Having mobility issues can be challenging in many ways, from obtaining a proper wheelchair to navigating your environment. One of the biggest challenges is getting from origin to destination. Whether you have your own vehicle or need to rely on public transportation, you need to do research on what is the most appropriate accommodation.
Many major cities now have public transportation that is handicapped accessible, from city buses to taxis. However, most people find it very difficult to get around relying on this. The only practical alternative is to purchase a specially accommodated vehicle.
When shopping for mobility options, don’t be overwhelmed! There is a wide variety of options available.
The requirements these vehicles must meet will vary depending on an individual’s needs. Someone who can drive themselves, or who has the ability to transfer out of their wheelchair into a regular car seat will need a very different vehicle than someone who will always be a passenger and must remain in their wheelchair at all times.
It’s important that you consider your needs, or the needs of the person you’re caring for, not only today, but for the service life of the new vehicle, five or even seven years down the road. Can the person transfer from a wheelchair to a vehicle seat now, but might not be able to in the future? Can you afford to buy one vehicle that’s appropriate now and another one in a few years when that person’s needs have changed?
There’s no such thing as, “one size fits all”. Usually, when people shop for a new car, 99% of the population will comfortably fit into just about every vehicle offered. But the needs of wheelchair and scooter users are much more specific and extremely diverse. Because of the complexity of the choices available and the relatively high cost of these vehicles, families should do their homework carefully to find the right balance between features and price.
A good mobility dealer will serve as your personal mobility expert. It’s their role and responsibility to find the best mobility option to fit your needs, your lifestyle, and your budget. In order to do this, you’ll need to meet with your local mobility dealer in person to find the best available option to fit your family and the wheelchair user. You can either stop by the local dealership or they can schedule a time to visit you at your home.
If you do a search online, you will find a multitude of dealers who can be contacted online and in person. If you visit a local dealer, you can see, touch, and try out the vehicles. And they provide full support after the sale, which is an important service that the online dealers do not offer.
There are many considerations to take into account when deciding which type of vehicle to buy:
Size of wheelchair and wheelchair user – if the wheelchair itself is very large this determines the minimum size of vehicle needed.
Parking availability – Is there a driveway available or only on-street parking? Do you go to school/doctor appointments where parking is limited?
Size of family – Do you have a lot of other family members that also need to fit in the vehicle?
Seating – If an adult is the wheelchair user, would they be driving or be able to sit up front in the regular car seat next to the driver? If it is a child, you will need to put them in the back of the vehicle. There are a variety of vehicles available. Some are adapted with a special lift or ramp for bringing the person into the vehicle in their wheelchair. Others have regular car seats that swing out, enabling someone to transfer or be transferred from their wheelchair to a regular seat.
According to Dan Bussani of Bussani Mobility Team, there are a few different brands of minivans that are available already converted for handicapped access. The main difference between them is the size of the vehicle.
Conversion companies take the basic minivan from the manufacturer and adapt them for wheelchair or scooter accessibility to meet an individual’s daily transportation needs. Approximately 12-15,000 units are done a year.Elisheva Stein