Travelling in a vehicle over any distance can be challenging so expert wheelchair accessible vehicle providers offer adaptations tailored to individual client requirements.
Generally, there are three types of adaptation – those that help entry and exit, those that help stow the wheelchair or mobility scooter, and those that help to drive. Depending on what is required, providers advise and support clients to choose the most appropriate adaptations for their needs.
For entry, exit, and sitting, adaptations to create safe access and a comfortable seating position for the passenger or driver include person hoists, transfer plates, and swivel seats.
Person hoists utilise a sling system to lift a passenger into the vehicle. The user sits in the sling which is then operated by pushing a button and an electric motor lifts the sling from wheelchair to the front seat of the vehicle.
Transfer plates enable safe sideways movement from scooter or wheelchair to the seat of the vehicle. They can be electrically powered enabling them to be raised or lowered to the required position, or they can be fold-away manual versions.
Swivel seats, both motorised and manual, are transfer aids which can be a great help when accessing and exiting a vehicle. Ranging from an electrically powered seat which replaces the original seat and rotates outwards to a standard or lowered position, to a cushion placed on the car seat which consists of two circular layers of fabric and function together as a turntable, to just one circular layer of slippery material, swivel seats can be a great help for people with varying degrees of mobility.
For entry and exit to wheelchair accessible vehicles, lifts can provide an ideal solution to enable a user and their wheelchair access to the vehicle. Either wired or wirelessly controlled, they offer convenience as they can be rear or side positioned, while swivel-based lifts allow a 90 degree rotation for easy access, however lifts can be bulkier and heavier than other options.
Ramps are available as standard power-operated or spring-loaded manual versions, and they either fold up for storage or recede beneath the floor. They can also be located at the back of the van or for side entry so the suitability of the various types of ramp or lift available will depend on the user’s requirements.
Boot hoists mean that the wheelchair or scooter can be easily lifted into the car, and they can be either 2-way, 4-way, or 6-way. Most have wired or cordless hand controls and the size and weight of the wheelchair or mobility scooter will determine the most appropriate type of hoist.
Alternatively, manual wheelchair users may benefit from a roof top storage box which can be both manual and powered, maximising space within the vehicle and freeing boot space for other items. Choosing a roof top box system means that the wheelchair can be folded, lifted and stored securely and swiftly.
When it comes to driving, many different adaptations can help make driving easier.
A hand control adaptation controls speed using a manual push/pull device fitted next to the steering wheel. The lever is pushed down to brake and raised up to accelerate and some electronic versions are easier to use still.
Steering wheel balls enable one-handed steering which frees the other hand for other controls and can often be transferable between steering wheels. In addition, remote control devices use a panel on or near the steering wheel which can make the usual controls such as lights, windscreen wipers or indicators easier to use.
If hand controls are not a viable solution, then an electronic accelerator may be. They work by transferring the operation of the accelerator from the foot pedal to a specifically designed ring or trigger that offers smooth and gradual acceleration. Some vehicles can be modified, either mechanically or electronically to have left foot accelerators for acceleration and braking, while easily removable pedal extensions are used to bring the pedals nearer to the driver to help with comfort and safety.
Some adaptations such as a powered boot opener are becoming part of many cars’ usual specifications or options, and while power steering is fairly standard, it can be adapted to make it lighter still. Others can have boot straps to help with closing a high boot door, grab handles can help with balance and support for entrance and exit from the vehicle, while extended seat runners enable the seat to be positioned further back in the vehicle which frees up more footwell room for the driver or front passenger.
Vehicle conversions can be long and complicated, and using a specialist provider who is able to advise clients on the most suitable adaptations to be fitted both to particular makes and models and for their particular needs is key to finding the best individual, bespoke mobility solution.