Ashley was a 14 year-old girl with Spina Bifida. She never liked how hard it was for her mother to lift her from her wheelchair into their vehicle and back whenever they wanted to go anywhere. Even a simple trip to the grocery store together wheelchair accessible van was challenging. Travelling in their old, unmodified van was a real back breaker for both Ashley and her mother, Tonia.
To travel in their unmodified van, Tonia had to lift Ashley from her wheelchair into the vehicle’s seat. After Ashley was secure, the wheelchair had to be broken down and folded before it could be stored in the vehicle. Once Tonia and Ashley arrived at their destination, the entire process had to be repeated in reverse to help Ashley out of the vehicle back into her wheelchair. Traveling anywhere in their unmodified vehicle presented incredibly time consuming challenges. Tonia and Ashley both knew they needed a solution for their mobility challenges.
The process of raising funds to purchase a wheelchair accessible van was simpler than either Ashley or Tonia thought. Tonia was able to raise about $40, 000 for a new wheelchair accessible van. President’s Choice Children’s Charity donated $20, 000. Fundraising combined with donations from family, friends, local organizations and the money obtained from selling the old vehicle accounted for the remaining funds needed to buy a van with wheelchair access conversion.
Purchasing a wheelchair accessible vehicle can be a daunting task. Disabled individuals rely on their vehicles for transportation and storage, making mechanical integrity and ease of use a must. However, new vans can cost over $60, 000. So, for the family on a budget, important considerations must be made regarding cost versus efficiency. Wheelchair accessible vehicles require biannual services, which can be very difficult for older vans with fewer parts on the market. Another decision to make is what type of entry the van will have. Rear entry vans and side entry vans are each more accessible under different scenarios. And finally, buyers must figure out how to actually get themselves and their wheelchairs into the van. From simple ramps to industrial lifts, each method has its own pros and cons. Making all of these decisions may seem exhausting and tedious, but by studying each aspect one at a time and examining wheelchair accessible vehicles on the market, the right van for any family can soon be found.
First, those looking to buy a wheelchair accessible van should determine their budget. As a general rule, vans depreciate 10% in value for every year they’ve been on the market. There’s nothing wrong with buying a used van and, indeed, it is often most cost-effective to do so. Most recommend buying vans that are three years old or less, which are generally priced at $20, 000 to $30, 000. This ensures reliability and easy repairs, while still being affordable. If a handicapped person already owns a van or minivan, there is also the option to convert it into a wheelchair accessible van, which is cheaper than buying a pre-converted van of the same make and model.
The van or minivan itself should not be forgotten in all the talk of entries, lifts, ramps, and budgeting. Handicapped drivers may be more vulnerable in the event of a breakdown, so reliability is key. Some of the most common models used for wheelchair accessible vehicles are the Honda Odyssey, Dodge Grand Caravan, and the Toyota Sienna. These vans are not only convenient, but also mechanically sound enough to last an owner for decades. Make sure to understand the particular quirks of any vehicle before you buy it.
Next, determine where the handicap entrance will be. Converted vans can have entrances in the back or on the side. Rear entry vans allow disabled drivers to park in regular spaces and are cheaper. Plus, this entrance doesn’t require any awkward manoeuvring once loaded into the van. On the other hand, side entry vans make it much easier for handicapped individuals to get into pilot or co-pilot seats. Side entry vans are also essential for those who parallel park often, since rear entry vehicles are nearly useless in such situations. Side entry vans are lowered more than rear entry vans, which can make them more difficult to drive.
Perhaps most important is the means by which a wheelchair is lifted into the van. The most common devices used are lifts and ramps. Lifts tend to be more expensive, but are more reliable and built to be sturdy. There are still quality ramps, of course, which can leave more cargo space in a van. Lifts are easier for those in manual wheelchairs, but tend to be bulkier and difficult to repair.
Whether a wheelchair accessible van is a handicapped individual’s first or twenty-first, staying up to date on the latest prices and technology is essential to get a good deal and the most convenient conversion for that person’s lifestyle. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t have to be an end to freedom. Thanks to the power of a handicap van, the only limit is its driver’s imagination.