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US government wants to make rental cars more accessible for those with disabilities



Hand controls and dedicated wheelchair transporters could be game changers when renting a vehicle.

LWA/Dan Tardif/Getty Images

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Monday proposed a new rule that should make mobility far more accessible to those living with disabilities, especially those using a wheelchair. The government agency will move to allow rental-car companies to install hand controls and equip vehicles with rear-mounted transporters for wheelchairs or scooters — essential to so many American drivers.

NHTSA said the rule would allow rental-car companies to bypass two important safety requirements of the typical automobile. Foremost, companies would be permitted to disable knee-bolster airbags found in many modern vehicles so they can install temporary hand controls. This would allow the hand controls to install safely without the fear of airbag deployment pushing the controls into the driver and increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

Second, rear transporters would likely block back-up cameras, which the US government now mandates in all new vehicles. Rental-car companies would receive a pass if a person living with a disability needed a rear-mounted wheelchair transporter.

NHTSA’s proposal would provide a waiver for both the airbag and back-up camera to help those with disabilities be more mobile. Both proposals are now available for public comment for the next 30 days before NHTSA makes any final decision on the potential new rules.

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