Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) are cars that have been converted to carry passengers travelling in their wheelchair or for people who wish to drive from a wheelchair. WAVs include features such as a built-in ramp, or lifts on larger vehicles, wheelchair tie-downs and seat belts for wheelchair users to aid entrance into the WAV.
There are two types of WAVs: a passenger WAV, which allows one or more passengers to be seated in their wheelchair whilst travelling, or a WAV that a wheelchair user can drive. If you would like to drive from your wheelchair, you will need to have the WAV fitted with custom controls and other features to enable you to drive independently. You may also need to make sure that your access point is carefully designed and does not require help from a companion should you wish to drive on your own.
Many of our More Than Mobility customers have a WAV so we have put together some useful tips to help you if you are looking to buy a WAV this autumn.
1) Find a dealer – select a reputable dealer by reputation, recommendation or research.
2) Ask questions – try to ask sensible questions that will enable you to base. Your decisions on facts. Don’t be afraid to ask whatever you like and only stop when all of your concerns have been properly addressed.
3) Do your homework – if you know you’re preparing to make any major purchase, start asking around friends and family for their tips, advice and recommendations or use brochures or the internet beforehand to help determine exactly what you want and whether it’s within your budget. You should start to construct a list of features that matter to you and if compromises might be acceptable if your budget doesn’t stretch far enough to incorporate them all.
4) Go on a Test Drive – make sure you try out any WAV before buying and it’s a good idea to try more than one model.
What should I look out for?
There are two types of entry configurations: side-entry and rear-entry. The entry location impacts wheelchair position, parking options, the ability to accommodate other passengers, and storage availability.
Advantages of a side-entry configuration include: ability to drive from a wheelchair or sit in the front passenger position in a wheelchair or driver position; enter and exit curb side away from traffic; and preserve rear storage space. Disadvantages of this style are that it requires a disabled parking space or extra room for ramp deployment and that some driveways are not wide enough to accommodate the vehicle.
A rear-entry configuration can be used for attended applications in which the wheelchair occupant is not driving the vehicle but rather riding as a passenger. One advantage of a rear-entry vehicle is that, with the exception of parallel parking, no extra room is required for a ramp and the side passenger doors aren’t blocked if a folding-style ramp is installed.
Types of Access
Ramp based modifications are most commonly performed on minivans. In order to provide access for the wheelchair user, the floor on side-entry vehicles is lowered 8-12″.
Fold up (or In-Floor) Ramps
Fold-up ramps fold in half and stow upright next to the side passenger door in a side-entry configuration or inside the rear access doors in a rear-entry configuration.
Manual ramps cost less both to purchase and to maintain, but power wheelchair ramps are the most popular because of their ease and convenience.
Full size vans can be fitted with lifts in the form of a platform that can be raised and lowered from a control inside the vehicle down to the ground outside.
Other crane type lifts are combined with seats that turn and lower to the ground as a means of providing wheelchair access to some types of vehicles.
Make the salesperson earns their money! They have huge experience and should help to guide you through the different ideas and innovations on offer.
When making the final decision here are a list of questions we recommend you consider before spending your money:
- Am I comfortable enough getting in and out of the vehicle?
- Does the vehicle (and conversion) include all of the features you would like? (Remember, you might have to live with it for years.)
- Does the vehicle have enough room for my needs? (Does all of your usual kit fit in or does it feel cramped or claustrophobic?)
- Will all the people I usually travel with fit into the vehicle?
- Are all the seating positions to my liking? (Are the seat configurations flexible for different circumstances?)
- Is there ample room for luggage?
- Will this vehicle fit in my normal parking space/garage?
For more information on buying a WAV you can visit Rica who have more advice and support available.
More Than Mobility