Wheelchair lifts are used to lift a wheelchair user, while seated in their wheelchair, into a wheelchair accessible van. Wheelchair lifts are what make wheelchair vans possible! In the past, handicap lifts were made for numerous types vehicles. Today though, wheelchair lifts are only used in full-size mobility vans like the VMI Tuscany series.
Wheelchair Lift Decision-Making Process: What You Should Consider
Choosing the right wheelchair lift for your van requires several decisions: First, you must decide if you are going to use your handicap lift through the side passenger doors or through the rear cargo doors. Both are viable options but not all wheelchair lifts are made to operate in both locations. The items discussed below will help you understand which option is right for you. The decision of entry point will help to narrow your choices.
The second decision is based on the combined weight of the wheelchair user and their wheelchair/scooter; do you want a single/sliding arm wheelchair lift or a dual-arm lift? Single/sliding arm lifts have either one arm in a fixed position or one fixed and one sliding arm. A single/sliding arm lift reduces the lifting capacity to only 600 pounds. However, it enables the handicap lift to move out of the way of a non-wheelchair user when it is not in use. Another benefit of single/sliding arm wheelchair lifts for vans is that the front passenger seat can move and tilt back unaffected. In the case of a fixed dual-arm lift, the forward-most arm forces the front passenger seat to be far-forward and does not allow the seat to be reclined.
Single-Arm Vs. Dual-Arm Wheelchair Lifts
Single arm handicap lifts are designed to take up less interior space and leave the passenger entry open. Single arm lifts are used only in side-entry applications. However, single arm lifts have less lifting capacity than dual-arm wheelchair lifts for vans so they are not a viable option for larger people with larger wheelchairs.
Dual-arm means double the stability, which is required for lifting heavier individuals and their wheelchairs. Most dual-arm lifts have a lift capacity of up to 800 pounds. Dual-arm wheelchair lifts can handle heavier loads because they have two arms to support and distribute the weight. These wheelchair lifts will take up more interior room, block the side entrance and limit the mobility of the front passenger seat. Very often, people who need the lifting capacity of a dual-arm lift will have the lift mounted in the rear of the vehicle to avoid some of the negative tradeoffs.
Internally Mounted or Under-Vehicle Mounted Wheelchair Lifts
Next, you have to decide if you want the wheelchair lift for your van to be an internally mounted lift or an under-vehicle wheelchair lift. Internally mounted wheelchair lifts are generally less expensive and are more accessible for maintenance and service. However, these wheelchair lift parts do take up space in your handicap van and some models can block the entrance or limit the mobility of the front passenger seat.
Under-vehicle lifts (UVL's) are considerably more expensive but, they are completely out of the way—taking up no space inside the wheelchair accessible van or blocking the entrance. In addition, a UVL has a high weight capacity, making it an ideal choice for a heavier wheelchair user who also needs additional space inside the wheelchair lift van. Some concerns exist with the ground clearance of these wheelchair lifts as they are mounted under the wheelchair van. However, our experience has been that most users are able to manage. In addition, the UVL is housed in a special cartridge which does a great job of protecting it from the elements but, makes it a little more difficult to access and maintain.
Wheelchair Lift Safety and Convenience
Wheelchair vans with handicap lifts are equipped with a safety lift interlock. Wheelchair lift safety interlocks are designed to prevent operation of the wheelchair van or wheelchair lift in unsafe situations. For example, if the wheelchair lift is in operation, the wheelchair accessible van cannot shift into "drive." And if you were to accidentally try to go down the road with your lift out or if a wheelchair were to come too close to the open doorway of the wheelchair van when the wheelchair lift is not at vehicle level, an alarm will sound to warn the wheelchair user. The alarm would prevent an individual from falling out of the wheelchair van. These wheelchair lift interlocks—and their functionality—are mandated by NHTSA.
Lift Control Pendants
Lift control pendants are hand-held devices which enable the lift to be moved up and/or down and to stow and/or deploy easily.
Interlocks and lift control pendants provide added safety and convenience for handicap vans with wheelchair lifts.
Choosing the right wheelchair lift for you and your wheelchair van involves balancing your requirements and making the right compromises. At MobilityWorks, we are happy to help you to make the decision that will best fit your unique needs.