ADAPTATIONS – DRIVING
Many people wonder how or if a person with dwarfism can drive a motor vehicle. It is a valid question because most cars are designed for average sized adults. While most motor vehicles allow for adjustment, the allotted range is not adequate enough for people with dwarfism. This is because of their extreme short stature and shorter limbs. People with dwarfism can be from 2’6” up to 4’10” tall.
So how do they drive? Most people will use what are called pedal extenders. These are portable devices that are lightweight and attached to the gas, brake and clutch pedal of a motor vehicle. They have a rubber pad on the end similar to that in the car and extend the pedals upwards so that an individual can reach them. These pedal extenders are custom built for the needed length and are adjustable to a certain degree. They can be removed and taken with a person when they travel or switch automobiles. While these extenders allow people with dwarfism to drive, not having them can prove difficult to operate a vehicle or make it impossible or unsafe. Some people with dwarfism do not use pedal extensions at all and require custom hand controls in order to operate a vehicle.
Those who are less than 3’10” tall need special assistance when driving a vehicle because they are so petite in stature. Tony Cox, an actor, 2’6” tall has a 24 inch thick cushion and uses 20 to 23 inch adjustable pedal extenders to drive his car. If the person is under 3’10” tall they need a very thick seat cushion, from 5 up to 20 inches thick, that attaches securely to the original seat of the vehicle. The thick seat cushion makes it possible to see over the steering wheel, be comfortable and see in all directions. These cushions can be custom made at an upholstery shop.
I’m a person with dwarfism who is 4’5” tall, with a long torso, with short legs and arms, having an 18 inch inseam and need 8 to 12 inch pedal extenders to drive my truck. My wife is 4’2” tall, 80 lbs, having a 16” inseam and needs a wedge cushion to see over the steering wheel and 9 to 13 inch brake and gas extenders in her car.
The pedal extenders will be from 9 up to 18 inches long. A crossover vehicle or minivans pedal extenders would need to be much longer because the seats are higher and the gas and brake pedals are deeper. It’s very important that the extenders are light so they don’t affect the gas acceleration and brake lights.
The Dept. of Motor Vehicles are concerned that the thick seat cushion is attached securely to the original seat and that the driver can see over the steering wheel in all directions. Also, that the pedal extenders are the proper length and attach securely so the driver can move their foot between the gas and brake pedals quickly. They want the driver to be able to accelerate and brake quickly to show they have total control of the vehicle.
Airbags are a safety feature put in motor vehicles to protect passengers in case of an accident. In order to protect yourself from severe injuries caused by the steering wheel and airbag, a person should be at arm's length (about 14 inches or more away) from the steering wheel. A person should run into the airbag, not the airbag to run into the person. People with dwarfism are especially vulnerable to airbag injuries because of the distance they are from the steering wheel and airbag due to their shorter arms and legs. If the proper space between the person and airbag are not met, the airbag can be more of a harm than good. This may require people with dwarfism to shut off the airbag feature in the vehicle that they are operating.
Easy Rider Pedal Extenders