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Knowing Commonly Used Terms When Shopping for Wheelchair Vans Can Help You Navigate to the Right Accessible Option

The Honda Odyssey is one of many quality options when selecting a side-entry wheelchair van. This is a BraunAbility Entervan conversion.

Automated Fold-Out Ramp

Minivan conversions with fold-out ramps can be either automated or manually deployed. Most van conversions utilize some type of automated or “automatic” system with a push button or key-fob to operate an electric motor that is used to fold down and fold up the ramp.

Certified Mobility Consultants

Most quality providers will have consulting staff on hand in their stores to work with clients in helping to explain different mobility options and with selecting the right van or equipment. Certified Mobility Consultants (also known as CMCs) have gone through specific training with the various mobility equipment manufacturers in order to properly demonstrate the use of the products. CMCs also have general knowledge in disability issues and will explore the client’s physical capabilities in order to make the right vehicle conversion or mobility equipment recommendation.    

Conversion Manufacturers

Major auto manufacturers such as Chrysler/Dodge, Toyota, Ford and Honda build new van chassis from the ground up. These are often referred to as original equipment manufacturers or OEMs. A conversion manufacturer takes new OEM vehicles or pre-owned vans with low mileage and “converts” them for wheelchair accessibility for mobility dealers.  A conversion can include lowering the floor, adding a kneeling system and ramp, new removable front seating, securement L-track on the floor, and electrical system upgrades for safe and convenient operation of the vehicle. Lowering the floor in itself presents many engineering challenges that require considerable time in the conversion process.  Two of the most popular conversion manufacturers are BraunAbility and Vantage Mobility International (also known as VMI). Note: MobilityWorks is BraunAbility’s and VMI’s largest dealer in the United States.

Docking Systems

Wheelchair docking is an alternative system for securing the wheelchair to the floor of a van. Docking systems use an automated clamp like device mounted to the floor that locks on to a pin that is added to the frame of the wheelchair. Docking systems utilize an electronic push-button control console for quickly locking and releasing the wheelchair.  Many wheelchair drivers utilize a docking system, eliminating the need for tie-down straps that would be problematic to use in the driver position.

Hand Controls

Hand controls are commonly used by paraplegic and amputee drivers and can be installed on most any type of vehicle. Several different styles of hand controls are available to match the needs of the driver with the automobile, van, truck or SUV. Most hand controls are mechanical, which means they are connected to the accelerator and braking system with the use of connecting rods and various hand grip options. The most popular among the systems is a push-pull design. The drive pushes forward to accelerate and pulls down on the controls to brake.  A Certified Mobility Consultant can demonstrate the various options and connect the client with a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) for driver evaluation and on-road training. For public safety and liability reasons, certification is required before a mobility dealer can order and install hand controls on a vehicle.

In-Floor Ramp

Mobility vans that have a side-entry ramp can also be equipped with an in-floor ramp system. What this means is that the ramp is located under the floor of the vehicle (when not in use) and slides out when deployed. The advantage of an in-floor system is that the ramp is completely out of the way, unlike a fold-out ramp that is an obstruction in the door opening in the up position. In-floor ramps can be a little more expensive in that they require more work to install, but can be a very practical option for those who want to utilize the passenger side sliding door without the wheelchair ramp being deployed. 

Kneeling System

Ramp angle is a critical part of the making a van accessible. The lower the angle the easier is to enter the vehicle, particularly for those in manual chairs who wheel themselves in without an attendant. Kneeling systems are designed to raise the opposite side of the van, with an automated actuator, which lowers the passenger side, reducing the height of the floor and ramp. Kneeling systems are completely hidden and out of view from passengers and are controlled with the same push-button operation as the the ramp. In most cases, the van’s electrical system has been designed to open the sliding door, kneel the van and deploy the ramp in sequential order in one easy step.

L-Track

In order to secure the wheelchair to the floor of the van with a tie-down system, a strip of metal “L-Track” is attached to the floor. L-Track has small half-inch circular openings along the entire length that allow for a tie-down strap to be positioned in the correct angle and position for the person in the chair. L-Track can be installed in horizontal or vertical configurations depending on the type of van and desired wheelchair position.

Lowered Floor

Since headroom above the wheelchair passenger can be tight and a lower ramp angle is desired, most wheelchair vans are modified with a lowered floor. This accomplishes both goals of providing more room and a reduced angle necessary for entering and exiting the vehicle. Height at the door opening can also be a critical dimension for a larger person sitting upright in a chair or for a caregiver assisting with loading and securement. Lowered floor vans are structurally modified and require significant re-engineering of many vehicle components such as the muffler system, gas tank, and brake lines. Because of these modifications, conversion manufacturers have to crash test their vehicles to meet federal safety standards. It’s important that people try a vehicle’s lowered floor, kneeling and ramp system before buying.

New-New and New-Used Vans

A New-New conversion would be a brand new wheelchair accessible conversion on a brand new vehicle (less than a few hundred miles), while a New-Used would be new adaptive equipment conversion being applied to a pre-owned vehicle. Typically this would only take place on a van with lower mileage (less than 20,000) and being only a few years old.

GM Mobility Reimbursement Program

General Motors offers a program designed to help with the cost of installing adaptive equipment in the new Chevrolet, Buick or GMC vehicles. The  GM Mobility Reimbursement Program allows new vehicle purchasers/lessees to receive up to a $1,000 reimbursement for the cost of the equipment. In the videos below, Rick Kristufek, a Mobility Consultant from our Detroit MobilityWorks location, discusses MobilityWorks and  the GM Mobility Reimbursement Program.

