For those who love to travel cross country, nothing beats the all-purpose, fully-loaded recreational vehicle or just “RV” as it is commonly called. These vehicles offer the modern conveniences of home and transportation for the whole family all in one. For some wheelchair users and their families, dreams of vacationing cross-country in an RV are becoming a reality. Today, a few RV manufacturers and secondary market providers can supply rear door kits that allow for the addition of a lift. This is most often achieved with a “cut-out” in the passenger side rear bedroom area.
Wheelchair Lifts : Capacities and Specifications
It’s important to talk to a mobility dealer to discuss what options are available for your type of wheelchair and the total weight before making any commitments for either the RV cut-out door or the lift. Some lifts may require 40” or more of door opening space to be installed. If a heavier, commercial-style lift is necessary, a specially ordered door kit for wider applications may need to be built by the RV manufacturer.
If you have an RV and want to know about wheelchair lifts and styles, drop us a note with some details and we’ll provide you with additional information – or find a nearby mobility dealer that can. Talk to your RV dealer as well about cut-out door availability and whether they can install them for you. Now is the time to start planning that special cross-country vacation you’ve always wanted to make happen.
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.
It’s estimated that more than 500 Americans lose a limb each day. More than two million Americans are currently living with a limb loss. Amazing statistics that many of us are shocked to hear. Perhaps it’s because prosthetic limbs have come such a long way that it can be hard to tell whether some is missing a limb or not. People with limb loss are around us every day, more than we realize, living full and active lives. I even know of a few police officers who have only one leg, marines who were injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. And they can outrun most any bad guy in a chase! Many of our clients using wheelchair vans and/or hand controls use a prosthetic.
The Amputee Coalition is at the heart of a movement to educate the public about limb loss, especially in April, when they celebrate National Limb Loss Awareness Month. Their mission: to bring awareness about the risk factors and preventative steps that people can take to avoid losing limbs.
There are many causes of limb loss, such as auto accidents or construction injuries. Professional surfer Bethany Hamilton lost her arm to a shark! But many amputations that occur in the USA are preventable, due to medical conditions such as diabetes and peripheral vascular disease. The Amputee Coalition website has an informative listing they call “25 Ways to Avoid Limb Loss” with brief description identifying each. Go to their Limb Loss link here.
In addition to awareness, the Amputee Coalition offers scholarship programs, a marketplace for products, community forums for people with different interests and much more. They also have a comprehensive online library of resources, articles and publications called the National Limb Loss Information Center (NLLIC). You to also make donations online to help their cause. Go to www.amputee-coalition.org learn more about this terrific organization.
First Ever National Mobility Awareness Month Coming in May – Local Hero Nominees Being Sought for Van Giveaways
MobilityWorks is proud to announce its participation in the first ever National Mobility Awareness Month this coming May. And as part of the celebration, the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association and its partners are giving away three wheelchair accessible vans to local hero essay contest winners. Mobility dealers, groups and organizations are encouraged to nominate deserving individuals by submitting a 1 to 3-minute video and 400 word essay and photos about the nominee. They will be accepting nomination starting March 18th all the way up to May 13th. However, the sooner you get the nominations in the better because visitors to the MobilityAwarenessMonth.com website will have a chance to vote for their favorites. Voting will begin April 1st and ends May 13th.
What is a local hero? They can be anyone in your community including persons with disabilities, a caregiver, veteran or anyone who has helped others to overcome their mobility challenges. If you have someone that you are nominating, please let us know so that we can help to “get out the vote” for a particular hero.
The winners of the three wheelchair vans will be announced by NMEDA toward the end of May on national television. We look forward to bringing more awareness to the general public and with creating a buzz about the many different options that people now have to live productive lives with the help of our vans, scooter lifts and driving aid products. Additional information and nominee submission links can be found at www.MobilityAwarenessMonth.com.
Producers of the hit series “Little People, Big World” are working on a new reality show featuring four women in wheelchairs. Sexy, compelling, inspiring and ambitious are just a few of the words being used to describe the show. Aptly named Push Girls, it is scheduled to debut in April on the Sundance channel. The 14-episode, ½ hour series is being marketed as both a documentary and drama reality show. The cast includes Auti Angel, Mia Schaikewitz, Angela Rockwood and Tiphany Adams, all beautiful women of different backgrounds (now all close friends) who live with paralysis in the Hollywood area.
The show documents the everyday challenges each women face, both physically and mentally. According to Sundance press, relationships are not off-limits — as details about the girls dating, able-bodied boyfriends and a failed marriage will also be shared with the world.
The Push Girls Cast
Auti Angel was in a severe auto accident in 1992 that resulted in a spinal cord injury. She was a dancer before being paralyzed and has since continued her passion for dancing. In 2003 she became one of the founding members of the Colours ‘n Motion Dance Crew (aka Team Colours*), known for their many appearances at Abilities Expos and other disability awareness event around the country.
Mia Schaikewitz is a former competitive swimmer who suffered a rare brain hemorrhage as a 15 year old teenager. She went on to graduate from the University of Florida before moving out to California. Mia joined Auti Angel as a Colours’ in Motion dancer in 2008. Mia is now 32 years old.
Angela Rockwood was an aspiring actress and engaged to actor Dustin Nguyen (21 Jump Street) when she was involved in a tragic car accident that left her a quadriplegic. She has continued her acting career and is now an ambassador for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. You may recognize Angela from her role in the 2001 hit movie The Fast and the Furious.
Tiphany Adams was a senior in high school when she and her friends were hit by a drunk driver. She was the lone survivor, but not until after the EMT’s had already declared her dead at the scene. Requiring a significant amount of work to stop internal bleeding and to rebuild her shattered bones, she is truly a miracle. She has been a voice against drunk driving, including an appearance on the Dr. Phil show. Tiphany was also featured on the cover of New Mobility Magazine in December 2010. Tiphany wrote on her web site the following: “I feel it is my God given purpose to become the story told that after tragedy lies hope and promise of brighter days.”
Whatever your feelings about the show and any unwarranted comparisons to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (on Wheels), one thing is clear: these are confident, spirited women who overcame their physical challenges and live life to the fullest. Long before the show was conceived, they were role models to countless young women who also found themselves in a wheelchair wondering whether life can still be meaningful. The Push Girls answer is yes. MobilityWorks wishes them and the show the very best.