Handicap-accessible Cars: Empowering the Mobility-challenged
We have certainly come a long way when it comes to empowering mobility-challenged people, which includes the wheel-chair bound, paraplegics and the elderly. Indeed, modern technology has provided new ways in which the physically handicapped can lead lives less encumbered by their limitations. And in the case of handicap-accessible vehicles, there have been some significant improvements in the last decade.
Through the years, we have seen numerous types of handicap vans, which are also called wheelchair vans or wheelchair conversion vans. They usually come with all kinds of modifications, depending on the user’s specific needs.
Handicap vans can be generally classified into three types. The first type is what we call the Up Front type. This allows the disabled person to occupy the vehicle’s front seat, just beside the driver. The second is the Rear Access type. As its name implies, this kind of vehicle allows the disabled person to occupy the back or rear end of the vehicle. Cars of this type usually feature a bigger space in the rear area to allow easy entry and exit.
The third is the Independent or Drive From type, which is specially designed to allow the handicapped to drive the vehicle themselves. Naturally, since it is designed to give more freedom, this kind usually features more elaborate customizations. For instance, some models feature wheelchair lift capabilities. A few even have easy-to-use permanent (or portable) hand controls. Traditional foot controls may be replaced with specialized switch systems or joysticks. Popular auto manufacturers like Chrysler, Ford, Honda and Toyota have already introduced handicap-accessible vans in selected markets.
For those whose preferences are not limited to handicap vans, they can choose another car model and have it converted. There are plenty of vehicle-conversion shops that are widely available in the US and in the UK. These shops can convert pick-up trucks, SUVs and other multi-purpose vehicles. Depending on the extent of the conversion, it may take a month or a few weeks. It is always best to discuss the specific needs with the conversion shop in order to get maximum results.
Another option is to rent. One can find many organizations in the US and Europe that offer handicapped-friendly vehicles that can be leased for a specific duration of time. Some of these organizations even offer repair services, reconditioning and maintenance for these kinds of vehicles.
Of course, with all these diverse choices of vehicles for the mobility-challenged, the key is to choose which car works best for the handicapped person. Naturally, costs should be considered before buying one as well as the cost of maintenance for that vehicle. But the most important factors are the ones that directly involve the experience of the disabled. How easy is it to operate the car? Does it provide comfort? Is it safe? How user-friendly is the car? Ease of entry and exit should be considered. With wheelchair users, space is essential. And depending on the climate, ventilation systems must be properly in place, too. Chairs should be structurally secure while other fixtures and accessories mustn’t hinder the person’s movement.
And lastly, it’d be nice if the car looks good, too. Besides, what good is a ride if you can’t show it around town?