More often than not, people who are wheelchair bound are deprived from the joys of driving. This is mainly attributed to the need of using one's legs in order to properly operate a vehicle. In order to allow these handicapped people the opportunity to drive, Mazda will soon be introducing hand control equipment on the MX-5, MX-5 RF and later on the Mazda3.
The change on these hand controled vehicles can be seen almost immediately. Open the door, and an optional auxiliary seat deploys, covering the side sill. This makes it easier to enter and exit the vehicle using a wheelchair. Opting for the optional wheelchair cover, which takes the place of the passenger seat, ensures that the wheel chair will have a secure location inside the car.
Once in the driver's seat, one would use the hand control lever located near the gear shift to operate the vehicle. Pulling back on the lever makes the car accelerate, while pushing it forward makes the car slow down. To make things simpler to use, some other controls such as the horn and turn signals can be operated from the lever as well.
To help with one-handed driving, a knob has been attached to the steering wheel, providing better grip and making it easier to turn. All these special equipment are available only with an automatic transmission. However, Mazda has added a new switch on the steering wheel which allows the owner to use a manual shift mode.
At the moment, the wheelchair friendly equipment are available only in Japan. There are still no details whether the hand controlled option for Mazda3, MX-5 and MX-5 RF will be made available elsewhere.