Converting a Van to Wheelchair Accessible
Converting a van to wheelchair accessible can be a tricky and time-consuming process. Whilst, we do not actually convert our own vans or vehicles and we advise you to do your own research before deciding to convert one yourself. We have learnt a lot along working within the industry for 10+ years that we believe could benefit some people.
We have seen the impact these vehicles can have in the lives of people with disability. They provide freedom and independence, allowing people with disabilities to travel with ease and participate fully in everyday activities. In fact, some of our clients would not even be able to get out of their homes if it wasn’t for our vehicles. Whilst, you can continue to hire from companies like us we recognise that some people will want their own vehicle, as they can be more convenient, save on finances and because then you can modify a van to the exact requirements you have. That being said….
So, how exactly can you convert a van to wheelchair accessible?
A step by step guide on how to convert a van to wheelchair accessible.
1. Choosing the Right Van
The first step in converting a van is selecting the right vehicle. Look for a van that offers sufficient space to accommodate a wheelchair, including headroom, width, and overall layout. Popular choices for conversions include full-size vans, minivans, or even cargo vans, depending on individual needs and preferences. It’s crucial to consider the dimensions and weight capacity of the van to ensure it can support the modifications required.
2. Entry and Exit Accessibility
One of the primary modifications in converting a van to be wheelchair accessible is creating an entry and exit point that accommodates a wheelchair user. There are several options available, such as:
a) Ramps: Installing a ramp allows for easy entry and exit. There are various types of ramps, including manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic options. The choice depends on the user’s preferences and the available budget.
b) Lifts: Another option is installing a lift, which can be operated manually or electronically. Lifts are particularly useful for individuals who may have difficulty navigating a ramp or require assistance due to physical limitations.
The selection of the entry and exit accessibility option should consider factors such as the individual’s mobility, the type of wheelchair, and the available space within the van.
3. Interior Modifications
The interior modifications of a wheelchair accessible van aim to provide a safe and comfortable space for both the wheelchair user and other passengers. Some important considerations include:
a) Securement Systems: Installing securement systems, such as wheelchair tie-downs and occupant restraints, ensures the wheelchair remains stable during transit. These systems are essential for maintaining safety and preventing accidents or injuries.
b) Flooring and Lowered Floor: Lowering the van’s floor allows for increased headroom and ensures sufficient interior height for the wheelchair user. This modification typically involves raising the van’s roof or lowering the floor to create additional space.
c) Seating and Accessibility: Consider the seating arrangement and placement of additional seating options to accommodate both the wheelchair user and other passengers comfortably. Folding or removable seats can provide flexibility and allow for more versatile use of the van.
4. Adjust the Suspension
Modifying the suspension of the van is an important step in the conversion process. The added weight of the wheelchair and other modifications can cause the van to sit lower to the ground, which can affect its handling and performance. Adding suspension upgrades such as airbags or heavy-duty springs can help to counteract this effect.
5. Accessibility Controls and Modifications
To enhance accessibility and ease of use, it’s essential to incorporate various control modifications within the van. These may include:
a) Hand Controls: Hand controls enable individuals with limited or no use of their lower limbs to operate the vehicle. These controls can be customized based on specific needs and preferences.
b) Steering Aids: Steering aids such as spinner knobs or steering wheel extensions can assist individuals with limited hand dexterity or strength to navigate the vehicle more easily.
c) Automated Systems: Automatic door openers, power ramps, and other automated systems simplify the process of entering and exiting the van, reducing the physical effort required.
6. Additional Considerations
a) Lighting and Ventilation: Ensuring proper lighting and ventilation within the van creates a comfortable and pleasant environment for passengers. Natural light and adequate airflow contribute to an overall positive experience.
b) Safety Features: Installing additional safety features, such as rearview cameras, blind-spot detectors, and parking sensors, can help prevent accidents and provide peace of mind while on the road.
c) Obtain Certification: Once the van has been converted, it’s important to obtain certification to ensure that it meets safety standards.
Don't want to convert it yourself?
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