How to Buy a Wheelchair-accessible Van
For the first couple years of having mitochondrial myopathy, I used a manual wheelchair to get around. But when the time came to receive my first power wheelchair, my family realized that they would not be able to lift and fold it into the car. So, we started looking for a wheelchair-accessible van.
We get a magazine in the mail called Quest that focuses on people living with muscular dystrophy, research progress, and mobility aids of all kinds. We came across a company featured in the magazine named Aero Mobility that takes standard vans from manufacturers like Toyota, Dodge, Chrysler, Ford, and Honda and converts them into wheelchair-accessible vehicles for wheelchair and scooter users alike.
Aero Mobility offers back-entry or side-entry vehicles, but we decided that the back-entry version was the best choice, as it would give us the option to park in any parking space rather than being limited to handicapped spots. Back-entry vehicles also don’t break down as frequently as side-entry ones. If the hydraulics that operate the ramp happen to break down, the ramp can easily be folded and unfolded manually. Another great feature is that it’s much easier for the wheelchair user to see out the dashboard window because they can sit in the middle of the car. It even makes socializing easier since there are two seats on either side of the aisle where the wheelchair sits.
Being in a wheelchair in a car can make you feel like a fish in a fishbowl. A few years after buying a Dodge Town & Country, we switched to a Toyota Sienna because it rides smoother and turns better.
In our van, there is a device called an EZ Lock bolted to the floor of the vehicle. It’s compatible with a bolt that we installed on the bottom of my wheelchair and allows me to slide into the lock and secure my chair to the car. This is an incredible safety feature to protect me in case of car accidents. Tie-down securements can be physically difficult to use for the driver or caregiver. However, the EZ Lock is an added expense that might not be affordable for everyone.
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