Handicap Vans – Wheelchair accessible vans and vehicle wheelchair lift options

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You recently have a need for a wheelchair or scooter, and then you think “how is my vehicle going to carry the wheelchair”. The first thing to consider is whether your vehicle will support the weight of the wheelchair or scooter. There are various types of lifts and mobility devices available, depending on what you ride. Your lift options are a hitch mounted lift, boom lift, platform lift or ramp on a lowered floor minivan.

When considering a hitch mounted lift, you should know that every vehicle has a tongue weight limit. The tongue weight is the limit of the downward force each vehicle will carry. Most smaller vehicles will not have enough tongue weight capacity for a power chair or scooter. If you have a smaller car, consider a micro scooter or manual folding chair. Always check with your local mobility dealer or towing company before purchasing a vehicle. You don’t want to be stuck with a vehicle that won’t work for your needs.

There are several vehicles that will work with the boom type wheelchair lift. The lift mounts to the back of a minivan or pickup truck, and some other vehicles. SUVs may have headroom issues, depending on the height of the seat. There are 3 different versions of the tail lift for the rear of the vehicle. They have a 250 pound motor, a 400 pound motor, and a 400 pound motor with retractable arm. It also has a docking device that connects to the wheelchair or scooter, and a hand pendant with an up/down switch and an in/out switch. The lift may require a retractable arm, depending on the dimensions of the vehicle and the mobility device.

There are two types of platform wheelchair lifts. One is made for a minivan and the other for a full-size pickup. The minivan application is rear mounted. The user would roll onto the platform, secure the chair, and then use the hand pendant to stow the mobility device. Then it is necessary to walk to the driver’s seat. On a full-size van, the lift can be mounted on the side or rear. One thing to consider before installing this type of lift is clearance. With the person sitting in the seat, does they have enough headroom to clear the door and sit comfortably inside the vehicle? If not, a lower floor, raised ceiling, and raised doors may be options to consider. Always call your local mobility dealer to make sure the vehicle will suit your needs.

The next option for an accessible vehicle is a low-floor minivan. This is the most expensive application and the most versatile. Most handicapped minivans have a floor lower than 10 inches. The reason for the lower floor is headroom. A person could not sit comfortably in a minivan without a low floor. There is a side-entry and rear-entry option on lowered-floor minivans. At the side entrance, there is a floor ramp or drop down ramp option. Wheelchair accessible vans usually have a power knee system and removable front seats. Removable front seats offer the option of driving from a power chair or having a person sit in a power chair in the front passenger position. The knee system reduces the angle of the ramp, making it easier to get into the vehicle. The most common converted minivans are the Toyota Sienna, Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country, Honda Odyssey, and soon the Volkswagen Routan.

We have seen clients come to us with new vehicles that could not be converted. Laws vary from state to state as to whether or not you can return the vehicle. As a mobility dealer, we cannot stress enough the importance of calling your local mobility dealer before purchasing a vehicle. We want to make sure your vehicle works for your needs.

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