Rod Brotherwood: an early pioneer of wheelchair accessible vehicles

Wheelchair accessible vehicles have improved the lives of disabled people all over the world. As a result of technological improvements, it is now so much easier to get around. With a painless driving and passenger experience, the world is opened up in a way it certainly wasn’t a couple of decades ago.

There was a time when a simple trip to the shops was fraught with hazards. You would either need to take public transport or be lifted by a helper into a vehicle. In both cases, the sheer discomfort involved made any trip outdoors undesirable. Without adequately modified transport facilities, the disabled community felt confined. The world wasn’t for them.

Until an Englishman called Rod Brotherwood came along…

Brotherwood’s neighbour and close friend John Lambert had become paralysed in a motorcycle accident. Lambert was a keen petrolhead and - unhappy with the transport options available to him - appealed to Brotherwood’s extensive engineering knowledge. In 1985, Brotherwood modified a Nissan Prairie to allow for wheelchair access.

Although the result was pretty makeshift by today’s standards, the car was highly sought after. Realising the high demand for his innovation, Brotherhood took the vehicle to various motoring exhibitions and pretty soon after began receiving orders. By the end of the same year the original car was produced, production had increased to 26 units. Today, the Brotherhood company is still trading from a site near Sherborne, Dorset.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, but it was Brotherhood’s compassion and ingenuity that laid the path to further innovation. Modern wheelchair adapted vehicles utilise all the latest advancements in technology, such as stiffened suspension, power kneeling systems to allow for easier access, and reinforced flooring.

Now, disabled people can enjoy a much easier riding experience. The world has been opened up. And all thanks to one kindly neighbour.

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