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How to Find Help Buying a Handicapped-Accessible Vehicle

by Eric Mohrman


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Disability Is a Stage of Life

Suddenly Disabled

Physical disabilities bring many challenges, often including financial hardship. Sometimes, circumstances make the goal of acquiring a handicapped-accessible vehicle seem unobtainable.

Many automotive options exist for persons with disabilities. For example, vehicles can be outfitted with wheelchair or scooter ramps and lifts and hand controls. They can also be given lowered floors, wheelchair restraint systems, and rotating and lowering seats. Today's adaptive driving technologies are impressive.

They're also expensive. If you or a family member has impaired mobility, a handicapped-accessible vehicle represents more freedom. Grants, vouchers, low-interest loans, and other financial aid exist to put toward a modified vehicle.

Your Dealer

Begin the search for financial aid at your mobility dealer's office. Your dealer wants to sell you a vehicle almost as much as you want one. Salespeople generally familiarize themselves with local and state groups and programs that may help you afford your handicapped-accessible vehicle. The dealer may even have paperwork and help you fill it out. You'll at least get some contact information.

Organizations You Deal With

If you receive stipends or support from an agency, additional help might be available for paying for a converted vehicle. If you or your loved one's disability resulted from US military service, for example, you're likely entitled to money for a special vehicle through the VA. If you collect from Social Security, its Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) program assists with mobility needs. Also, your state's Department of Health and Human Services can direct you to sources of grants and other financial assistance.

Disability-Specific Associations

Almost every disease, genetic condition, and type of injury that causes physical disability has one or more nationwide organizations devoted to advancing research, raising funds and awareness, and helping those afflicted. Most have state chapters, so get in touch with the nearest office. Monetary aid is often available through these groups, and staffers can point you toward other sources.

State Chapters of Federal Programs

All states have divisions of Federal initiatives and organizations providing assistance to disabled residents. For example, Aging and Disabilities Resource Centers, Americans with Disabilities Act Centers, Area Agencies on Aging, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, and Statewide Independent Living Councils all have regional branches. If you need a handicapped-accessible vehicle to get to work, contact your state's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Disabled Children

If you have a child with a developmental or physical disability, a modified vehicle improves life and helps your family participate in the community. Many charities and groups provide assistance to families like yours. Inquire with the Administration for Children and Families, the Disabled Children's Relief Fund, Easter Seals, the Midwest Special Needs Trust, the M.O.R.G.A.N. Project, the President's Choice Children's Charity, and the United Healthcare Children's Foundation.

Application Tips

Competition can be considerable for disability assistance. Typically, the more local the group, the fewer the applicants, but amounts offered are usually lower. Expanding to state and national levels generally increases the number of applicants and wait times, but also amounts offered.

Personalize your applications. Include references, a letter of recommendation from a doctor, and one or two from a boss, commanding officer, or other professional associates.

Many applications request an essay or personal statement. Complete even the optional ones, as they help you stand out and make your case. Be honest, factual, and brief, illustrating your need and how a handicapped-accommodating vehicle would enhance life for you and your family.

Confirm you're eligible for each opportunity before applying. Read the rules so you don't waste time and postage applying for money you don't qualify for. Disability details, age or residency requirements, financial need, or other personal data may disqualify you.

Send out as many applications as possible. Although all forms are different, you'll provide the same personal information and copies of the same documents repeatedly. Gather your medical and financial records, birth certificate, social security card, and other paperwork in one folder.

Organization keeps a potentially overwhelming task manageable. Create a list of places you're petitioning and order them by application deadline. Don't miss deadlines; they aren't flexible. If you miss one, keep the information on hand, since most offerings are annual. Apply next year if you're still putting together your funding.

Take the Next Step

  • Before you buy or sell a vehicle, check out Edmunds.com
  • Save on Auto Insurance. Fast, free quotes, online comparisons, and instant access to ID cards! www.esurance.com

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