My New Set of Wheels Is More Accommodating to MS Needs
A columnist's choice for the best car for disabled passenger access
I’ve been feeling like a soccer mom the past month or so, even though I’m a 74-year-old guy.
My wife and I are leasing a minivan, the go-to wheels of after-school sports parents. It also seems to be a great vehicle for someone with a disability like multiple sclerosis (MS).
I’ve had a lot of cars since getting my driver’s license in 1964. But around 2000, as my MS progressed, I bought another set of wheels — a mobility scooter. I needed a vehicle that could haul it around, and an SUV seemed perfect.
I went from a Toyota 4Runner to a Ford Explorer, a Ford Flex, a GMC Yukon, and a Lincoln Aviator. But I’m not the kid I once was, and my wife and I decided it was time to trade sport for real utility. So, about a month ago when the lease on the Aviator ended, we decided to try a minivan. Now, with a thousand-mile trip from Maryland to Florida under our seat belts, we’re definitely glad we did.
Our Honda Odyssey
We wanted easy access and comfort. We wanted a vehicle that handled well on the highway. For our Florida trips, which we take with a dog, a cat, and a scooter (not to mention more than a little luggage), we wanted a lot of cargo space. We also wanted a hybrid. We couldn’t get that in our new ride, but we got all of the rest with the Honda Odyssey Elite.
The Odyssey is about 6 inches closer to the ground than any of our SUVs were, which is a big deal. Due to my MS spasticity, my left leg bends very little. Even with running boards, the SUVs were difficult to climb into. I had to grab the center console and drag myself into the driver’s seat.
Getting into the passenger seat was worse, because I needed to use both hands to lift my leg into the car, then grab a handle over the door and yank myself up and in. Six inches made a big difference.
The same was true for lifting my TravelScoot scooter into the rear compartment. It only weighs 35 pounds, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to lift it over the rear bumper. The bumper was collecting more and more scratches. So were my legs as I pulled it out.
Other features that make life easier
Sliding second-row doors are a godsend for placing and removing bags, pets, and anything else you can never open a conventional car door wide enough for. The second-row seats can easily be removed, and the headroom is high enough should the day come that I need to ride my scooter up a ramp and into the vehicle.
I can’t easily turn to look out the back window and a rear-view mirror doesn’t view enough. So a rear-view camera makes backing up a lot safer. I think electric, multiposition driver and passenger seats are a must for long trips by a healthy person, not to mention a pair who gets stiff quickly. Cruise control is also a must.
I’m not a car salesman
I’m not trying to sell you anything. Many car manufacturers make similar minivans, and one of them might be a better choice for you. Most of the options I’ve suggested can be found in other models.
My Odyssey will never replace the springtime yellow 1966 Mustang convertible that I drove in college. And it’s certainly not the Harleys that some people with MS still ride. But a minivan is now me.
What’s been your experience with cars? Please leave a comment below. I also invite you to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.