Purchasing a vehicle, whether brand new or gently used, is something that most people will do within their lifetime. Usually this involves some research, browsing through vehicle listings online, and possibly even visiting a few dealerships and getting behind the wheel. But, for wheelchair users the process also involves a few additional steps that may seem daunting for new buyers. This includes decisions like a side-entry or rear-entry vehicle, an in-floor or folding ramp or lift, and determining whether they will be a driver or passenger of the vehicle. Additionally, wheelchair users have options for hand controls, transfer seats and various securement devices. With so many options to consider, how can persons living with SCI determine which wheelchair access van is best for them?
The Benefit of a Wheelchair Van for People Living with SCI
First, let’s look at the benefits of purchasing a wheelchair van specifically for people with SCIs. A few of these benefits include:
- Comfortability and reduced pain and fatigue
For wheelchair users who transfer into a standard vehicle seat, it can become taxing on both caregivers and the wheelchair user. It can cause shoulder, back and joint pain, and also lead to fatigue more quickly. Wheelchair users transferring to a transfer seat within the cabin of the vehicle or those who drive or ride from their chair are less likely to experience these pains in relation to transportation.
- Ease of vehicle access
With the click of a button, wheelchair users can access their wheelchair van. Wheelchair ramps or lifts allow people with SCI to enter their vehicle with little or no assistance and then move around within the vehicle’s cabin until they are situated in their desired position.
- Increased safety
Wheelchair tie down and securement devices offer wheelchair users peace of mind that they can remain safe within the vehicle while it is in motion. Power tie downs allow persons with SCI to safely and independently lock themselves into place within the vehicle.
Above all else, wheelchair vans provide people living with SCI the ability to travel independently, so they can get to where they need to be whenever they need to be there.
The Best Wheelchair Vans on the Market
When it comes to a customized vehicle, like a wheelchair van, there should never be a one size fits all solution. Instead, each van should be created to suit the specific needs of the wheelchair user that will be driving or riding within the interior cabin of the vehicle. Because there is no one best wheelchair van for everyone, it can be difficult to pinpoint the best wheelchair vans on the market. But, when it comes to SCI customers, there are a few bestsellers like:
Minivans including the Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Grand Caravan and Toyota Sienna are all top sellers for people living with SCI. The lowered floor conversion on these vehicles allows for enough door height (a full 55 inches) for most SCI wheelchair users, even those with larger electric wheelchairs, to sit upright in their chair while still having enough headroom and visibility through the windows. These vans can also accommodate various seating options which allow for the wheelchair user to drive the van, ride in the front passenger position or ride within the center of the vehicle. Each of these seating options still allow for additional able-bodied passengers to also ride within the vehicle, making this a great option for families. Full size vans like the Dodge Promaster, GMC Savana and Ford Transit wheelchair van are another popular options for SCI customers. This is often because full size vans with a lift can support the load of the largest wheelchairs without compromising flexible seating options for families.
Wheelchair Van Features Persons with SCI Should Consider
So, if there is no one true best wheelchair van for SCI customers, how can people with SCI be sure they are getting a van that suits their needs? Here are some conversion equipment options that SCI customers usually include with their conversion package:
- Hand controls
Hand control and steering column modifications like zero effort steering and zero effort brakes allow even some quadriplegics to operate a conversion van from the driver’s seat.
- Transfer seats
Most paraplegics and some quadriplegics prefer to transfer into the driver’s seat rather than drive from their wheelchair. A transfer seat, like the Rollx Vans six-way power transfer seat, allows wheelchair users to safely transfer to the driver’s position from within the cabin of their vehicle.
- Power or automatic tie downs
There are many types of securement devices available on the market for wheelchair users. Whenever possible, we recommend power automatic tie downs for people with SCI as they can independently secure their wheelchair within the vehicle. Power tie downs are also the only securement that will allow a wheelchair user to safely drive their vehicle from their wheelchair.
Greater Independence with a Wheelchair Van
There really is no one size fits all answer when it comes to independence through mobility. Most wheelchair vans manufactured today have similar ground clearance as a standard minivan or full size van would, which means conversion vehicles don’t stick out on the open road and the ability to operate them is no different than a standard vehicle. Wheelchair vans provide more independence for people living with SCI and the best wheelchair accessible van for them is one that is tailored to their unique needs.
Contributed by Elise Pickle, staff writer at Rollx Vans
Rollx Vans is an online wheelchair van sales dealer and manufacturer specializing in custom accessible vans that works directly with SCI consumers, their caregivers and their families. Rollx Vans offers new and used minivan and full size van options that come standard with a one button remote control allowing SCI wheelchair users to operate their van independently and emergency roadside assistance with paratransit transportation for the wheelchair user. Contact their team to learn more.