Insider Tips : Modify a Van for Wheelchair Access

There are many steps involved in modifying a van for wheelchair access. While it may seem like a complicated process, it is important to understand the steps that modification entails. In the following paragraphs, we will look at the steps involved in the conversion process.

Selecting the Right Van

It is imperative that you select the right van for the modification process. While many people buy used vans for this purpose, it is important that you purchase a van that will be road worthy and will be able to withstand the added weight of the modification equipment.

Since it can be quite expensive to uninstall and reinstall modification equipment into another vehicle, you want to be certain that you make a good choice the first time so that you will be able to operate your van for some time to come.

Choose a Qualified Dealer/Installer to Modify Your Van

It is important that you choose a dealer and installer that is licensed to perform the conversion and who will service the equipment after the sale. You want to choose someone who is experienced with van conversions and who will provide ongoing service and maintenance.

You will want to make sure that you and the installer can get together for fittings as even the slightest mistake can make a big difference and can cause you to be uncomfortable or present a safety issue so it is important that you are comfortable with the installer   and that they will make time to ensure a proper fit.

There will be extensive modifications made to the inside and outside of the van in order to accommodate wheelchair access. If the person who has the handicap will be driving then there will be even more modifications. Let us look first at some of the modifications made to the interior of the van.

Interior Modifications

thumbs dodge caravan 2010 16dc3ae97bfd6dfa08a323ae53431e50 Insider Tips : Modify a Van for Wheelchair AccessLowering the floor or raising the roof is one of the most extensive modifications a van goes through in order to accommodate a wheelchair. The floor can be lowered several inches and a ramp installed in order for the wheelchair to be rolled into the van. The ramp can be installed on the side of the van or the back. Sometimes, instead of lowering the floor, the roof is raised and a lift is installed. There will also need to be tie-downs installed to anchor the wheelchair.

Removable seats may also be installed in the van so that the seats can be easily removed to accommodate the wheelchair but also offer full seating when the wheelchair is not in the van. Accommodations may also need to be made for the ramp, which may fold out of the vehicle or it may be stored on the outside or underneath the van.

Driver Aids

thumbs dodge caravan 2003 735593596145cc9b3b743866e6e8365a Insider Tips : Modify a Van for Wheelchair AccessThere are several types of driver aids that can be installed in a conversion van to assist the driver. These include, but are not limited to steering devices, hand brakes, pedal replacement, and power seat bases. There are also automatic door openers and options for window operation that can be fitted to the steering wheel.

Drivers who are able to operate the pedals but who can only use one hand will find that there are accommodations that will allow them to operate the vehicle using only one hand. Drivers who can use only one foot or who cannot use their legs at all will find that there are accommodations that will allow them to operate the vehicle using only their hands.

Turning seats can also have a big impact for the driver with disabilities. These seats turn to the outside of the vehicle so that the driver can access the seat from his or her wheelchair. This makes getting into and out of the van easier and eliminates the need for a lift or a ramp to be installed.

Before you have your van modified or converted, you will want to spend some time with an expert who will be able to evaluate your driving abilities and who can recommend the precise modifications that you will need.

Because each individual’s needs are different, there is no one right van conversion suitable for everyone. It is a highly individualized procedure and it will make a positive impact on the lives of those it affects.

Exterior Modifications

thumbs ford freestar 2005 4fbf72b5c967b6e86fd9c24f94bc9d11 Insider Tips : Modify a Van for Wheelchair AccessJust as the interior of the van will go through a conversion process in order to accommodate the wheelchair and perhaps a driver with special needs, the exterior of the van will also have to undergo conversion. Lifts or ramps may need to be installed and, especially for those vans that support a wheelchair lift, support may need to be added to the suspension system in order to accommodate the added weight.

The doors will need to be modified and sliding doors or doors that open automatically are options. You may also want to consider an automated wheelchair retrieval system, which works through the use of a robotic   arm and provides the ultimate in independence for those drivers who use a wheelchair all of the time.

With this system and modified driving aids, someone in a wheelchair can have complete independence from getting into the vehicle by themselves to exiting the vehicle and positioning themselves into their wheelchair.

After the Conversion

Making a van wheelchair accessible does not have to be a complicated process. There are wide and varied technological advances to accommodate even the most challenged of drivers so even if you have multiple needs, you will find that there are answers to a wide range of driving needs.

Depending on the modifications you have made, it may be necessary to obtain training on some of the new devices. This is an important part of the conversion process to ensure that you can safely and comfortably operate your new vehicle.

Remember, too, that regular maintenance is important to keep the conversion or modification equipment in top running order.   This is in addition to the regular service and maintenance that your van will need. By keeping your van and your equipment well maintained, you can expect to have dependable transportation for a long time to come.