If you have a family member or loved one with a disability that requires wheelchair assistance, transporting them to and from places can be quite a challenge. Whether you’re taking them shopping, to a family gathering, or a medical appointment, you need to make sure the process is as smooth and seamless as possible.
Mobility happens to be a common concern for people who require the use of a scooter, vehicle, and other such handicap accessibility devices. If you’re in search of a wheelchair accessible vehicle, we have great news for you: you can easily turn an old minivan into a wheelchair accessible vehicle with the help of a few upgrades and adjustments.
However, you need to take the make, mileage, and model of your vehicle into consideration before you can decide to convert into the perfect WAV. In this blog, we’ve prepared a simplified guide for you on how to make a van wheelchair accessible. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!
Types of Vehicles That Can Be Converted
There are a variety of unmodified minivans that serve as the ideal candidates for conversion, such as Dodge Grand Caravan, Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Pacifica, and Honda Odyssey. Some full-size vans like Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, and RAM ProMaster can also be converted.
Needless to say, turning a van into a wheelchair accessible vehicle involves multiple steps that require careful planning. You can’t convert all types of minivans because they need to have a lowered floor, preferably allowing around 57 inches vertically, so the additional height of wheelchair users can be accommodated as well.
If your minivan doesn’t have sufficient head room, you can consider getting a professional to drop the floor to make it wheelchair accessible. You also need to consider adding safety locks as well as attaching an entry ramp.
A vehicle that’s a four-wheel or all-wheel drive isn’t ideal for conversion. Moreover, there’s a mileage cap of 50,000. If the vehicle you’re hoping to convert has been in any accidents worth $2000 in damage, you may go through with the conversion, but we would strongly advise against converting a van that has cost you around $9000 in damage.
It’s advisable to get your vehicle inspect and check the Vehicle Identification Number as well with the mobility conversion manufacturer. Feel free to discuss specific models and their restriction with your local mobility deal to make sure you’ve covered all the bases.
What Kind of Conversion Best Suits Your Needs and Preferences?
If you weren’t aware, there are two kinds of conversions you can opt for: side-entry and rear-entry. You will need to evaluate your personal requirements and circumstances to determine which type of entry is suitable for you.
Let’s take a look at how they compare to each other:
Most people go for the side-entry conversion because it allows the wheelchair-bound passenger to sit in the front seat and even enables them to access the driver’s seat in case they wish to operate the vehicle themselves.
The configurations and seating options that come with this kind of conversion are a lot similar to those in standard vehicles. Furthermore, it’s relatively easy to operate the wheelchair ramp.
The obvious difference between side-entry vs. rear-entry conversion is that rear-entry requires a simpler transformation process and it’s exceptionally affordable. It’s a great choice for you if you’re on a budget. Conversion is typically more affordable because the rear bench just needs to be removed and replaced with a ramp mechanism.
Moreover, finding accessible parking spots isn’t a problem anymore because rear-entry makes it easy for the wheelchair-bound passenger to get in and out of the vehicle.
Some Features You Need for a Handicapped Van Conversion
To make your van wheelchair accessible, you need to make sure it’s equipped with a power or manual ramp, power door, and power kneel feature that helps lower the van to allow the wheelchair user to enter the vehicle with ease.
Common features you need for a handicapped van conversion typically include:
Foot and Hand Controls
For wheelchair-bound users that wish to drive the vehicle, you need to install custom driving equipment like hand controls and foot controls that fit them perfectly depending on their abilities. Custom fitting is ideal because it can provide the safest and most comfortable experience for all the passengers.
Transfer seats are also particularly useful because they can be used to move a disabled person into the passenger seat or remove them from their wheelchair. If the person using a wheelchair is driving the vehicle, they can choose to operate it using the factory seat with the help of a custom transfer seat. They can also stay seated in their wheelchair and use a power lockdown to get into the most comfortable driving position.
Tie Downs and Securements
The wheelchair must be secured in place with tie-downs, whether it’s in a mid-way position or the front passenger side. In addition to power tie-downs, standard and retractable belts can be used to keep the wheelchair and the wheelchair-bound passenger safe throughout the drive.
Last but not least, you also need to determine how you plan to move the wheelchair into the van. Whether you opt for a simple ramp or an industrial lift, the decision ultimately comes down to your budget requirements.
Turning a new SUV into a wheelchair accessible vehicle can cost around thousands of dollars but if your old minivan is still in a relatively good condition and only requires a few simple adjustments, you can bring down the costs substantially without needing to compromise on quality. Keep the wheelchair user’s safety as your topmost priority while making your vehicle wheelchair accessible.
We highly recommend that you meet with an authorized mobility dealer in your area and seek help from certified technicians to get the mobility equipment installed into your minivan. Remember to test out your vehicle and the driving equipment after conversion to make sure it’s built to your specifications.