You’ve done your research and the time has come to purchase a wheelchair accessible vehicle. Naturally, you have questions to ask and decisions to make. Perhaps one of the most difficult is choosing between a wheelchair accessible vehicle, and a wheelchair lift. The most beneficial thing you can do when making such decisions about your mobility is to contact a mobility consultant. However, we can help explain the differences between the two to get you started.
Wheelchair accessible vehicles equipped with a ramp. There are different ramps available for conversion purposes. Most commonly built into minivans, ramps take up minimal space, offer accessible interior, and an obstruction-free doorway. When choosing a wheelchair accessible vehicle, you have the option to choose from a manual ramp or an automatic ramp, as well as a side entry ramp or a rear entry ramp; decisions that will be based largely on your level of mobility.
Manual Ramp: A manual ramp is best for a wheelchair user who travels with an attendant or caregiver, as it requires upper body and back strength to manually deploy the ramp.
Automatic Ramp: An automatic ramp is better for independent drivers who are able to travel alone. The ramp deploys at the push of a button, allowing the wheelchair user to enter and exit the vehicle with little effort or exertion.
Side Entry: With a side entry ramp, the entire floor of the vehicle lowers as the ramp slides out for easy entry. The driver and front passenger seats are removable, allowing the wheelchair user to drive the vehicle, ride in the passenger spot, or ride securely in the second row.
Rear Entry: Rather than a lowered floor, the rear of the vehicle is slightly elevated and the wheelchair user enters
through the back to sit securely in the middle row or back position of the van. Because a rear entry ramp requires minim al modifications to the vehicle’s floor, it is typically the less expensive option.
Not interested in a vehicle with a ramp? A wheelchair lift may be the option for you. Depending on your level of mobility, a wheelchair lift is an automatic device that can be installed on the outside of the vehicle, or act as an extension of the vehicle.
If you are bound to your wheelchair, a lift can be installed on the outside of your vehicle that allows you to drive onto the platform and be raised inside.
If you can transfer to a car seat, are able to walk from the back of the vehicle, or travel with an attendant, there are wheelchair lifts that raise and stow your wheelchair in the trunk using a hoist.
Today, wheelchair lifts are most commonly installed on full-sized vans, and are often used on commercials vehicles such as school buses and transit vans.
Again, the most helpful thing you can do is to contact a mobility specialist to schedule an appointment. They can explain the benefits of each product, as well as let you test them for yourself.