In the vast majority of cases, vehicles converted to be driven by people with disabilities are minivans. Companies such as BraunAbility specialized in modifying cars for those in a wheelchair also have SUVs in their portfolios, but most of the packages are tailored to MPVs. With the Cooper SE, MINI is showing how even a small hatchback can be adapted for those suffering from mobility impairment.
The pint-sized EV has been fitted with an accelerator ring mounted within the circle of the car’s standard steering wheel. How does it work? The driver manually operates the throttle function by applying hand pressure. Mounted on the right side below the steering wheel is a hand-controlled brake lever to efficiently stop the car. To avoid accidental operation, MINI has installed a pedal cover over the accelerator and brake pedals.
For drivers who want to perfect their skills, there’s a driving safety training course organized at the BMW and MINI Driving Experience center in Maisach located outside of Munich in Germany. Tina Schmidt-Kiendl is one of the driving instructors and is herself a wheelchair user. Her input was valuable during the development of the specialized aids on the Cooper SE. People with disabilities can order customized solutions that suit them best by choosing from a variety of driving and operating aids. It should be noted the accelerator ring can be turned off by using a switch and can be removed from the car as well.
Some will remember a story from earlier this year about the owner of a BMW M4 Competition G82 with a different solution implemented. The sports coupe had a hand-controlled bar mounted to the left of the driver, replacing the two pedals. The driver pressed the bar down to trigger the acceleration and forward to activate the brakes.