January 21, 2018



For most Americans, driving is the primary access to a world beyond our doors. It gets us to work, it gets the kids to school, it helps us shop, go to worship and socialize. When driving isn’t an option, chances are you just entered a different world called isolation.

The automobile is amazing and highly effective. We can afford them, and it serves us all pretty well. A large number of physical limitations do not affect our ability to drive, as a result we continue to be mobile. So, what universal design consideration would you have, or not have, in your automotive experience that would extend the usefulness of your car?

Have a garage or carport – get out from the worst weather in order to ease the operations of getting yourself or your stuff in and out of the car.

Good Connectors
Once out of your car, now have a trouble free journey to an accessible floor. This could be a connector door from the garage to the house or a pathway. In any case, there would be no steps, no thresholds greater than half an inch, no obstacles, ample lighting and railings. You’ll get bikes off the car and inside easier, you can put your groceries on a cart and wheel them in to the kitchen, strollers won’t need that risky maneuver when you hoist them with a sleeping child up a few steps and, you can host visitors of all abilities.

Go Wireless
Take advantage of remotes to not only open garage doors but to turn on lights, operate video intercoms and open driveway gates.

The Garage
Taller, longer, wider. Ever hear someone complain about a garage that was too big? With a larger space you’ll have not only ample room for stuff, but should you ever need it, that room accommodates a scooter carrier that’s on the back of the car, a bike rack or a wider aisle for walkers and wheelchairs.

Watch out! Talking on the cell phone while changing songs while the kids go nuts while you eat lunch while you drive doesn’t have a good outcome. Maybe, I said maybe, there is some magical time in your life where all that seems possible, but, consider that driving is enough by itself and when handled responsibly, it means you and everyone else gets home safe. As you move through life’s cycles, be aware that focusing on the task at hand might require more concentration than in the past. Put the gadgets away.

Traffic ConditionsNewer traffic patterns are easier to understand, provide longer reaction times, and require less aggressive behavior. In short, they are less confusing and stressful. However older traffic patterns require quicker responses, have narrower lanes and can be enormously confusing. When relocating, consider the road qualities – are they easier than what you are used to or harder?

Public Transportation
When you loose your wheels, what next? Consider your alternatives in advance. Could you walk? What can be delivered? How close is the bus stop? Are there taxis and can you afford them? What about good Samaritans?

Pay attention! Your doctors might not have a full picture of what else you are taking in addition to what they have just prescribed. Ask lots of questions; read the label; have someone help you as soon as you don’t understand the effect of your medicine. On the road isn’t a good time to find out you’re not feeling too hot.

Wear them.

Keep the volume down. Use your ears to help you be a better driver.

Your Car
What will you need? Don’t settle for anything the dealer tries to sell you. Often he isn’t even aware of the developments his company is up to in this emerging and soon to be competitive market of universal design. Go to the company website and see what they offer. Check into tax rebates. Before you close any deal, look at your aftermarket modifications. What will you need? Who will make the modification for you? Talk to them first and make sure the car you want is a car they can modify to your specs.

And finally, when is it time to hang up the keys for good? More warnings and tickets, forgetting where you parked, increase in dents and scratches, close calls, stress while driving, changing health, avoiding night driving – these are all indications that it’s time to stop. Easy you say. No. But, putting it off won’t help either. Instead, plan early. Begin a transition toward a carless life. Get used to alternate means of getting around; try them out. Make the transition gradual and planned – don’t wait for the abrupt change sometimes compounded by a crisis.

Konrad Kaletsch, CAPS
Universal Design Resource
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