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Grants & Discounts for Drivers with Disabilities

Drivers with disabilities – or drivers who have passengers with disabilities – a number of grants and discounts are available. These can help you drive down the costs of vehicle modifications and other auto-related needs.

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Why Your Car Insurance Could Go Up?

Even though the ADA forbids insurance companies from charging more based on a person’s disability status, if you have a disability your car insurance still might be higher. Why could your rate go up? You might be considered higher risk for an accident or you might drive a vehicle that has been modified to accommodate your disability, making the vehicle more expensive to insure. Let’s take a deeper look.

Higher Risk?

Some disabilities might be seen as a higher risk by a car insurance company. These include disabilities that make driving more difficult or carry medical risks that could lead to an accident; for instance, someone with epilepsy might be at risk for a seizure, and that seizure could cause them to lose control of the vehicle. This puts the driver and other drivers at greater risk than someone who has no history of seizures.

How does an insurance company know you have a disability that might put you at higher risk of an accident? For starters, they might learn about it through the Department of Motor Vehicles. If your doctor deems you at higher risk, he or she will alert the DMV to the condition, which is then noted on your license. For instance, someone with impaired vision might be allowed to drive only during the day but not at night.

An insurance company also asks you questions on your policy application, and you must answer honestly to ensure they cover you in the event of an accident. Though the language varies, the gist of it is this: “Do you have any medical conditions that would impair your ability to safely drive a vehicle?” By answering yes, you might be deemed a higher risk.

To be sure you understand how to answer questions on the policy application, talk to an insurance agent about what disabilities and medical conditions are considered higher risk. Here are a few examples that you may want to discuss if they’re applicable:

  • Epilepsy and related conditions
  • Hearing impairment
  • Limb loss or impairment
  • Vision impairment
  • Sleep apnea
  • History of strokes
  • Uncontrolled diabetes

Vehicle Modifications

If you have a physical disability you might need to modify your vehicle to operate it safely. While these vehicle modifications can help ensure that you’re a safe driver and reduce your risk of an accident, they can also result in your vehicle being more valuable and more expensive to insure.

Some insurance companies insist on a vehicle modification to decrease risk for those with a particular disability. Other companies view vehicle modifications, within reason, as nice to have but not something that reduces your risk.

Below is a list of some of the more common vehicle modifications and what you might expect to pay for them. Keep in mind that this is a ballpark figure for the cost of the parts; the final price depends on the cost of labor in your area and the difficulty of the modification.

Also keep in mind that these numbers might not be your bottom line; some car companies offer incentives, discounts, or even a price break for vehicle modifications.

  • Brake extensions: $50-$200
  • Gas pedal extension: $50-$200
  • Steering knob: $100
  • Modified accelerator (left foot control): $150-$300
  • Modified accelerator (hand control): $400-$1,000
  • Mechanized transfer seats: $2,500-$4,500
  • Wheelchair lift: $1,200-$3,000
  • Reduced-effort brakes/steering: $6,000
  • Emergency brake extension: $20-$50

How a Grant Can Help You Save

The cost of modifying your vehicle to accommodate a disability can be steep, depending upon how significant the modifications are. For instance, modifying the pedals with extenders usually costs a few hundred dollars; lifting the roof of a van to accommodate a wheelchair costs much more. The good news is that grants are available from a variety of organizations and the government, earmarked for those who need the funding to modify their vehicles to live a productive life. Some grants are awarded as a lump sum that goes toward the modifications of the vehicle; other grants are more like reimbursements, meaning you must modify the vehicle first and then apply for financial relief.

Here are some of the organizations and potential grants that can start you on your journey toward more independence with a modified vehicle.

  • Accessibility Center

    This site is sponsored by companies that make accessibility products and vehicles, such as Braun, Bruno, Toyota Mobility, and more. Rebates are posted on the site, which also offers ready-to-install products and vehicles that are fully modified.

  • Adaptive Driving Alliance

    This organization is made up of dealers who handle wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Those dealers not only offer very flexible financing terms, but they can also help you find local, state, and federal funding to bring down the cost of a new or used wheelchair van or other accessible vehicle.

  • The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists

    Called ADED, this organization is dedicated to helping individuals stay independent through access to appropriate transportation for their needs. To that end, ADED provides a $600 Connect to Driving Accessibility rebate for those who purchase a VMI wheelchair van. These vans are designed specifically for each customer and their unique requirements for safe driving.

  • BraunAbility

    Dedicated to helping those with disabilities get the wheelchair van necessary for their independence, BraunAbility offers a comprehensive list of funding options in each state. Click on your state to learn about the programs you might be eligible for to receive vehicle modifications, rebates, unique financing, and more.

  • Center on Technology and Disability

    Though this site by the U.S. Department of Education is no longer funded, the resources will be available at least through the end of 2021. The site includes helpful information on loans, grants, and other sources of funding, as well as advice on subjects such as using social media to fund the practical needs of those with a disability.

