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Disabilities: Wheelchair accessible vehicles  Previous Next

Wheelchair accessible vehicles

by: Autochair

The following points are general observations that should be considered before making a decision about whether to opt for a converted, or an adapted vehicle.

With converted wheelchair accessible vehicles the structure and layout has been fundamentally and permanently altered to accept a passenger in a wheelchair. Whilst an adapted vehicle has had adaptations added which can subsequently be removed, for example upon resale of the vehicle.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles:
Pros:
• If you have a complex seating system, you can remain in the same seat
• If you are not able to use any other means of transfer, or your partner is not able to assist you in using an alternative transfer system, then a WAV may be suitable
• If different wheelchair users use the same vehicle, then an adaptation may not be suitable for each user
Cons:
• You are ordinarily sat directly over the rear axle, so you feel every bump in the road
• Your seating height is much higher than a car seat, so you tend to sway more, which can lead to travel sickness for some passengers
• You cannot easily communicate with the driver or other passengers when in the rear of a vehicle which can be noisy, of particular importance if the passenger is likely to require monitoring
• You are ‘on display’ as a disabled person in your wheelchair
• The vehicle will always be a converted wheelchair accessible vehicle, so when it’s time to sell, you can only sell it as a WAV (adaptations can be removed and the vehicle becomes ‘standard’)
• You require up to 2 metres behind the vehicle to fold down the ramps to then gain access to the WAV. This distance can be reduced, by having a lowering floor WAV, but the additional cost can be up to £5000, if it is an option at all
• Securing the wheelchair once in place can be onerous on the carer, who may well have to be very agile and dextrous. This can be addressed to some degree by installing electric restraints, but these come at additional cost
• The majority of WAV conversions are done to ‘van based’ cars, so the level of comfort and options can be restricted, relative to a standard vehicle, as well as the performance of the vehicle against ‘non van derivatives’, not to mention noisy.
• The conversion can dramatically reduce the luggage space in most vehicles

Adaptations:
Pros:
• Most standard production cars can be adapted. The suitability of the vehicle is determined by the height, weight and disability of the user versus the shape, size and height of the door aperture
• The user is sat in a normal seating position, sometimes in a normal seat, at the normal seat height, all of which offer relative comfort, security and safety.
• The adaptation can be removed from one vehicle to the next, whilst also facilitating the VAT exempt supply of a new vehicle* Thereby being a very cost effective solution
• To the outside world, the vehicle in no way labels the occupants as disabled
• Adaptations can be extremely cost effective, relative to buying a converted vehicle
• All of the luggage area is retained
• Some adaptations can also be used in other applications, either around the home or on holiday, e.g. in hotels
• In most cases, the vehicle maintains the original number of seats, whereas conversions normally require at least one, if not more seats removing
Cons:
• For ‘very heavily disabled people’, an adaptation may not be suitable
• If the disabled person is very big and/or heavy and their carer is very slight or frail, the operation of an adaptation could be overly onerous on the carer
• Adaptations are retro fitted to a vehicle, so may not exactly match the interior, e.g. if a swivel seat is fitted

Autochair provide a choice of wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) that meet European type approval and include power lift, lower rear suspension and short ramp.

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