DARS Vehicle Modification Program Frequently Asked Questions

What are vehicle modifications?

Vehicle modifications are any mechanical or structural changes to a passenger car or other motor vehicle that permit an individual with a disability to safely drive or ride as a passenger. Vehicle modifications also include wheelchair or scooter loaders which mount on the roof, in the passenger area, or in the trunk or other storage areas of a car or other motor vehicle. Automotive adaptive control devices (AACDs) are mechanical or electrical devices added to a standard motor vehicle to enable an individual with mobility restrictions to control the accelerator, foot brake, turn signals, dimmer switch, steering wheel, and/or parking brake.

How do I apply for vehicle modification services?

If you are not a consumer of DARS, to apply for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services call, write, or visit the Division for Rehabilitation Services (DRS) office nearest you and request an appointment to meet with a counselor. If you need help locating a DRS office in your area, you may call 1 (800) 628-5115 or visit http://www.dars.state.tx.us/drs/offices/OfficeLocator.aspx.

What are the criteria for eligibility for Vocational Rehabilitation services?

Only your VR counselor may make an eligibility determination to decide whether you are eligible for VR services. You must have a physical or mental impairment; your impairment must result in a substantial impediment to employment, and you must require VR services to prepare for, enter, engage in, or retain gainful employment consistent with your strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice.

Are there income requirements in order to qualify for vehicle modification?

Vehicle modification services (with the exception of driving evaluations) are subject to a financial participation test administered by your VR Counselor. It is your responsibility to provide required income/financial verification.

Do I have to be working in order to qualify for vehicle modifications?

In most cases, you should be employed or in the process of obtaining employment. However, your VR counselor will determine if other means of transportation is available to you such as public transportation or other community resources prior to consideration of vehicle modification.

Will my ability to drive be evaluated?

In most cases, you will need to participate in a driver evaluation. In some cases, additional evaluation(s) may be required to determine your ability to drive if you are or have been an experienced driver or you have become disabled as a result of an injury or illness. A driver evaluation may be necessary to determine the specific equipment you will require to operate a vehicle safely. Your counselor will arrange a driver evaluation at no cost to you. Driver evaluations are designed to measure your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle in today’s complex environment. The driver evaluation program occurs in three phases and involves evaluation of your functional ability; tests of your visual acuity, field of vision and depth perception; test of your cognitive functioning as it relates to driving; behind the wheel evaluation; and evaluation and recommendation for adaptive equipment or vehicle best suited for your needs.

What if I am unable to drive?

If it is determined you are unable to or request not to drive, DARS will modify your vehicle for you to be transported as a passenger, as long as you are eligible for vehicle modification services.

Who coordinates the vehicle modification services?

The process begins with your VR counselor and the Management Support Specialist (MSS) who will work with you at the local level. Once all documentation required by DRS has been completed as required, your case will be sent to the Program Specialist for Vehicle modifications. Upon review by the Program Specialist your case is then reviewed with the engineering team at Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) at Texas A & M University. As you can see, DARS is concerned about your safety and has placed various checks and balances ensuring safety is a priority. Your VR counselor will always be your first point of contact throughout the vehicle modification process.

What kind of vehicle should I purchase?

If you have been determined eligible for vehicle modification services and you are planning to purchase a new or pre-owned vehicle, you are REQUIRED to consult with your VR counselor regarding your vehicle choice prior to purchasing a vehicle. Some vehicle makes or models may not be suitable to meet your adaptive needs. DARS will not modify your vehicle if it is not considered to be suitable for safe and reliable modifications. To determine what vehicles conversions, devices and equipment are accepted by DARS for modifications please review the following websites:

When I purchase a vehicle to be modified by DARS what items should be included in the initial purchase?

DRS recommends automatic transmission, power steering, power windows, power locks, power brakes, towing hitches, remote starters, remote door openers, rear detection systems and similar equipment be included in your original purchase if available from manufacturer. You will need to make necessary arrangements for obtaining any after-market equipment/modifications not covered by DRS or recommended on the drivers evaluation. Some options may interfere negatively with adaptive equipment. Please consult with your counselor before you order your vehicle. DRS will not sponsor vehicle modifications for a vehicle not owned by you or an immediate family member (spouse, parent, etc.); or a vehicle without a current Texas State vehicle inspection, or for appearance rather than function.

Select the Right Vehicle

Selecting a vehicle for modification requires a collaborative effort among you, your evaluator, and a qualified vehicle modification provider. Although the purchase of a vehicle is your responsibility, making sure the vehicle can be properly modified is the responsibility of the vehicle modification provider. Therefore, take the time to consult with a qualified mobility provider and your evaluator before making your purchase final. It will save both time and money. Be aware that you will still need insurance coverage while your vehicle is being modified, even though it is not being driven. Insurance will also need to be obtained on the vehicle modifications. The following questions can help with vehicle selection. They can also help determine if you can modify a vehicle you already own. Does the necessary adaptive equipment require a van, or will another passenger vehicle suffice? Can the vehicle accommodate the equipment that needs to be installed? Will there be enough space to accommodate your family or other passengers once the vehicle is modified? Is there adequate parking space at home and at work for the vehicle and for loading/unloading a wheelchair? Is there adequate parking space to maneuver?