  • Grants.gov

    This is the official website for government grants, including those to address the needs of U.S. citizens with disabilities. Since grants are posted often and availability changes rapidly, it’s a good idea to search the database periodically to find what might pertain to your vehicle modification needs.

  • Help Hope Live

    This organization helps those who need to raise funds to pay for expenses related to disability, injury, or catastrophic illness. Applicants who are a good fit for the program can receive personalized help in creating a fundraising campaign and reaching their goal of funding for mobility equipment or vehicle modifications to help preserve independence.

  • Keith Howell Mobility Trust

    Open to applications from both the United States and Canada, this trust from I Am Able Ministries focuses on providing modifications and other vehicle essentials to ensure more independence for those with mobility issues. As a secondary source of funding, the trust provides funds only when other options are exhausted. The trust awards funding four times per year.

  • Manufacturer Rebate Programs

    These programs are offered by car manufacturers to assist vehicle owners in modifying their vehicles to accommodate their disability. Those who purchase or lease a vehicle and obtain aftermarket modifications can receive a reimbursement from the company. In most cases, the reimbursement is up to $1,000 but could be more, depending upon the company and the situation. To learn what’s available to you, visit your vehicle manufacturer’s website or contact a local dealer.

  • Multiple Sclerosis Foundation

    This well-known foundation is home to numerous grants, some of which help pay for vehicle modifications. The Assistive Technology Program specifically mentions vehicle modifications as one of the reasons a person can receive grant funding. The Bright Tomorrow Grant is another option, with $1,000 going to pay for something that would make life better for a person with MS, including vehicle modifications.

  • RESNA Catalyst Project

    A service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this project helps fund mobility improvements, including those in vehicles, through state grants and loans. Click on your state on the RESNA Catalyst Project page to get details about eligibility and the rules in your state.

  • Social Security PASS Program

    PASS, which stands for “Plan to Achieve Self-Support,” offers funding that can help individuals get the items or services necessary to achieve a work goal. For instance, those who have a disability but don’t have an accessible vehicle to get them to work might qualify for funding to buy vehicle modification equipment. Only those receiving social security benefits, or those who are eligible for them, can take advantage of this program.

  • State Vocational Rehabilitation Offices

    Your state rehabilitation office might provide some funding for vehicle modifications to help ensure those with disabilities are safer on the road. An example of this is the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST) Program. FAAST provides assistive technologies and help with funding them, including loans for devices necessary to help a person get to work. Click on your state’s rehabilitation office for more information.

  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

    If you are a veteran with a disability, you might be eligible for automobile adaptive equipment paid for through the VA’s Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services. Veterans can receive reimbursement for a wide variety of modifications if it is determined that those modifications are necessary for the individual to drive. In most cases, this program applies to two vehicles during a four-year period.

Discounts for Drivers with Disabilities

While there are no specific car insurance discounts for drivers or passengers with disabilities, numerous discounts may still apply to your policy. If several discounts apply, typically the savings are “stacked” to a certain amount. Discounts might vary from year to year, even with the same company, and can phase out. For instance, the good student discount is only applicable while the policyholder or dependent is enrolled in school. Read on to discover the discounts you might be eligible to receive.

  1. Accident Free

    Those who have an impeccable driving record can take advantage of the accident-free discount, which can be a substantial savings. For instance, with this discount GEICO offers savings of up to 22%.

  2. Good Student

    Those enrolled in high school or college with at least a B average might qualify. Many companies require students to be between the ages of 16 and 25. These discounts can range between 8% and 25%

  3. Bundling

    When you have more than one insurance policy and get them all through the same company, that’s known as multi-policy or bundling. Those who choose to bundle their coverage receive a discount across the board on all their policies, such as 10% off their vehicle, home, and life insurance policies.

  4. Military

    Almost all insurance companies offer a discount for military personnel. This might include active, reserve, National Guard, and retired service members or the dependents of someone in those categories. The discount varies but often is around 15%.

  5. Multi-vehicle

    Those who have more than one vehicle insured with the same company can enjoy discounts for loyalty. This discount can be up to 25% on your policy.

  6. Driving Education

    Defensive driving education courses that result in a certificate or some other proof of completion can help bring your costs down. Some companies open this discount to all drivers, while others limit it to those of a certain age, usually 50 or older. This discount can save you up to 10% on car insurance.

  7. Vehicle Equipment

    Standard discounts are given for certain items in vehicles, such as air bags, daytime running lights, or anti-lock brakes. Even deeper discounts might apply for anti-theft equipment, such as GPS systems, remote ignition lock, VIN etching, or stolen vehicle recovery systems, such as LoJack. Your discount could be up to 25%.

  8. Affiliations

    Those who are employees of the insurance company, federal employees, state workers, and the like can get discounts of up to 15% on their policies.

  9. New Car Discount

    Those who own a car that is less than three years old might qualify for this discount, which is often about 10% off the cost of a policy until the vehicle reaches that three-year mark.

  10. First Responder

    Insurance companies thank first responders with a discount that’s comparable to a military discount, usually up to 15%. They might also qualify for reduced deductibles if their vehicle is involved in an accident while they are working in their capacity as a first responder.