If you are a first time buyer and are looking for a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle the following might be useful if you are unfamiliar with some of the terms used:
Whichever WAV is suitable for you there are a variety of vehicles on the market to suit whichever option you decide is the best for your needs.
For any disabled person struggling to get back to safe and comfortable motoring there is a wide range of adaptations available and it should be easy to customise the controls on a vehicle to meet their needs.
Adaptations can range from simple attachments that can be bolted on in the relevant place to custom-made systems designed individually in line with the driver’s capabilities.
For use by people who have reduced mobility in the left leg, this removes the need to change gear with that leg.
For use with manual transmission the clutch is depressed and released by the use of a hand controlled lever.
These extensions are designed to help bring the pedals closer to the driver and are for people who have difficulty reaching standard pedals with their feet.
Can be used with manual and automatic transmission vehicles.
For drivers with reduced mobility in their legs/feet the push/pull brake accelerator allows the pedals to be controlled by use of the hands. This adaptation can be used with both automatic and manual transmission vehicles.
This is a device that allows the driver to steer using only one hand if they have reduced mobility in their upper body. When not in use it can be removed.
For use by anyone with reduced strength in his or her left hand and arm as it removes the difficulty of releasing the handbrake. The driver pulls up the lever that depresses the handbrake button.
Can be fitted to either a manual or automatic vehicle.
This can be good for anyone with reduced mobility in his or her legs as the seat replaces the standard car seat and rotates out of the vehicle making it much easier to get in and out of the car.
There are two main types of ramp and another third type that is quite rare these days and not often seen. The two most popular types are fitted permanently to the WAV usually at the rear but occasionally at the side of the vehicle. The third type is the portable telescopic ramp.
The most common manual ramps are either of single or double construction, are extremely strong but light to handle (the maximum loading weight would be 300 kg). These are fitted to the WAV by a hinge bracket, which is pivotal, and sit upright at the door or tailgate area when the vehicle is in motion. The widths of the ramps are usually 74 – 84 cm.
Occasionally Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles have powered ramps fitted that rise and lower by pressing a button but these are expensive and not so popular now. It is possible to convert a conventional ramp into a powered ramp but this would be a very expensive conversion to carry out.
Telescopic ramps are sometimes found on older vehicles or within the taxi industry but whilst portable and of good construction they require travelling storage space and extremely exact alignment prior to wheelchair usage.
A powered winch is designed to help a carer to manoeuvre a wheelchair and occupant into and out of the vehicle. Although the winch will be efficient in pulling the wheelchair and user into the vehicle, the carer must carefully guide it into the correct position. When exiting the vehicle the winch will reel out but again the carer must provide the initial effort to roll the wheelchair out and guide the wheelchair down the ramp. Winches are normally controlled by cable although there are some now with wireless technology.
Whichever type of ramp or winch is used it is important that consideration is given to the area on which the vehicle is parked – make sure it is on level ground with no slope as this could pose a threat to the wheelchair and occupant.
A lift can normally only be found in larger Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles, they are fitted to standard floors as opposed to conversions with a lowered floor. The main and most important aspect of a lift is the ease of transfer of the wheelchair and user into the vehicle. They are normally fitted with a manual override system in case of failure by the vehicle electrics. The width of a lift is normally 76 cm. It is important that the designated weight load should not be exceeded.
Looking for a WAV? The following might help you come to a decision:
This is usually the smallest vehicle available and good for use in city or urban areas with seating for four adults.
Renault Twingo, Ford Ka, Peugeot 107, Citroen C1
With seating for five people these vehicles are usually a three or five door hatchback with a bigger interior and boot than the Mini.
Nissan Micra, BMW Mini, Ford Fiesta, Audi A1
With seating for five adults but with bigger interior and boot than a Supermini, these come as a three or five door hatchback.
Seat Ibiza, Vauxhall Corsa, Toyota Auris, Ford Focus
Larger than a small family car these come as four door saloons
Ford Mondeo, Citroen C4, Peugeot 308
Three or five door vehicles with a sloping hatch that can be lifted and is counted as a door which gives a two door vehicle the description of a three door and a vehicle with four doors the description of a five door.
The boot space can usually be accessed by removing the rear shelf or folding down the rear seats.
Kia Rio, BMW Series 1, Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus
An estate is usually an extended version of a saloon or hatchback that provides more storage space.
