Hand controls are fitted to vehicles when a person does not have the use of their legs, or the function in their legs is unreliable.
They are usually fitted below and to one side of the steering wheel and can be fitted on the left or right, depending on the individual’s preference and which side is stronger. The mechanical systems are the most affordable systems, and they use rods and mechanical linkages connected from the hand control lever to the pedals. These rods can get in the way of the drivers legs but they are generally reliable and require minimal maintenance. Some companies prefer using a cable which is easily concealed in the dashboard, and give a very responsive drive, however they are more sensitive to misuse and the cable does require maintenance and needs to be replaced every 1 – 2 years, depending on the usage. Misuse by using the hand and foot control simultaneously can snap the cable. It is important to discuss with the manufacturer how often it needs to be serviced or replaced.
Electronic Drive-by-wire systems use computer-aided driving systems, and can control most functions of the vehicle and can include a wide variety of input devices, thus allowing extreme customization according to the client’s function; even joystick-style driving controls are available. Unfortunately these high tech controls are extremely expensive and have limited availability in South Africa.
Most systems are designed so that they can easily be driven by an able body person without having to remove the hand control.
It is important to note that controls that are mounted to the steering column affect the use of the steering adjustments, and once the controls have been fitted the adjustments can no longer be used. When the controls are floor or dashboard mounted, the steering adjustments are not affected.
To prevent fatigue when driving long distances it is recommended that a cruise control is used in combination with the hand controls.
Push Pull Hand Controls
These are the most common. They are usually fitted below and to one side of the steering wheel and can be fitted on the left or right, depending on the individual’s preference and which side is stronger. The actions include push forward for braking and pull towards you for acceleration. They are easy to use and give a quick response in an emergency situation. There are a number of companies across the country that custom build push-pull systems.
VS Hydraulics (0824110889) use a cable which runs down inside the dashboard to the accelerator. The brake is mechanically controlled but the rod and linkages are well concealed in the dashboard. These systems are very neat and very responsive to use, but the cable must be protected and maintained. The system was designed by Jaime Villela, a paraplegic racing driver, for him to use for racing.
EZ Drive (0713629350) and Easy Drive WC (021 8519592) both supply a range of mechanical and electronic push-pull systems, ranging from a basic mechanical system that has a handle next to the steering wheel which is connected to the pedals via two rods, to a variety of custom built systems that can include some secondary controls on the hand control handle as well as the brake hold. As agents for Guidosimplex they can supply a range of push pull control options that can be floor mounted.
Lee Motors (0836610117) have developed a Z shaped linkage system, with stainless steel rods and aircraft grade aluminium levers. It is highly customizable and the design creates a very light control. In the event of an accident the linkage design is designed to crumple, to minimise injuries to the driver.
The Carospeed, available from Leda Medical (021 5576774ext 1005) and Shoprider (012 6531817), is positioned to the left of the driver next to the consol. It also uses a cable for acceleration and a mechanical rod for braking. The rod runs around the side of the foot well, thus leaving the leg spaces relatively clear. The indicators can be fitted on a switch on the head of the hand control. It also has the option of a brake hold which replaces the park brake.
Easy Rider (0827780735) has designed a “clamp on” control which can be installed on the left or right hand side. It has a strap which supports it on the steering column and adjusts the height. They have two fitting options, one being a quick and easy solution for temporary use, and one being a slightly more permanent fitting with takes a bit longer to fit or remove but also allows the pedals to be used by an able body driver. It is a popular solution for driving schools and car rental companies. The correct fitting of this control is essential.
The action for this control is push away for brake, push down towards your lap to accelerate. This makes it less tiring for long distances, as it requires minimal effort to push down if it is correctly set-up; however the driver must take care not to brake and accelerate at the same time as this can damage some types of gear boxes. This can be useful for 4×4’s on a steep hill start as it can be used instead of the park brake.
Chairman Industries (011 6241222) developed this system and have been making and improving the Co-Driver for over 30 years. It is still one of the most popular systems available. Chairman have agents around the country as well as in Botswana and Zimbabwe (see contact list for details.)
Ronnie’s AutoMobility (074 942 8204) also fit the Chairman Co-Driver, however they run the rod down inside the dashboard giving more room for the legs.
Leon Pistorius (0832645815) has developed a similar radial system which he can customise according to the client’s needs.
EZ Drive (0713629350) and Easy Drive (0824524639) can supply the Modena radial control from Guidosimplex which can be fitted to either the left or right of the steering wheel.
Shoprider (012 6531817) can supply the Kivi RT12 radial hand control which can be fitted on either the left or right hand side of the steering wheel. Horn and hill holder buttons are integrated into the hand control and buttons for auxiliary controls are optional.
Both Guidosimplex and Kivi make a range of accelerator rings which is a second ring that is positioned either above or behind the steering wheel, and is squeezed towards the steering wheel for acceleration. It uses a lever brake similar to the standard push-pull systems. The advantage is that both hands can be kept on the steering wheel when accelerating and it is designed for performance driving . The Guidosimplex range are available through Easy Drive WC (0824524639), and EZ Drive (0713629350),and it is available in both a mechanical and electronic option. The Kivi range is available through Shoprider (012 6531817). This system can be easily transferred between vehicles. It is designed to be used on a manual vehicle in conjunction with the infrared clutch conversion.
Push and Press
This design is well suited for quadriplegics as it requires minimal hand function. The handle is pushed away for braking, but the accelerator uses an additional hinged lever on the end of the brake handle, which is pressed towards the steering wheel for acceleration. Available from Lee Motors (0836610117) and Sipho Mdletshe (0716744498).
This twist grip, available from Lee Motors(0836610117), uses the standard push away action for braking, but the handle is twisted as for a motorbike, to give acceleration.
Easy Drive WC (0824524639), and EZ Drive (0713629350),have an electronic rotation designed for quadriplegics, which enables them to use wrist flexion or extension for acceleration and push away for braking and it has an option to add secondary control buttons.