational equipment---ergo, running boards make her able to get out of the home/get to doctors/go to school/etc, that might be a valid option as well. If your state has a Rehabilitation Service, I suggest you call them. These are generally programs administered by the RSA, even if just as a funds distribution hub.

Please, as you consider your options, consider having an evaluation done by an ATP (assistive technologies professional) and/or a Physical/Occupational Therapist. Just because today running boards will suit her, it doesn't mean they'll still be safe when she's 12 or 16. It may also be that she'd benefit as much from an interior sling-handle as she would from boards. ATP's can usually be bothered for free or cheap from your local durable medical equipment supplier.
posted by TomMelee at 1:12 PM on March 7, 2011

Best answer: The answer to this was that I went through Nissan, who doesn't offer a "mobility" program, but I made it clear that other dealers would rebate the full amount on this. I sent RFQs to every dealer within 200 miles, cut out the ones that couldn't be bothered to follow directions and put the best quote in front of the salesperson who I had dealt with first. He matched it.
posted by plinth at 6:23 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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