 

Transfer Seats are One of Many Options for Wheelchair Drivers

Wheelchair Transfer SeatPeople who use a wheelchair will often times have to lift themselves into another chair or over to a car seat. For those who drive with hand controls, totally removing the front seat to make room for the wheelchair is sometimes not a practical solution. The confines of an accessible minivan however make it difficult to pull the wheelchair close enough to transfer over to the front driver’s seat, not to mention that it’s in a fixed position facing forward.

So what’s the answer? Transfer seats allow for the person in the wheelchair to transfer from the wheelchair in the center area of a van to the front seat of an automobile. With a few easy-to-use controls, the electronically controlled seat can be moved back from the standard forward position by as much as 20 inches. The transfer seat can then be turned 90 degrees sideways, allowing for complete accessibility. After transferring over, rotating and moving forward, it can then be raised or lowered to a comfortable driving position. This type of functionality is referred to as a six-way seat: forward; backward; rotate left; rotate right; up and down.

Wheelchair Transfer Seat BaseFor new vans, transfer seat bases can be ordered and installed by MobilityWorks for either the driver or passenger side front seats. The original OEM seat may be used with the new base. If you happen to come across pre-owned (used) wheelchair vans for sale with a transfer seat already installed, it’s worth an extra look for the additional convenience this device can offer.

Additional Seating Options

Many wheelchair van models are now manufactured with rollaway seat bases, which mean that they can easily be taken out of the van with some able-bodied assistance to make room for a wheelchair in the forward area. All that is needed is tie-downs and the proper mounting track secured to the floor. A more permanent docking type device that locks the wheelchair in place can also be installed. Other custom seating solutions are available for helping drivers or passengers to get in and out of a vehicle using the front doors, such as lift-up seats and turning automotive seats (TAS by Bruno). These can be ordered and installed in almost any type of vehicle, including pickup trucks and SUVs. So what’s right for you? Ask your local Certified Mobility Consultant about transfer seats, lift-up seating, rollaway front seats and TAS seats that can be a valuable time-saver and convenient addition to your minivan.

Renting a Wheelchair Van for the Holidays?

MobilityWorks is One of the Largest Renters of Handicap Vans in the United States. Many of Our Vans for Rent Are Booked Weeks Ahead of Time During the Busy Holiday Season.

Wheel chair vans for rent

It’s that time of year when relatives and friends come home or to visit. I you’ve never had a disabled person in your family, then you may not have ever needed to find a wheelchair van that you can rent. The good news is that rental vans are available from many different providers around the country that serve most major cities. The bad news is that holidays are the busiest time of year for renting one, so if you haven’t gotten your reservation in already it may be too late.

If you want to bring someone home from a nursing home (for example), renting an accessible van is often the easiest way to get them out visiting with friends and doing holiday things, like shopping!

If you’re planning on getting a handicap rental van, call today! Don’t delay. If there aren’t any vans available, try to make reservations for the following week. Vans can be rented by the day, week, weekend, or even for an entire month.

The toll-free MobilityWorks rental hotline is 1-877-275-4915.

Scooter and Power Wheelchair Lifts for Vans or SUVs Come in Many Different Styles.

Scooter and Power Wheelchair Lifts for Vans or SUVs Come in Many Different Styles. Careful Consideration Needs to Be Taken When Selecting a Model for Your Particular Type of Scooter and Vehicle.

Bruno Curb-Sider scooter lift. Bruno Out-Sider meridan platform lift
Left: Bruno Curb-Sider scooter lift. Right: Bruno Out-Sider Meridian platform lift.

When it comes to scooter lifts, there’s no one size fits all solution. Your particular scooter or power wheelchair design has as much to do with the selection of which lift you use than the make and model of the minivan or SUV where it’s going to be installed. Scooter lifts can help to store the scooter (or chair) inside the vehicle or outside, depending on its design and your preference. To avoid a very costly mistake, the style you decide to use should be made with particular care and with the advice of a certified mobility consultant. In most cases, a qualified NMEDA QAP dealer can be found near you that should be able to find the right solution.

Weight Capacity is a Major Consideration for Selecting a Scooter Lift Model

Bruno Joey (VSL-4000HW) lifts store scooters or power wheelchairs inside the back of a minivan or SUV.
Bruno Joey (VSL-4000HW) lifts store scooters or power wheelchairs inside the back of a minivan or SUV.

Scooter lifts have several main functions. It’s first is to help with lifting the scooter from the ground and with raising it to desired level for easy storage. The same mechanisms and design is also used to help with lowering it to the ground. It’s other main purpose is to help with securing the scooter in place so that you can safely travel it in the rear of the vehicle. With lifting the scooter, the most important consideration is with the weight capacity for which the lift was designed.

Most major manufacturers cary several different models to handle different ranges. The higher the capacity, the more robust the design and materials used in the manufacturing. One of the most commonly used scooter lifts is a hoist-type lift where you attach a cable to the scooter. The second most common is a ride-on, ride-off type of lift where the scooter sits on a platform. These types of lifts can also have the scooter be stored inside the vehicle, such as a ‘Joey’ Lift by Bruno Independent Living Aids or outside the vehicle such as an ‘Out-Sider’ Meridian Lift’ — also made by by Bruno.

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