For most people living with a disability, wheelchair accessible cars are crucially important when seeking independence. Not only does having a wheelchair accessible car make everyday tasks more convenient, it can also be a central tool to overcoming barriers to accessibility; much like how your wheelchair in that respect.
The need for a wheelchair accessible car can be especially important if you’ve recently started using a wheelchair as a result of a serious injury, as it can help with the transition to your new circumstances.
Getting back in the driver’s seat can be an important step to regaining self-sufficiency and confidence. Therefore, finding wheelchair accessible cars which are suitable for your needs is vital. Here, we run through some of the options available for wheelchair accessible cars.
What are Wheelchair Accessible Cars?
In a nutshell, wheelchair accessible cars are vehicles which have been converted by experts in the field of mobility. The vehicles have been designed and modified to accommodate disabled passengers, allowing them to travel safely in their wheelchairs. Often the floor of the wheelchair accessible car is lowered, and a ramp is fitted. The ramp can often be easily folded away to either the side or the rear of the vehicle.
Apart from ramps, there is also the addition of electrically-powered lifts and/or hoists, which is another method of helping a disabled passenger enter their vehicle. In some cases, the disabled person entering their wheelchair accessible car may be the driver, resulting in the driver seat being removed from the vehicle, leaving space for the wheelchair user to safely position themselves behind the steering wheel.
Not all wheelchair users require wheelchair accessible cars
Not all disabled people require a specially adapted vehicle; in fact, some wheelchair users are mobile enough to have free-reign when selecting their cars. If you yourself are a wheelchair user, but are not limited to using wheelchair accessible cars, you may still wish to consider issues such as vehicle height, to help when transferring from your wheelchair to the car. If your car is too high off the ground, it may be next to impossible to safely transfer. The same can be said for spacing inside the vehicle. Does the car have sufficient boot space to hold your wheelchair? Is there enough room between the front two seats to enable a wheelchair user to lift their folded wheelchair onto the back seat? These are all questions you may wish to consider before buying or leasing a new car.
Equally, you’ll want to look for a car that has plenty of scope for adjustment in the driving position. For instance, it can be useful to get a car with a moveable steering column. Cars like the newer Volkswagen Golf have fully adjustable steering wheels and electronic ergonomic seats. Therefore, you can get the back support you need at the push of a button.
Some additional information on wheelchair accessible cars and those who may or may not require them – extends to the usage of certain wheelchairs. If you are able to self-transfer into your vehicle, it may be worth investing in a lightweight wheelchair, which is easily collapsible and one which can be stored either on the back seat of your car, or on the passenger seat. Models like the Küschall K-Series has a total weight of 7.8kg and a body weight of just 5.1kg, making it perfectly light enough to lift in and out of your car.
When wheelchair accessible cars are needed
However, if you are unable to transfer from your wheelchair into the driver’s seat, there are many options for fully wheelchair accessible cars. There are numerous gadgets and features you can add to your vehicle to improve accessibility, including modifications so you can drive from your wheelchair. Therefore, whether you’re out and about with friends and family or on a solo mission, there’s no barrier to getting on the road.
Driving from your wheelchair
Nowadays there’s a wealth of possibilities for driving from your wheelchair. For instance, thoroughly practical minivans like the VW CaravelleCarrelle Vermont can be fully converted. This includes fitting a hydraulic lift in the back of the van to transfer you from the street into the vehicle. Once you’re in the car, the back seats can part and fold upwards to allow you to move forward into the space where the driver’s seat would usually be.
Accessible cars for passengers in wheelchairs
However, complete conversions can be costly. For some, it may make more sense to look for a car with space to carry a wheelchair user as a passenger. In addition, these models of wheelchair accessible cars are more common, so there’s plenty of options. For instance, unlike fully converted wheelchair accessible cars, you have more choice in terms of the size of your vehicle. For example, having a slightly smaller car as opposed to a minivan can make parking a little easier, especially if you’re somewhere that hasn’t got proper provision for disabled spaces. Models like the Fiat Qubo are a more compact four-seater option, which allow a wheelchair user to sit in the back.
Financing wheelchair accessible cars
Across Europe, the financial support offered to disabled citizens varies from country to country. What you can get in terms of finance towards your own wheelchair accessible car will be determined on what your own central government has in place for its disabled residents. For instance, in the UK there is the Motability Scheme, which is a charity based entity offering vehicles on lease for very reasonable prices (prices in line with the mobility component of disabled residents care allowance). If you are a UK resident yourself, you can find out if you’re eligible for the scheme by checking out their website.
Choosing a wheelchair accessible car is a serious investment for many people. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure you can get financial support you’re entitled to. Across Europe, there are schemes similar to Motability, a UK-based charity which allows wheelchair users to get excellent rates on car leases. You can find out if you’re eligible for the Motability scheme by visiting their website.
Remember, before purchasing or leasing a car, it’s important to take a test drive. Then, once you’ve found the right finance and the right car, it’s time to hit the road.