Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles – and how to find them...
A wheelchair accessible vehicle can change the life of a person who is reliant upon a wheelchair to move about. WAVs, as they are commonly called, can give a person with restricted mobility the opportunity to become more independent and can make their everyday life safer and more enjoyable.
There are many things to consider when purchasing a WAV, and the most important is that the wheelchair user feels secure and comfortable and that the vehicle completely meets his or her needs. Some wheelchair accessible vehicles are designed to accommodate wheelchair users as passengers, while others can be driven by wheelchair users themselves. Some even offer the option for the vehicle to be driven by an able-bodied person as well as the wheelchair user, when required.
When considering what type of wheelchair accessible vehicle is best for you the first question that needs to be answered is driver or passenger?
If the wheelchair user is a passenger the next question to consider is where he wishes to sit. The most common, and least expensive, wheelchair accessible vehicles have a rear opening door which is accessed by a ramp. The wheelchair user steers himself up the gentle ramp and the wheelchair is safely clamped into position in the rear of the vehicle. Some have a winch to assist entry. In a small WAV, there may only be room for the wheelchair in the back with the driver and another passenger in the front. In larger vehicles there may be space for one or two other passengers in the back and some can even accommodate two or more wheelchairs and several passengers.
Be sure to take into consideration how much space you need for other passengers and luggage to decide on the best size of WAV for you. Also, consider the size of your garage, and where you will need to park to allow room for access via the ramp. This type of conversion usually has a lowered floor to give headroom and to make the ramp less steep, but this also gives you less road clearance, which might be a factor if you live off the beaten track. Some WAVs have lifts instead of ramps which can be better for motorised wheelchair users or those who would require assistance to negotiate the ramp. They also require less space to allow access. For front-riding wheelchair passengers, access can also be through the back, or through a side door with a ramp.
A vehicle which is to be driven by a wheelchair user may need to be specially modified to accommodate the needs of the driver. Access is normally via a ramp or a lift through the side door and the wheelchair is secured into the driving position. Some people prefer to enter into the WAV in their wheelchair and then pass into a standard passenger or driver’s seat assisted by a specially designed swivel or transfer seat.
Before purchasing a wheelchair accessible vehicle always request a home trial to make sure that the vehicle does meet all your needs before buying.