Updated: Mar 30, 2019
Insights from a vehicle converter
Are the taxi fares piling up? Are you stuck at home, unable to take advantage of opportunities that require travel? Or are you simply chasing that freedom and independence that having an accessible car can give you?
You’re not alone.
Travel is one of the biggest issues people with a disability have to manage, and even when a solution can be identified, it isn’t often a feasible one. So, I caught up with Jeff Watters from Automobility to get his insights into vehicle modifications and the NDIS.
What are your options?
You might need a car modified to enable you get behind the wheel. Or you might need to make travelling safer and less awkward for you and your carer. Or you might need to better fit all your equipment and assistive technology in the vehicle with you. If so, you have multiple modification options:
Drive from wheelchair – automated entry and various driver control options
Front passenger wheelchair options
Row 2 conversion that allows seating for up to 6 passengers and 1 wheelchair. (Good for families or wheelchair equipment)
Row 3 conversion that allows for up to 7 or 5 passengers and 1 wheelchair
How to apply for funding from the NDIS
If you’re interested in getting your vehicle modified (or purchasing one that has already been converted) through your NDIS plan, you need to get a quote from the provider.
Jeff suggests that to ensure you’re getting the best quote, you should follow these steps:
Think about what your short term (next 12 months), intermediate term (3-5 years), and long term (7-10 years) goals are. Jeff says, this is the first question they ask a new client when they come into Automobility.
Have an Occupational Therapist (OT) conduct an assessment of your needs and capabilities. It’s important to establish how you intend to use your vehicle, what kind of demands it will be expected to perform, and have it professionally justified.
Get a quote based on what you use your vehicle for every day. Take into account what you do, who you take and where you go. Don’t try and select a vehicle or conversion for your annual driving holiday, as you’ll often find that vehicle isn’t suitable for your day-to-day needs.
As the NDIA (National Disability Insurance Agency) don’t have an official price guide for vehicle modifications, the quote that you put in your plan will always be an estimate of sorts. And this is one of the reasons why gathering as much information and justification for the supports you require in your modified vehicle is so important.
The NDIA officer that you see in your meeting can also help to determine how much funding to request.
Knowing what information to include, or who you need to contact to ensure you qualify for any modifications can be tricky. First2Care’s Management App can help you with this process by connecting you with support providers and services who can help, as well as guiding you through your pre-planning with their easy-to-use planning template.
TIP: Don’t forget to factor in funding for service and repairs on your car – the NDIS will cover this for you.
Other requirements for your plan
Under the NDIS, Assistive Technology has four complexity levels, and ‘vehicle modifications’ sits atop the classification system as a Level 4 support. This means your OT assessment should justify the supports you request.
Like with other plan requests, you need to satisfy the NDIA on a number of points. Some of them are:
Capacity to drive: For the NDIA to consider funding vehicle modifications to enable a participant to drive, you need an endorsed license for that vehicle at the time of request, or be assessed as having the capacity to obtain an endorsed license.
Value for money: The vehicle modification needs to represent value for money in that the costs of the support are reasonable relative to both the benefits achieved and costs of alternative support.
Vehicle quality: The NDIA prefers the vehicle being modified to be as new and healthy as possible. Less than 3 years old is preferable, but they also operate on a case-by-case basis, so if you have an old car, don’t rule it out as a possibility straight away.
You may want to choose a more expensive vehicle option for cosmetic or personalised reasons, but the NDIA will only cover the reasonable and necessary component of the modification, and you will pay the additional cost – otherwise known as the gap. (Source: NDIA Assistive Technology & Consumables Code Guide).
The Operational Guidelines have further information about vehicle modifications and the NDIS, including what will and won’t be funded in your plan.
What you do when you receive your funding
Once you’ve received your plan with funding for vehicle modifications approved, Jeff recommends you contact your vehicle modification provider with your approval in writing as soon as possible so you can schedule in a time to get started and avoid any delays.
And because everyone’s job is different, the time it takes to complete the conversion varies, so it’s important to get a firm idea of the completion date.
Jeff explained that Automobility has a highly experienced in-house engineering team that can provide many customised vehicles depending on the client’s individual circumstances.
He said a good vehicle modification provider will work with clients, their health professionals, advisors and families to ensure everyone is engaged in the project. “We get the ultimate in job satisfaction when we get happy tears, smiles and a heartfelt thank you.”
He also pointed out that if you need equipment that Automobility doesn’t offer, they’ll still fit it for you – even if the item itself is tricky to get your hands on, or if the installation process is particularly complex. “We can investigate and liaise with the manufacturing company in relation to the installation and commissioning of your item.”
No matter your disability, don’t rule out the possibility of driving your own car one day. And don’t let costs deter you, either. It might feel complex and overwhelming but with services like Automobility, you can see that it’s just a matter of asking the right questions and knowing who to speak to.
Thanks for clearing up the issue for us Jeff!
Over to you
If you’ve had your car modified by Automobility or another vehicle converter, what was your experience like? Were you happy with the result? Or do you feel like heading down that road is too big a task?
Share your thoughts and comment below.