Volvo V70, Peugeot 508, Volkswagen Passat Estate, Skoda Octavia Estate
A four-door vehicle with the boot separated from the passenger seating.
BMW Series 3, Skoda Superb, Ford Mondeo
These are usually lower/medium sized estates but with more headroom and storage, with seating for five to seven people and higher seats for easier access.
Vauxhall Touran, Vauxhall Zafira, Citroen C3 Picasso
These vehicles usually have seating for seven people with increased legroom, headroom and flexible space in the passenger area. Some have sliding doors for easier entry to the passenger seating.
Volkswagen Sharan, Chrysler Grand Voyager
The larger models have many of the seating and space benefits found in MPVs.
Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota Land Cruiser, Land Rover Discovery
These vehicles will have already been converted, by a specialist company and will be capable of carrying wheelchair bound passengers.
Based on a standard vehicle they will usually have a built in ramp, wheelchair ties and either a winch or lowered floor for easy wheelchair access.
Peugeot Partner Tepee, Renault Kangoo, Citroen Berlingo
There are also a number of WAVs, which can be driven by the disabled person from their wheelchair.
Chrysler Grand Voyager, Volkswagen Transporter Caravelle, Volkswagen Caddy
If you hear people refer to an adaptation of a vehicle ~ do you know what an adaptation is?
You will need to consider which type of adaptation would suit you best and you need to think about what areas of driving are becoming harder or less easy for you to manage. You will almost certainly find a suitable adaptation that will make driving a much more pleasurable experience.
Driving controls can range from a simple attachment to a replacement of the original driving controls designed to fit your particular needs. You need to bear in mind that an automatic gearbox is required with driving controls.
A push/pull control may be the answer if you have difficulty braking or accelerating. This device will allow you to control the speed of the vehicle by pulling or pushing a lever to brake or accelerate. There are a variety of hand controls on the market from various manufacturers but the basic function is similar in most vehicles and they can range from a basic push/pull system to electronic or air compression systems.
If you find that hand controls are tiring or you have limited leg mobility, you might find that an electronic accelerator will help. This device will enable you to accelerate by pressing a ring situated either below or above the steering wheel or by pulling a trigger device.
An electronic accelerator will require less effort than a push/pull hand control and will come with a push brake that is hand operated.
If you have limited mobility in your right leg and cannot use the standard accelerator comfortably, you may benefit from having a left foot accelerator fitted. This will allow you to control the speed with your left foot, while the original accelerator pedal is safely folded out of the way. The original accelerator pedal can still be used if anyone else drives the vehicle.
Alternatively if you have limited mobility on your left side then an automatic car might be sufficient as you will not have to change gear.
To assist with the storage of your wheelchair there is a hoist that stores your wheelchair in the boot of your vehicle or a hoist that stores a folded wheelchair in a roof box on your car. Both hoists can be operated at the touch of a button to lift and store the wheelchair.
If you are looking for a wheelchair car conversion whether to drive yourself or to travel as a passenger, the following information may be useful and help you make an informed choice of vehicle. Many suppliers will take the time to come to your home for a demonstration or a test drive if you would like that.
Conversions with both side entry and rear entry are options for independent travel by wheelchair users.
There are conversions designed to enable you drive from your wheelchair and some where you transfer from the wheelchair to the driver’s seat either outside or inside the vehicle. The alternative is travelling as a passenger.
This is the most popular and widely available conversion with the wheelchair access being provided at the rear of the WAV by a retractable manual or powered ramp or, in some cases, a platform type lift. This means that the floor of the car is usually lowered making more headroom for the wheelchair user and also not such a steep slope for the wheelchair to enter and exit.
You may find some conversions with suspension that is electrically powered thereby lowering the WAV to make it easier to push a manual chair up the ramp.
A rear access drive from wheelchair conversion will enable a wheelchair user to enter the vehicle via the rear ramp, park their wheelchair and then transfer to a driver’s seat that then moves to the correct driving position. The ramp can be stowed away and the tailgate closed by means of a remote control. A good example of this type of conversion is the Renault Kangoo.
Everyone has to ‘belt up’ when they enter a vehicle and a wheelchair user is no exception. In addition to the wheelchair being tied down, for which there are a variety of systems available, the wheelchair user also needs secure seating when travelling and, again, there are a variety of systems to choose from.