The question of a Rear Entry wheelchair van versus a Side Entry van often comes up in conversation when a first time buyer enters the accessible van market. There are several things to consider; first, the family or care giver needs to decide on where the wheelchair user is going to sit. If the person in the wheelchair is able to drive and will be independent there are other things to consider, but for now, let us stay with an assisted member of the family.
Door height is an issue. For that we need to know how tall the person sits in their wheelchair.
Scooter or Power chair is next. Size and weight combination will come into play as we move along in the discovery process.
Can the person transfer into a factory seat or will they remain in their wheelchair while traveling?
Okay, now we get into seating. The side entry offers both mid-section and front seat options with tie-downs located throughout. In a rear entry van, the mid-section to rear of the vehicle, are the only seating options while remaining in the wheelchair. [PDF of Rear Entry Wheelchair Van Seating Solutions]
There are five passenger seats available for family members in a side entry van versus six available seats in a rear entry. Both are in addition to whoever is in the wheelchair, which gives a total of six people in a side entry and up to seven in a rear entry.
For folks with a long wheelchair or scooter the rear entry is ideal. Over six feet of space is afforded to tie down the wheelchair and no turning to forward face is necessary.
A side entry requires up to eight feet accommodating the lowering of the ramp allowing access into your van. This may prohibit the use of the ramp while inside a garage or if someone parks to close while at the mall or a doctor’s appointment.
The rear entry does not have the blocked in problem, you are always accessing your van from the aisle.
In summation, like anything else, it is best to try before you buy. Our Ability Van Rental division has both styles of wheelchair vans to rent for a day or two. See which style suits your lifestyle and then consider the purchase of either a new or used mobility equipped van. Always consult with your mobility product specialist for any additional questions you may have.
Guest Blogger – Mike Stadtler (M.C. Mobility Systems Sales Associate)