Driving with AFOs ?

My orthotist will soon be casting my legs for AFOs, and is planning to make rigid, hinged plastic ones. He says they will help a lot with my walking, but is less sure about driving.

My hands are too weak to use standard manual controls. Up till now i have been wearing a Sporlastic and an Ossur ankle support with NHS ankle boots.

I live alone and totally depend on driving to get around.

What is your experience of driving while wearing AFOs - and what type of AFOs do you wear ?

Is it legal to drive (an automatic) in the UK with AFOs ?

Will I need another medical driving assessment ?

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  • You can have hand controls adapted to ur car for stopping and to control ur spread of the car I have to go for a driving aprasial soon because of my cmt see if I'm still safe to drive which I know I am but fingers crossed all goes well and I hope your situation turns out ok we're u can wear them while u drive in them x Mandy

  • Thanks for your reply and good wishes Mandy, but as I said my hands are too weak to use standard manual controls - tried them when I had my medical driving assessment.

  • Thank you and all the best to you to I drive a automatic car so I feel confident with that plus I have a meriva so I have no hand brake too just a little switch x

  • I drive an automatic, only passed my test in October 14, bought an 11 plate megane. I learned and now drive wearing ossur dynamic afo's, I wear those with timberland boots. Very comfortable as the insole can be taken out and the afo placed underneath, the insole giving a very comfortable foot bed. My technique for good accelerator control is to rest my heal against the footwell with my foot just touching the pedal. Pushing from the top of my leg as I have no movement or muscle below the knee at all, this flexes the afo in a very controlled way to give me good control.

  • I am awaiting for my afo appointment to come through to see what ago' so will need of I'd like to thank upon telling us about ur foot wear u have I now know what type to get now x

  • Hello Amanita. Maybe I can help I am a retired driving instructor qualified in teaching the disabled to drive... First of all why not use your current footwear to drive and the new ones for walking. or you could use a combination of hand and foot controls "IE" Hand control for the brake as you just push. and the foot control for the throttle.

    Hand controls can be made very light and fitted with adaptions so that you don't have to be able to grip the control lever. You can also have the power steering lightened if required and have a steering spinner that again means that you do not have to grip it. There are vehicles that already have very light steering. It just depends on what you require from a vehicle. I hope this is helpful.

  • Thank you for your replies, Manitouzero and Logicman,

    I understand it is very difficult indeed to get carbon fibre AFOs on the NHS here in Scotland, and I'll have to see how things go with the plastic sort. I was interested in your driving technique. I mostly use my whole leg, but with just a little adjustment of pressure from slightly flexing my ankle - which i suspect may not be possible in plastic AFOs.

    Logicman - I do appreciate your professional input.

    The ideal answer would indeed be to swop supports, but the fabric devices I have at the moment (one is elastic with velcro and the other reinforced fabric with a 2metre lace and long straps) are really difficult for me to put on and take off even at home on a chair of the right height, so in a typical day where I would drive somewhere and then need to walk, and then drive home again, I would be faced with this challenge in the confined space of my car, so I fear it may not be practicable.

    Following my medical driving assessment, I had to learn the technique of using my L foot on the brake and my R. on the accelerator - which I am now totally used to; I have a car (Vauxhall Astra automatic) with pretty light steering, and a big brake pedal which responds well. It has hill start assist.

    I was only introduced to one type of hand controls on the pretend car at the driving assessment place, and was vaguely told there was a "very expensive electronic alternative" so I was very interested indeed to learn that there are various options, but I don't know how to access them to try out. The place that adapts cars for disabled drivers said they only order stuff in when needed.

    Looking ahead, my next car may have to accommodate a complete scooter (you need to be fit and strong to deconstruct and lift the parts of a dismantle-able one) - and I am quite scared of the prospect of driving a large vehicle.

    Please may I ask you for advice about criteria to look for when it comes nearer to the time to select a suitable vehicle ?

  • Hello. Loading a scooter or a wheel chair is possible without breaking the item down. If you can cope with a larger vehicle then a Tail lift would be ideal however as you say you prefer smaller vehicles then something like a Renault Kangoo with a lowered floor (I have one myself) will take an 8mph Shoprider scooter without any problem. The other method would be an electric Hoist that will pick up a scooter or a wheel chair There are several Companies that make and fit these I can suggest different companies. It is worth remembering that a lot of so called bigger vehicles are not much bigger than your Astra Estate the Zafira for example is more or less the same length but taller making such a vehicle easier to fit a hoist. With lower vehicles like the Astra it is still possible A lot depends on the type of Mobility equipment that you use and the available headroom in the vehicle. Certainly the Kangoo style car I find is excellent as are other similar makes. The rear doors and short ramps can all be remotely electrically operated. In fact One company I know makes a Computerised hoist that will load your scooter in the same place every time just by the press of a button.

  • Thank you so much for the variety of potential solutions for my problem, Logicman.

