Choosing the right wheelchair accessible van to transport your child is a decision that will not only impact your family today, but for years to come. As a parent, how do you navigate through all the options available to you? Here are some factors to consider in your search to help you find the right van for the whole family’s needs.
The Size of Your Family
All accessible vans are not created equal when it comes to seating capacity. While a standard minivan will likely accommodate a smaller family of four, those with larger families are tasked with finding a conversion built with room for all passengers. This may mean considering a full-size van instead of a minivan, but some minivans out there can fit a larger number of passengers. The FlexFlat™ 7 conversion from Driverge® Vehicle Innovations, for example, can seat seven total passengers, or five passengers plus a wheelchair user.
You should also consider your lifestyle when gauging what size van will work for your family. Perhaps you found a smaller conversion that works for your immediate needs, but is there also room for an occasional friend or relative who may be visiting? Do you travel often and need extra space for luggage or other cargo? The comfort and safety of your child is ultimately the most important factor when choosing a van but do not forget to account for your needs as well.
Your Child’s Growth
While you may have a young child who does not require a lot of space now, we all know that our kids grow up faster than we anticipate. A modified vehicle that could easily fit them and their wheelchair at age 6 may not work as well at age 16. As they grow, so will their equipment. It is crucial to account for the future and choose a vehicle that will fit your needs not just right now, but years from now, as well.
You should be mindful of the size of your child’s equipment as well. Perhaps they are most comfortable with a smaller manual wheelchair today, but is it possible they will switch to a power wheelchair later in life? Larger power chairs have an impact on the size of van that will be recommended to you. Additionally, if your child travels with accessories such as a feeding tube or ventilator, you will want to be sure there is ample space for their equipment.
You should also consider what the best position is in the vehicle for your child and their chair. Do they need to be in the center of the van, seated next to a caregiver, or in the front passenger seat? These are all options depending on your child’s needs and the type of conversion you choose.
When your toddler grows into a teenager, will they want to get behind the wheel themselves? If you anticipate needing a vehicle for your young driver one day, you will need a conversion with removable front seats. That way, your teen can secure their chair comfortably in the driver’s position through a docking system.
Side-Entry or Rear-Entry
The entry point to your accessible vehicle, located either on the side of the van or at the rear, will impact other decisions like available models, seat configurations and space. If your child travels with bulky equipment or has limited mobility, a rear-entry vehicle may be more ideal, as there is less maneuvering involved to secure the chair in place. Some rear-entry conversions also allow a caregiver to sit next to the child.
Alternatively, side-entry conversions can be more spacious, as more room is needed to guide the wheelchair into the proper position in the middle of the cabin or in the front seat. If your child’s mobility is more flexible, this type of conversion allows them to be front and center in the vehicle, which may be more comfortable for them.
It’s also important to think about your daily routine and parking accessibility when choosing between a side-entry or rear-entry van. For example, if you park along a curb when dropping your child off at school, a side-entry ramp can make the process much smoother. On the other hand, if you live in an area where accessible parking spaces or not available or hard to find, a rear-entry ramp may be more convenient. This way, you would not have to worry about another vehicle blocking the side ramp.
While these are just a few considerations to factor in during your search for your dream accessible vehicle, you don’t have to make the choice alone! Our Certified Mobility Consultants are trained to cover all the components above, plus many more. If you’re just starting out in your search, visit us for a free Needs Analysis, where we will evaluate your needs and recommend the best options for you and your family.
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