Wheelchair Vehicles Tips

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Hints For Buying Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

It is important to examine height when shopping for wheelchair accessible vehicles. Wheelchair accessible vehicles should have a minimum interior height of 58 inches in order to accommodate your needs without any modifications.


Choosing Mini Vans As Wheelchair Vans

The mini van is a top pick among wheelchair vans. There are now over a dozen car manufacturers who produce mini vans, so your choices for wheelchair vans will be wide and varied.

What are some good places to find used wheelchair vans?

Finding Used Wheelchair Vans

Buying used wheelchair vans rather than purchasing new equipment can save you a tremendous amount of money. The trick is to keep an eye out for the model of wheelchair van that would suit your needs. One place you can look for used wheelchair vans is with your local MS Society chapter. You'll find new listings of everything from a used mobility scooter to different types of used wheelchair adaptive vehicles on their newsletters and Web pages. The MS Society also recommends you try other possibilities to find your used wheelchair van, such as the classified sections for disability magazines.

What types of van lifts are available to me?

Types Of Van Lifts

You'll find a range of van lifts out on the market to choose from: platform van lifts, under vehicle van lifts, rotary van lifts, and hoist type van lifts. Each type of van lift has advantages and disadvantages. Read on to find out more.

Platform Van Lift – The platform van lift rests in an upright position on the inside or outside of the door. When in use, it unfolds from its frame and lowers your wheelchair to the ground. The main disadvantage of this type of van lift is that it blocks the doorway when it isn't in use. However, you can find some models which will split or fold, allowing other passengers access through the van door.

Under Vehicle Van Lift – The under vehicle van lift attaches underneath the van. When in use, it emerges out from the van at the vehicle floor level. You can lower the platform to the ground via controls once you're secure. This type of van lift works well because it's out of sight, protected, and doesn't block doorway access.

Rotary Van Lift – This type of van lift rests on the van floor when not in use. When activated, the rotary van lift swings out from a supportive pole out of the van and onto the ground. Though easy to use, the rotary van lift does take up quite a bit of space in the van.

A Hoist Van lift – Rather than using a platform, a hoist van lift has an arm which swings out from the side door and lowers the wheelchair to the ground. You or someone else will have to attach the wheelchair frame to the arm of the hoist.

What things should I look for when shopping for a used adaptive vehicle?

Buying Used Adaptive Vehicles Means Proper Planning

Purchasing used adaptive vehicles means cost savings to your pocketbook. However, you also need to be extra diligent to cover your bases with any adaptive vehicle you're considering. Here are some of the things you should keep in mind.

  • Always check the body and mechanics of used adaptive vehicles. When you've found one which works for you, take it to your own mechanic for a look. Don't use the dealer's.
  • Have a driving specialist look at the adaptive vehicle as well. You'll want to make sure you're looking at a vehicle which is a good fit for your needs.
  • Get all quotes in advance of future modifications, if you need them. You'll want to know exactly what you'll be paying.
  • For options on used equipment for your adaptive vehicle, try medical equipment providers, auto dealers, and classified ads.

What are some specific features I should look for when deciding on wheelchair lifts?

Wheelchair Lift Checklist

When shopping for your wheelchair lift for your vehicle, there are specific features you should examine to determine suitability. Take a look at our wheelchair lift checklist for some pointers.

  • Find out whether the wheelchair lift is automatic or semiautomatic. Automatic wheelchair lifts work with a touch of a button, but semiautomatic wheelchair lifts require you to manually fold the platforms. You'll pay a heftier price for the automatic wheelchair lifts.
  • Examine the platform and how it works. Wheelchair lifts have edges or roll stops to prevent you from sliding off the platform. Some roll stops operate automatically, while others require manual operation.
  • Check the size of the platform. You should have a few inches clear around the wheelbase of your wheelchair at the length and width of the platform.
  • Determine if the type of lift is appropriate for the needs of your vehicle. For instance, a rotary wheelchair lift may prevent you from moving the front seat and reclining it.

What things do I need to consider before deciding on a wheelchair van lift?