    I am waiting for an appointment with the Wheelchair Outreach Project ( they had nearly a year's backlog in May, so it will be a long wait). I am hoping that they will be able to advise me what kind of mobility scooter to get, given my individual circumstances, as I don't want to go to the showroom and just be persuaded to buy whatever they want to sell me.

    Meanwhile I shall look at the Vauxhall Zafira (my Astra's a hatchback) and the Renault Kangoo, and see what it might be like to drive one. I have to admit I am not brilliant at parking in confined spaces.

    My "local" company which converts vehicles is 40 miles away, in Fife.

    Today the orthotist took casts prior to making my AFOs and decided that hinged ones would not be suitable for my limited range of ankle movement, so I shall just have to wait 2 months for them to be ready, and then see how easy/challenging they are to drive in.

  • Now I understand!! I think Hatch back cars are not a good idea for wheel chairs etc Estates or Small MPV's are far better for hoists and space. I would suggest that you look at as many different makes of vehicles as you can some have pedals that are quite high although the floor can be raised so that you can use more of your foot on the pedal and not just your toes My partner who has CMT drives the Kangoo and owns an 03 auto Zafira. For Example the Kangoo has an electric winch to pull a wheel chair in and electric hold downs to fix the wheel chair firmly. The sliding side doors make it easy to adjust things if you need to and the rear door makes a shelter so you are not standing in the rain whilst loading things in I purchased this vehicle as a used car rather than using Motability There are many makes of vehicle that will do the same thing. It would be a good idea for you to visit a mobility show if possible the more research you can do the better. Good luck In your search.

  • Thank you, Logicman.

    I only bought my Astra Hatchback two and a half years ago, and had no idea then that I should be thinking of accommodating a mobility device so soon. When I bought the Astra I had already trawled the local Motor Mile, (becoming increasingly bewildered and out of my depth) in search of something that fitted the criteria demanded by my medical driving assessor - until I came to the Vauxhall shop. This was the only place that ticked all her boxes.

    I suppose my first step will be to wait until I have my AFOs and to see if i can even drive in them. Meanwhile I'll be having a look at the Zafira and hoping that the wheelchair advice people work their way through their enormous backlog.

    I don't qualify for Motability as my CMT was diagnosed just after the critical age and until then I was sort-of just about managing.

    Can your partner use the electric winch etc unaided?

  • Yes She can its a case of getting used to it like anything else I would always suggest the vehicles with lowered floor or the hoist made by bryg ayd controls I got my car from Clarke Mobility both of these companies are very good and trust worthy they can be found on the internet using Ask or Google searches.

  • Thank you again, Logicman.

    It's really good to know that the hoist can be operated by the scooter-user unaided. Advertising videos always seem to show able bodied people using hoists or "effortlessly" pushing scooters up ramps !

  • I have worn rigid afos for about 10 years, still driving OK. Changed to an automatic last year ( motorbility one) due to painful left knee and left shoulder with all the gear and clutch changes. No problems for me at all.

  • Thank you, Curliburli ; that gives me courage.

  • Hello, I know this is an old post sorry but thought I would still mention.

    I learnt how to drive with my type 2 CMT wearing SAFOs (silicone Ankle Foot Orthosis) I was lucky enough for NHS to have them made for me but I know they are expensive at £1200 or so per foot (well it was years back but not sure now).. The SAFO provides stabilty for my drop foot but allows me a little bit of flexibility driving. I do tend to still lift my whole foot up to change from acceleration to brake but its what i'm used to and its been safe driving :) I'm now Post Op with a triple ankle bone fusion in my left foot and need to re-think once my cast is off what i'll be wearing on my right..

    Wish you all the best

  • Thanks for your comments and good wishes, 3gorgeouskids,

    SAFOs certainly aren't available on the NHS in Scotland.

    I'll be making the transition from flexible elastic/velcro/laced ankle supports which allow a little plantar flexion - to rigid conventional plastic ones.

    I had to learn to use my R foot for the accelerator (=normal) and my L foot for the brake (=anything but normal), as my feet have little sense of where they are, and it is far safer to have one foot for each pedal so as not to press the wrong one ! Mostly I control my foot movement with my whole leg, but there's a little scope for fine adjustment of pressure with my limited plantar flexion. The foot which isn't in use normally just rests flat on the floor - except when my L one is hovering over the brake.

    I'm due to get my AFOs in about a month, though from what I hear they may need some adjustments before I can wear them. And no doubt they will take some getting used to. Then I'll be able to try driving with them.

    I do hope your recent operation will prove to be successful, and that you'll be able to continue to drive.

  • Well, I have had my rigid plastic AFOs for about four months now, and I am still driving. Fortunately I have scarcely had to change my technique from when I was wearing the old Sporlastic and Össur supports (flexible and semi-rigid respectively).

    I have just had to reapply for my licence after its three years, so have my fingers crossed.

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