Is YOUR Vehicle a Good Candidate for Wheelchair Accessible Conversion?"Wheelchair Accessible" is the operative phrase in the question posed above. So what does that mean? Almost any vehicle can be fitted with mobility equipment like hand controls for the driver with disabilities, along with lifts and platforms to transport a folding wheelchair or mobility scooter in the trunk or cargo space. For true wheelchair access, in which the wheelchair user employs a ramp or lift to ride into the vehicle and remain in the wheelchair or transfer to a seat, you'll need a vehicle with significant interior space and side- or rear-door operation that lends itself to wheelchair access. Let's do this by a process of elimination. Standard cars can be equipped with hand controls and a motorized lift or platform to assist in loading a wheelchair or mobility scooter into the trunk or back seat, but true wheelchair accessibility is impossible, at least at the moment. Pick-up trucks can be converted for wheelchair access for either a passenger or a driver. SUVs can be converted for wheelchair accessibility, like the Honda Element, but interior space is limited, and you lose the convenience of an automatic sliding door for entry and exit. If you own a full-size van, which was the vehicle of choice for the first wheelchair van conversions, you'll be happy to know that several conversion manufacturers can accommodate your move to full wheelchair transportation. The cost depends on your specific needs--ramp vs. lift, special seating, etc.--and full-size van conversions typically cost anywhere between $10,000 up to $20,000 and sometimes more.
The Paragon of Pre-Modified Wheelchair Accessible VehiclesAre you currently driving an unmodified minivan? If you are, you're halfway to ideal wheelchair accessible transportation! Because full-size vans are hard to park and hard on the wallet where fuel's concerned, conversion manufacturers were delighted when the minivan was introduced to the automotive world. With ample interior space, more stylish exterior, easier parking, and automatic sliding doors, the move to minivans for handicap conversion was a no-brainer. But there's more to a good conversion candidate than simply its status as a minivan.
Make, Model, Model YearThe minivans most-often modified for wheelchair access are the Dodge Grand Caravan, the Honda Odyssey, the Chrysler Town & Country, the Volkwagen Routan, and the Toyota Sienna. If you own one of these makes and models, let's talk! But first, ask yourself these questions? Is my minivan too old? Was I planning to replace it soon? Is the condition of the van (dents, scratches, interior issues, structural damage, malfunctioning systems, etc.) good enough to last four or five more years, making the cost for the conversion a worthwhile investment? (Conversion companies often refuse to modify vans with damage to the chassis.) While having your existing van converted might be the least-costly option, it might not be the best use of your money over the long haul.