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Wheelchair Accessible Cars & Vehicles | What you need to know

Man folding wheelchair into red car


Wheelchair accessible vehicles, or WAVs, are essential to many wheelchair bound individuals. WAVs enable your wheelchair to ride in the back of a van enabling you to get to where you want to go whether it’s work, out with friends, or visits with relatives. With the attachment of a ramp for full access into and out of the vehicle, WAVs make travel easy, however, it may not be easy to find what you are looking for when you start your search. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to finding a wheelchair accessible vehicle, and there are many attachments and additions that also need to be purchased to ensure your safety. Which model you need is also affected by what kind of wheelchair you use and your overall health needs. There are a list of things for you to consider before starting your search and things to look out for as you are searching.

What You Already Know

Finding wheelchair accessible cars for sale is going to take a bit of research, but finding the right car is not impossible. The first thing you need to know is what models are the right size for your wheelchair. Are you in a motorized wheelchair where you are unable to walk? Are you in a motorized scooter where you need to drive into the vehicle and then you can sit in a seat?

If you are going to operate your wheelchair into the car, then you are also going to need a ramp. Once in the vehicle you are going to need a special seat belt. Also, how are you going to anchor your wheelchair into the floor of the vehicle? Once you answer all of these questions, you can easily filter and sort through the myriad of vehicle options and find the perfect fit.

Available Vehicles

By doing a simple “wheelchair accessible vehicles near me” you will come across several sites that sell what you are looking to buy. Companies like Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen all sell wheelchair adapted vehicles, among others.

As you begin your search, you are going to need specific measurements. What you are going to need to know is the height of your wheelchair, the width of your wheelchair from wheel to wheel, the weight of your wheelchair, and your own weight. These measurements let manufacturers know how much space you are going to need and what height you are going to need so that you can see comfortably out the windows. The overall weight of yourself and your chair are also going to determine if you need any extra restraints to ensure that you will remain in place during the ride.

Where Do You Want to Sit?

Which vehicle you choose also determines where you want to sit in the vehicle. Certain vehicles allow you to sit in the passenger seat, in the front row of seats or in the rear area behind the seats. Being able to get your chair into the areas where you can easily have conversation and see other people is optimal, but depending on your chair, you may not be able to sit up front or sit in one of the rows of seats. It may be better for you to sit in the rear for short trips, or if you need to get out of the vehicle first.

What Will You Use It For?

The final thing to think about as you start your search is what you are going to use the vehicle for in your everyday life. This way, you can choose a vehicle that will have space for bags for groceries or other kinds of shopping. If you are going to be on the move a lot, you can pick a car that is easy for you to get into and out of with ease so that you are never hindered by having to operate your chair often.

Ground Clearance

The biggest factor that many wheelchair access vehicle buyers do not take into account is ground clearance. If you need a certain height for your vehicle, the manufacturer will lower the floor of the car in order to give you the height you require. This is especially true for wheelchair users who have larger chairs that require them to sit higher than most. Take this factor into account if you require more headroom. What you must do is think about where you are going to travel and where you travel the most because there will be little ground clearance and you will not be able to go over certain bumps or travel down certain roads.

Assisted Technology

Now that you have chosen the vehicle that is right for you based on your chair, your needs, and your travel arrangements, decide whether or not you are going to need any assisted technology to keep yourself safe. Assisted technology is any extra seat belts, or straps you may need to keep yourself safe while you are traveling.

Ramps

The most important part of your vehicle is going to be your ramp. You can either get a ramp that is gas powered that moves with a bit more ease, or you can get a ramp that you can simply fold and unfold when you want to get into the vehicle. Each WAV is different when it comes to their ramp, so check to see what kind of ramp you are going to need. Some ramps fold out longer for larger chairs to have more of a grade to get into and out of the van, and other ramps are a bit shorter for users who don’t need the extra space.

Winches

A winch is an extra tool that can be utilized to help you get into and out of your vehicle. A winch is a hook that can be hooked to your chair that will tow your chair into the car relieving you from wheeling yourself or being pushed into your car. The winch is installed behind the console of your vehicle and with a push of a button it will release a strap that you can connect to a T-bar that will go around the base of the wheelchair. With the push of another button, the winch will retract pulling the wheelchair user up the ramp and into the car.

Seat Belts

Depending on where you put your chair in the wheelchair accessible vehicle determines if you are going to need an extra seat belt. Seat belts can be attached to the vehicle where you need them. Extensions can also be attached to existing seat belts for comfort.

The most popular method is to have a single seat belt that goes around the waist and over the shoulder of the rider. The straps then go behind the rider and they are clipped into the floor keeping the rider in place. You can also have a wheelchair dock installed. When a wheelchair goes over the dock, a sensor raises a hook that clips onto the bottom of the wheelchair preventing it from moving.

Vehicle Parking Technology

The newer vehicles make parking easier. It can be difficult to get into and out of your vehicle if you have a lift instead of a ramp. This means that you are going to need parking that has ample space on the side where you will exit the vehicle. For those who are in wheelchairs who operate their own cars, you are definitely going to need that space. 

You will find that used wheelchair accessible vehicles may not have the latest parking technology of cameras and sensors. Because you may not have the ability to have full view of what is around your vehicle, newer wheelchair accessible vehicles for sale will have this technology that will make it easier for you to park your car into the spaces you need in order to get in and out of the car. If you are not the driver, this technology is still useful in being able to give you the space you need.

Road Tax Exemption

When doing your “wheelchair accessible vehicles for sale near me” search on the internet to find the WAV that you need for your daily life, you will also find that these vehicles are also exempt from road tax. If you contact the Department of Works and Pensions, you can determine if you qualify for a tax exemption.

Looking Ahead

The last thing to think about when purchasing your WAV is to think about the future of your vehicle. How long are you planning on having the vehicle? If you are driving a used wheelchair accessible vehicle will it need work in the next few months or years? Think about the extra costs that you may accrue a bit down the line. Thinking about those costs may make it a better option to buy a new wheelchair accessible vehicle. With your new freedom from having a WAV, make it cost efficient and as easy for you as possible.

28 September 2021

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