What is a Wheelchair Van?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A wheelchair van is a vehicle that is modified so that the disabled can either drive the van or be a passenger in it comfortably. One of the main features on a wheelchair accessible van is the ability to easily transport a wheelchair through the use of a ramp or lift so that the chair can be quickly loaded into the vehicle without a lot of physical effort. Another alteration that is often made involves the seating, as it is usually removed to comfortably fit a wheelchair either in the driver's seat or a passenger's seat. A van driven by a disabled person may need modifications done to certain driver controls, as well. Wheelchair vans can be purchased with these modifications already in place, or certain standard vans can be altered to suit the handicapped person who will be using the vehicle.


Whether a disabled person intends to drive the wheelchair van in question or just be a passenger, various modifications will need to be made. The most common change includes the addition of a ramp or lift to safely and quickly get the wheelchair into the vehicle. Either the driver's seat or the passenger's will need to be removed, and a special harness is usually installed to keep it safely in place. In some cases, the seats behind the front area need to be moved or removed completely to ensure that the wheelchair fits well. Finally, the suspension of the car may need to be altered to account for the extra weight of the wheelchair, especially if more than one chair will be in the same van.

When someone with a disability intends to drive a wheelchair van, additional changes need to be made to the controls in the vehicle. For example, those who cannot use their feet to press on the gas or brake will need buttons or levers that they can push or pull with their hands, while those who cannot use their arms can have a steering wheel installed that is operated by their feet. Secondary controls, such as for the headlights, windshield wipers, and radio, can be operated using a touchscreen that is placed near the steering wheel, or even a voice activated system. Of course, some vans are already outfitted with items that may help handicapped people drive, such as an automatic transmission instead of manual so that only one foot needs to be used when driving. Both power steering and a steering wheel that is adjustable when it comes to height can also be helpful in a wheelchair van.

There are a few ways available to get the chair up and into the wheelchair van. One method is a ramp, which can either be manual or motorized. A ramp may slide out of the van slowly, or it may fold up. A lift can also be used to bring the chair inside the wheelchair van safely, and can either be a crane lift or a platform lift. The latter may be found with either a single arm or a double arm depending on the weight of the chair and its occupant, though usually only a single arm platform lift is necessary in most cases.



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