The term wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) can be used to describe any car that was either originally conceived and designed to act as such by the manufacturer, or a regular vehicle that was modified for wheelchair access later. If you need a WAV but cannot decide which one to get, we have a few tips that should help you make a better, more informed decision.
Measure the Wheelchair
We invest in wheelchair accessible vehicles so that our wheelchair bound family members can comfortably enter, take a seat, and exit the car as needed. Therefore, the WAV must be spacious enough to comfortably accommodate a wheelchair and its occupant with ease.
The issue is that wheelchairs from different manufacturers will vary in dimensions. The wheelchair will also vary depending on the patient’s age, height, weight, and medical requirements. Therefore, it’s best to measure the wheelchair’s dimensions and eliminate any chances of making a mistake.
Look through the List of Available Features
There are some core functions that all WAVs share, but that does not mean they all offer the same set of features. To avoid overspending or ending up with a subpar WAV, it is recommended that you create a list of available WAV features and extract a shortlist of practical requirements from these.
Once you have the second shortlist of necessary features written down, preparing a practical budget for the purchase should feel much easier. As for the kind of features that are to be expected from a modern wheelchair accessible vehicle, we have the most useful options covered next:
- A built-in, foldable ramp of adequate size, traction, and build.
- Remote controlled power ramps that act as small escalators, pulling in and rolling out the wheelchair smoothly.
- Remote controlled electric winch ramps that (only) pull in wheelchairs with their occupants into the WAV.
- Remote controlled electronic lifts will be needed if the concerned vehicle’s entry is too high for ramps.
- Wheelchair belts and tie-downs are a must, and every WAV must have them to keep the occupant safe and secured.
- Wheelchair docks with maglocks are premium options that docks and locks the wheelchair magnetically to the WAV.
- Lowered floor for more headroom.
- Modified roof for additional headspace in models where lowering the floor is not an option.
- Convertible wheelchair docking station at the driver’s seat.
Look Through Your Options in Used WAVs
It’s not at all unlikely to find used WAVs that cost less than a new WAV of a much inferior make and model. Keep an eye out for used wheelchair accessible vehicles for sale near your location and you could end up landing a big bargain. In fact, it is quite possible to get premium features from a used WAV, without needing to go over your original budget. Do get the vehicle professionally checked for defects before finalising the purchase of course, and make sure you are buying from a reputed dealer who offers a feasible warranty.
Occupied vs Unoccupied Wheelchairs
If the occupant is not strictly bound to the wheelchair at all times, then they can be moved onto a special passenger seat in the WAV. Now, it’s quite important to consider whether that is a safe option or not because wheelchair accessible vehicles that are designed to accommodate an occupied wheelchair cost a lot more than those equipped to only carry an unoccupied chair.
However, if you plan to use the same WAV for regular usage, then the extra cost might be well worth it, even if the patient is not strictly wheelchair bound at all times. Instead of simply occupying space, the wheelchair itself can act as a seat for the disabled family member. WAVs designed to house occupied wheelchairs safely are also more spacious by default, thus making them better suited as all-purpose family vehicles. If it’s a relatively large family, then that would make even more sense.
Test It Out
Unless the person in the wheelchair is a child or an adult who is medically unable to take decisions for himself/herself, the final purchase decision must be made based on their opinion. There is no better way to help them decide than to take them out for a ride in your potential purchase.
If the partially immobilized family member is also going to be the designated driver, then a test ride should serve both purposes automatically. Even if the disabled family member is unable to take their own decisions, it’s still important to ask them about their experience and comfort level during the test ride. If they are not comfortable in it, there would be little point in getting the WAV.
Lastly, you should also consider the dimensions of your garage or parking space. If you end up buying a WAV that’s too big for your garage, then that can raise the expenses quite significantly.