The History of Motoring and Car Adaptations for Drivers with Disabilities


A wide range of car adaptations is now available to make driving suitable for people with all abilities, giving greater independence and freedom. Adaptations could range from steering wheel balls to swivel seats and wireless keypad controls, making it possible for you to get out and about when you please, with no need to rely on anyone else to give you a lift.

Ransome Mobility is a company with a great reputation for offering excellent service to customers with disabilities. From our base in Suffolk, we serve people in a wide area including Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Essex, Northampton and Hertfordshire. We have a wealth of experience in fitting mobility aids, including a whole range of car adaptations.

The history of motoring for people with disabilities stretches back around 90 years and here are some of the key dates that have made a difference to the lives of hundreds and thousands of people across the UK.

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Motoring for People with Disabilities – Key Dates

1920s – The Disabled Drivers’ Motor Club was founded by a group of seven First World War amputees, after they first met while they were having artificial limbs fitted at St Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton. Founded in April 1922, this is believed to have been the first organisation to be entirely run by disabled people themselves. The group started off because the veterans wanted to organise activities together, holding events such as races at the world famous Brooklands track, as well as other rallies and hill climbs. However, the group also quickly took on a campaigning role and in the 1930s received official Government recognition as the organisation representing drivers with disabilities.

1930s – Disabled drivers won the right to hold a driving licence – thanks to an early campaigning success by the Disabled Drivers’ Motor Club. The Government had considered banning people with disabilities from holding driving licences under the Road Traffic Bill, but was forced to change its mind on the issue.

1940s – Despite being paralysed from the waist down as a result of polio, O.A. Denley, known as “Denny”, crossed the Swiss Alps on a petrol powered disability motor trike in 1947, scaling three mountains. His feat proved an inspiration to others and showed just how much people with disabilities could achieve. The same trike was restored and used to re-create the journey successfully in 2011, following Denny’s death the previous year. After the success of the original journey, in 1948 Denny founded the Invalid Tricycle Association, which later became known as the Disabled Drivers’ Association. It initially organised member rallies, but also supported its members and set up a holiday home for disabled people in Norfolk.

1950s – Push-pull hand controls were invented by another former polio sufferer, Alan Ruprecht, who found the older types of hand controls difficult to use. He founded the Drive-Master corporation in the USA and used his engineering expertise to develop hand controls which were eventually used across the world.

1960s – Yellow Badges were introduced and issued by local authorities, following a campaign to make on-street parking easier for disabled motorists. These badges were the forerunners of later parking schemes.

1970s – The national Orange Badge parking scheme was introduced for disabled motorists in 1971, later replaced by the current Blue Badges. The Mobility Allowance was also introduced in 1976, followed by the founding of Motability: a scheme fully launched in 1978 which was designed to give people with disabilities access to cars, electric wheelchairs and scooters adapted to their individual needs.

1980s – One of the more elaborate and expensive modifications for vehicles, the Elaine Anne Lift, was invented by Canadian father Cliff Wolfe in 1988, after his daughter, Elaine Anne, broke her neck in a swimming pool accident and became paralysed as a result. The lift used a platform which extended from the car and rose to slide her into the driver’s seat.

2000s – The Disabled Drivers Association and Disabled Drivers’ Motor Club in the UK merged in 2005, after working increasingly closely together. At first they took the joint name Mobilise, but this was then changed to Disabled Motoring UK in 2011 to avoid any confusion with other organisations. The merger has created a larger group to represent its members and campaign on issues affecting disabled drivers.

2010s – In the 21st century, there are all sorts of car adaptations available for a wide range of cars, from family vehicles, to 4x4s and luxury vehicles such as the Rolls Royce. There are even adaptations available for commercial vehicles including vans, lorries and fork lift trucks; all designed to ensure that disabled drivers can get on the road.

About Ransome Mobility

Ransome Mobility has Motability accreditation, and has expert staff to help and advise you on car adaptations suitable for drivers of all abilities and for a wide range of vehicles. Get in touch with us and we will arrange for you to view a demonstration vehicle, either at our workshop or at another location if preferred. Our service is individually tailored to your requirements and all adaptations are carried out to the highest standards.

Car adaptations – click here now to get in touch with us.