Should I have my mobility equipment prior to purchasing my vehicle?

It is preferred you have your mobility device prior to starting the vehicle modification process. Contact your counselor if you are deciding to change mobility devices. After being properly fitted with the new wheel chair / scooter the mobility provider will need to take measurements to allow for proper fitting while driving, entering and exiting the vehicle as a driver or passenger. A change in your mobility equipment can delay the completion of your vehicle modification.

What is the time frame for a vehicle modification?

DARS will try to facilitate the completion of vehicle modifications in the shortest time possible. However, mostly due to events beyond our control, occasional delays may occur. Your counselor will keep you updated on the progress of your modification. The modification process usually takes up to 60 days from the time the vehicle mobility provider receives the vehicle. Modifications requiring a lowered floor may take up to 90 days; modifications requiring special driving packages and high tech driving systems may take up to 120 days. At times, vendors encounter unavoidable delays that set back the anticipated delivery time. If you believe it is taking an unnecessarily long time to complete the job, you should contact your counselor to obtain updates.

While your vehicle is being modified, you will most likely need to be available for fittings. This avoids additional waiting time for adjustments once the equipment is fully installed. Without proper fittings you may have problems with the safe operation of the vehicle and have to go back for adjustments.

How are mobility providers selected?

Your counselor will work with you in providing a list of current DARS-approved mobility providers for you to select from. You should consider the availability of the provider in the proximity of your residence, keeping in mind that you will be returning for routine maintenance and warranty checks. Then, you should visit the locations personally to determine if you are comfortable with their services, ask to speak to some of the customers about their services, inquire about availability of roadside assistance and any other pertinent questions you may have prior to making your final selection or choice of provider.

Can a used vehicle be modified?

Yes, in most cases a used or pre-owned vehicle can be modified. Generally, the vehicles should be no older than three years with no more than 30,000 miles on the odometer depending on the type of modifications you are requesting or being recommended. The vehicle must be in good mechanical condition, with no evidence of the vehicle being involved in a wreck or evidence of structural or body damages.

Who is responsible for the maintenance and repair of my vehicle?

You are solely responsible for regular maintenance and non-warranty repairs of your vehicle. After the warranty on the modification expires you will be responsible for the cost of any repairs and maintenance.

Any retrofitting of your vehicle or equipment is your sole responsibility as well. It is important that you adhere to the warranty agreements given to you by the mobility provider, Some are very specific as to when maintenance needs to occur.

How long is the warranty on adaptive equipment and modifications?

DARS requires vendors to provide a 1-2 year warranty for all adaptive equipment and modifications procured by DARS. This warranty includes the cost of parts and labor.

After my vehicle has been adapted, when can I start driving?

Depending on your license status and recommendations of your driving evaluator, you may need to complete a full or refresher driver training course before you can start driving your vehicle.

Who can drive a structurally modified vehicle?

In most cases, if the vehicle is modified for you as a driver, you should be the sole driver of that vehicle even if all driving systems could be switched back to the regular non-adapted mode. If another person must drive your vehicle, we recommend that person receive formal adaptive driving training.

Who do I call if the adaptive equipment fails?

You should call the mobility provider who modified your vehicle first. You should also call your counselor if your problem is safety-related or persistent. The counselor will consult with the PSRT to determine if there is a safety or mechanical issue.

Where do I get a handicapped sticker for my vehicle?

You can obtain the application through the local county Tax Assessor-Collector’s office in the county you reside in or visit http://www.txdmv.gov/wheretogo/tax_offices.htm

How do I apply for disabled persons designated license plates or placard?

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicle is responsible for issuing DP plates and placards. If you have any additional question for the DVM you can email them at Customerservicedl@txdps.state.tx.us

What is the process for getting my license if I need specialized controls to drive?

You should contact the Texas Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) regarding any issues related to licensing at (512) 416-4800 or http://www.dmv.com/tx/texas/disabled-drivers. Please note that you are responsible for maintaining your driver license current including all necessary endorsements.

Should I buy insurance to cover the modifications?

Yes, it is the vehicle owner’s responsibility to keep insurance on both the vehicle as well as the modifications done by DARS. By keeping insurance on the vehicle modifications if ever in an automobile accident the high tech equipment will be able to be replaced usually without additional cost to you or DARS. What are the new requirements for dealers on the purchase on a motor vehicle by a person who is orthopedically disabled? Beginning Jan. 1, 2010, a dealer selling a motor vehicle may not collect motor vehicle sales tax when a purchaser claims an exemption for an orthopedically handicapped person when the purchaser signs a properly completed Form 14-318, Exemption for Orthopedically Handicapped Person, at the time of the sale. To establish qualification for the exemption, the purchaser must complete all information requested on the exemption certificate and provide any applicable supporting documentation at the time of the sale. Exemption certificates must be retained by the selling dealer. The exemption certificate is available at http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/taxforms/14-forms.html