The Right Wheelchair Van Lifts For You

Deciding between wheelchair van lifts is an involved process. When making your decision on which wheelchair van lifts to choose, you should pay attention to several things.

  • First and foremost, make sure any wheelchair van lifts you're considering are safe. You can check with your medical equipment vendor to determine whether the product meets voluntary codes established by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
  • You should also look at the functionality of any wheelchair van lifts you're considering. Decide whether the type of lift you're interested in works with the vehicle you have and the wheelchair you're using. Think about where you'll be using the van and how you'll get in and out of the vehicle.
  • Consider your ability to use the van lift. Will you have help or will you need to use the van lift yourself?
  • Cost is always an issue. Are you looking for a more affordable wheelchair van lift or do you have the means to get top-notch equipment?

How important is it to get a driving specialist and undergo a driving assessment?

Get A Driving Specialist And Driving Assessment

Before you decide to start shopping for your wheelchair accessible vehicle, go see a driving specialist and get a driving assessment. A driving specialist is a physical therapist or occupational therapist who has experience and wheelchair accessible vehicle knowledge. You can try contacting the Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) to find someone to assist you (800-290-2344).

To get an assessment of what wheelchair accessible vehicle adaptations will best suit your needs, it's also important to get a driving assessment. You'll get tested for physical and cognitive skills, perform an on the road driving assessment, and get a written prescription tailored just for you. You can find out more about what is involved through the ADED Website at www.infinitec.org/live/driving/driveassess.htm.

Can you give me some resources to do research for an adaptive vehicle?

Resources To Educate Yourself On An Adaptive Vehicle

Shopping for an adaptive vehicle can involve exhaustive research. Learning about which car, van, or truck to choose for your adaptive vehicle and what accessories and options to choose means you'll be sifting through a great deal of information. In order to make your decision making process on an adaptive vehicle easier, we've listed some resources for you to do your vehicle research.

  • ABLEDATA at www.abledata.com has consumer guides for most types of disability related equipment and will provide you with consumer information about current products as well.
  • To receive manufacturer catalogs and brochures, register with a national service called Project Link. You can visit their website at www.phhp.ufl.edu/ot/projectlink.
  • The National Rehabilitation Information Center at www.naric.com provides databases and vehicle research helpful to making your decision about an adaptive vehicle.

Can you tell me if mini vans would be a good choice for a wheelchair accessible van?

Choosing Mini Vans As Wheelchair Vans

Mini Vans as wheelchair vans are a popular adaptive vehicle choice because they can accommodate the wheelchair user, often without any need for vehicle alterations. They are also compact enough for easy transportation. Mini van wheelchair vans need at least 58 inches clear within its interior to accommodate the wheelchair user without having to undergo modifications. If you do decide to go with a mini van that needs converting, you can do so through a dealer specializing in mini van conversions. When choosing between mini van models, also consider the size of your immediate family or whoever will be using the adaptive vehicle, the type of wheelchair you'll be using, and whether you'll use the vehicle to drive or as a passenger.

What should I look for when I’m shopping for wheelchair accessible vehicles?

Hints For Buying Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

There is a lot to consider when purchasing wheelchair accessible vehicles. Not only do you have to arm yourself with information about buying a new vehicle, you also have to be prepared to learn about the adaptive equipment that goes along with it. We've put together some hints to help you sort out the information on wheelchair accessible vehicles.

  • Because of the amount of information you'll need to learn about when making your decision to buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle, it's best to get a driving specialist. A driving specialist such as a physical therapist or occupational therapist with adaptive vehicle experience can assess your specific needs and provide you with good driver's training.
  • Although your insurance carrier won't pay for your wheelchair accessible vehicle, you can still find funds to help you pay for transportation. Besides finding employment, you can also look in other areas. If the ability to drive is a necessary part of finding employment, you can check with your state's vocational rehabilitation agency. Also look at grants from local social service organizations.
  • Avoid picking the first wheelchair accessible vehicle option presented to you. According to Jerry Stalls, the president of Stalls Medical Inc., adaptive equipment providers should investigate a series of questions with you in order to find the best personal fit.

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Jolyn Wells-Moran