The majority have side-entry access, with a manual or powered ramp.
There are also rear-entry access minivans which are a great solution for those who frequently travel to areas with tight parking situations. Rear entry access also allows regular seating on either side of the wheelchair, in addition to an optional bench seat in the back. However, be aware that, because of the ramp, there is very little cargo space and the additional seats might not accommodate adults comfortably.
The majority of modified minivans have lowered floors, which is a benefit to the wheelchair user but might make it more difficult for people in the back of the vehicle to navigate.
Full size vans
For those wheelchair or scooter users who might want or need a larger vehicle, a full-sized van that’s fitted with a powered wheelchair platform lift might be perfect. There are a variety of lifts available. If the person in the wheelchair is tall, or the chair itself very large, these vans can be fitted with extra-high doors for greater ease of use.
The term “wheelchair lift” can either refer to a system that lifts the empty wheelchair or scooter up and into the vehicle, or it can refer to a platform that lifts the wheelchair or scooter up and into the vehicle with the individual still in it. The kind you need will depend upon whether the wheelchair or scooter user is physically able to stand or transfer from their chair to the vehicle.
Wheelchair Lift and Scooter Lift Guide for Vans
There are a variety of different lift manufacturers. Most lifts have similar functions.
The UVL, or Under Vehicle Lift®, by Braun, is mounted underneath the vehicle, and remains out of sight and out of your way until needed. That means easy access for passengers who can walk unaided and cargo, a clear side view for the driver while traveling and maximum interior space for passengers.
Folding Platform Wheelchair Lift
This type of lift has a power tri-folding platform, which solves the problem of wheelchair access and entry for other passengers. Over half the van’s side door is available for easy access when the wheelchair lift is in the stowed position. Pushing a button quickly unfolds the platform, revealing a fully-functional wheelchair lift in a compact package. For additional passenger comfort, the front seat can recline fully – an attractive feature of wheelchair lifts that are mounted inside the vehicle.
The KlearVue™ lift from Ricon has a unique “fold-in-half” design. When the KlearVue™ lift is stowed, it provides an unobstructed side view for the driver, helping to eliminate hazardous blind spots, allows a clear view for the passengers, and is virtually unseen from outside. Plus, because the KlearVue™ platform folds when stowed, a raised-roof for the vehicle is not required – even when a long platform is necessary for larger wheelchairs and power scooters.
Side-Entry Wheelchair Lift
The Millennium Series by Braun has a strong, stable lifting platform. It has the standard side-entry platform, which facilitates boarding in tight parking situations.
Economical Wheelchair Lift
The Century Series has a simplified electrical system and is a full platform lift, which stows inside the vehicle. Its main drawback is that it takes up a lot of interior space.
Car-Top Carrier for Standard Folding Wheelchairs
If the individual is able to transfer to a car seat from a standard folding wheelchair, there is a specially designed storage container for the folded wheelchair that is designed to fit on the roof of a wide variety of cars. This frees up a lot of storage space inside the vehicle.
In order to secure the wheelchair and its occupant inside a van when it is in motion, you need to restrain it with a special device called a tie-down. There are several types available, from simple straps that attach to the wheelchair once it’s in place to a device called an EZ-lock that is bolted to the vehicle and then attached to the wheelchair.
Purchasing a vehicle
According to Dan Bussani, it is easier to buy a vehicle that has already been converted and is in a mobility specialist’s inventory. However, that limits your choice to what the dealer has in stock, in terms of color and other customizations. If you want to see and evaluate all of the options available from a particular dealer, it’s always best to visit the showroom in person rather than looking at pictures and descriptions of their vehicles online. If you’re looking for a better deal, ask the dealer if he has any older models in stock, but remember that in such cases you will have to settle for whatever he has on hand.