Wheelchair-accessible vehicles are cars or vans adapted so wheelchair users can travel safely in their wheelchairs. This usually means the floor has been cut out and lowered, a ramp added, and seats removed.
The best wheelchair conversions allow the wheelchair passenger to travel within the family, either between the rear seats or in the front next to the driver. They are also as well finished off as a normal car and allow the wheelchair passenger to feel safe and secure and have good views out of the windows- wheelchair passengers can get car sick if not properly catered for.
As with everything else, it is a competition between cost and comfort – To cut out the floor of an upfront wheelchair-accessible vehicle can cost £10,000.00 when the car is new. Hence, a sensible compromise that caters for all the family is always the aim. It will be different for every family.
Special belts are fitted to all wheelchair-accessible vehicles to anchor the wheelchair at 4 points, and there will also be a seatbelt. This way, the wheelchair passenger travels as safely as a passenger strapped in with a standard seatbelt. All straps must always be used – in an accident, an unfastened wheelchair is very dangerous.
Wheelchair-accessible vehicles are referred to in various ways - ‘WAVs’, wheelchair-adapted vehicles, wheelchair cars, and disabled cars, but they all have the same strapping-down system. In addition to the popular lowered floor and ramp type, larger vehicles may be fitted with lifts. There are also winches available that pull a manual wheelchair into the car.