August 18, 2017 at 11:26 AM
Purchasing an automobile to convert into a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) requires a great deal of forethought, planning and cost considerations in its design. The following are some considerations.
The height of entering and being seated in a vehicle must be accommodated. Electronic wheelchairs are wider and higher than a manual device. Either way, floors in mobility cars need to be lowered and possibly raising the roof to a degree that the individual has comfortable headroom and visibility. The height of the wheelchair occupant must be factored in as well. The entry of the door may need to be adjusted.
Ramps and Lifts - There are different types of ramps that include portable that help to keep costs down. Folding ramps are located inside the vehicle and then fold outward when in use. Under-the-floor ramps are commonly used for side entry access. More expensive and heavier power lifts can be located at the rear, either internally or externally. They allow for ease of access in a safe and controlled manner. This extra weight can add more in fuel costs.
Side or Rear Entry - Entry design determines seating position for both the individual in the wheelchair, other passengers plus parking. Side entry is useful for when the wheelchair user is to either operate the mobility car or be in the front passenger's seat. The logistics, however, demand more side space to load and unload passengers but is safer in this manner. This is a more common vehicle configuration. Rear entry allows the wheelchair occupant to ride in the back. Loading and unloading wheelchair passengers can be more difficult with ramps because of the space required.
The size of the WAV will impact seating capacity. Typical capacity is space provided for one wheelchair and two other passengers to allow for comfort and storage. Larger vehicles can accommodate up to six occupants, and that can include two wheelchairs. There are options with double-fold-down seats that allow for great seating options. With these various configurations, provisions must be made for proper wheelchair restraints such as electronic systems or other types of lock systems. These seating designs allow for inclusive seating where those in the back row are seated together instead of the wheelchair being isolated from everyone else.
Is the wheelchair user going to operate the vehicle? There are transfer seats that allow for easier access to get behind the wheel. Again, restraints are necessary to secure the wheelchair. Also, there are additional conversion costs in modifying the brake and fuel controls to be located near the steering wheel plus a spinner.
Other Factors to Consider
How easy or difficult are the side doors to open or can they be operated by remote control. How manageable are the ramps. Do the lifts require maintenance or any kind of inspection. Can the vehicle be easily parked at your home.
It is important to understand your individual needs and how they are to be reflected in modifications to your vehicle while observing monetary realities. The goal is to provide as much ease and comfort in mobility as possible. It is best to confer with experts to discuss all possibilities involved with this type of conversions.