Advanced Materials Provide a Smoother Transition, Improved Maneuverability and Cleanup
Without proper maintenance, prolonged use of heavier power wheelchairs and scooters can begin taking their toll on a minivan’s carpeted flooring materials. Road salt is also a major concern in cold-weather areas, with salt residue increasing the potential for carpet deterioration. These issues can lead to problems with lifting, carpet tears and general cleanup. For newer van owners, however, those concerns are becoming a thing of the past. In many of our 2013 models, and now almost all new 2014 side entry make and model conversions, rubberized flooring has become one of the more popular options being asked about.
Over the last few years, wheelchair minivan conversion companies, such as Braun and VMI, have been experimenting with alternatives to carpeted flooring. New advanced, longer-lasting rubberized materials have been introduced in most of the newer vans – with great success and appreciation. The response from our clients to this improved feature has been extremely positive. Our repeat van buyers immediately notice the new rubber flooring and recognize its many benefits. With rubberized flooring, L-track for wheelchair tie-downs are also pre-installed for improved durability and a smoother floor. Removable front seat-bases are also more easily rolled in and out of the vehicles. And cleaning the floor is now a breeze.
Rubberized floors are now available (as an option) in 90% of the brand new side-entry and rear-entry accessible minivans being sold at MobilityWorks. Anticipating its popularity, many of our pre-ordered stock units available for sale at our showrooms already have them installed. With newer features and improvements being added every year, including step-up flares (below the front doors), reduced noise, and fold-down foot rests for the rear bench, people with a disability and their families are able to enjoy a more enhanced, perfected vehicle.
If you haven’t seen the newer vans lately, stop in at one of our 30 locations for a demonstration. Even if you’re just looking and want to ask questions, we’d love to have you come in and meet with a member of our team. Call us toll-free at 1-877-275-4907 to schedule a demonstration and test ride.
Got Any Improvement Ideas? Get a Free Gift!
Let us know your ideas on improving vehicle conversions so that we can make them better for everyone. Write your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and address so that we can send you progress notes on your suggestion. The first 10 people with realistic suggestions will get a FREE copy of Ralph Braun’s 200-page biographical hard-cover story called “Rise Above”. Ralph Braun (1940-2013) started The Braun Corporation creating wheelchair lifts and van solutions for his own mobility needs after being diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy at a very young age. He was a pioneer in the mobility industry and his story is an inspiration to all Americans, with or without disabilities.
Congratulations to long-time MobilityWorks Commercial customer Bud Williams for being named the 2013 National Paratransit Operator of the Year by the Taxi, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA). Bud leads his family-run company, Wheelchair Transport Service (WTS) of Clearwater, FL, with integrity and customer service that goes beyond most companies in the industry. He has been with WTS since 1981, starting as a driver and dispatcher, and working his way up.
Al Legasse, CEO of TLPA, said “This family-owned business is truly one to be emulated.” During the past year FEMA was in need of assistance from WTS, and Bud and his team immediately sprang into action deploying 10 vehicles to hard-hit areas.
It is so good to know the vans MobilityWorks builds with such care and quality are doing such good, not just in an emergency, but to transport those in need every day. You can find out more about Bud Williams and WTS at their website www.wheelchairtransport.com.
Used Conversion Vans and Non-Adaptive Autos Can be Used Toward a Down Payment
We often get phone calls or e-mails asking if we take trade-ins — or if we’re interested in purchasing a used accessible van. In some cases, the trade-in vehicle is a non-adaptive regular automobile, van, SUV or truck. The answer in all cases is yes. For trade-ins, we can give you a fair market value for your adaptive and non-adaptive vehicle. The trade-in vehicle can be used toward a down payment on any new or used wheelchair van for sale. We do all the paperwork on your trade-in as part of the financing process. All you need is the title.
If you’re looking to trade in your current wheelchair van or looking to sell one that is no longer being used, fill out our online request form here. We can have a representative in your area respond within 24 hours. Live on-site inspections and a test drive by one of our technicians may be required before a final assessment and offer can be made.
What If I don’t Live Near One of Your Locations?
If you live outside of our service area and have a converted van for sale, we have a national buying specialist who handles all of our out-of-area used vehicle purchases. Simply use the same trade-in request form and make sure to provide all of your location details.
Vehicle Developments Will Mean More Choices for Disabled Drivers in the Future
With only a handful of viable minivan options to choose from for wheelchair accessibility, and a growing trend in the automotive sector for people wanting to drive SUVs and Cross-Overs, one of the large converters was bound to come along with an SUV option. The Ford Explorer concept vehicle recently announced by BraunAbility and West Coast Customs, with financial aid from Schmidt Motorsports, may be just the start of a growing trend in vehicles being available for people who want something other than a van. Despite significant design upgrades to the minivan in the last decade, for some people the “soccer mom” stigma still exists.
“We wanted to radically change how people think about mobility vehicles. This fantastic mobility concept SUV is mission accomplished,” said Sam Schmidt, co-owner of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Mobility vehicles require a lot of engineering and testing before they can become available to the public. Economically, the chassis make and model needs to have a solid history of being a reliable, attractive and affordable option for a converter to make the kind of investment necessary to make that happen. For BraunAbility, the Ford Explorer answers the call on all three points. But that’s just the start. The concept vehicle was more than a year in the making, with much more work to do to make it “assembly-line” ready. For now, there has been no announcement on when the Explorer will actually go into production. But it will happen and someday soon.
We are in for an exciting time as more chassis become available. Perhaps it will be the Range Rover or Chevy Tahoe – or something totally unexpected like the Nissan Pathfinder. In either case, it’s a positive sign that the industry is evolving, adding more choices for wheelchair drivers and passengers. As the largest dealer in the United States of BraunAbility wheelchair vans, MobilityWorks is very excited about what the future may hold for our clients. Congratulations to our business partner BraunAbility and to Sam Schmidt for their dedication to our industry and the people we serve.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.