There are many different makes of wheelchair accessible vehicles on the market. In simple terms, a wheelchair accessible vehicle is an ordinary vehicle that’s been modified so that it’s suitable for a wheelchair user. Manufacturers such as Vauxhall, Renault, Fiat and Peugeot all produce standard vehicles that are often converted.
Passenger or driver?
There are two types: a passenger vehicle, which allows one or more passengers to sit in their wheelchair while travelling, or a vehicle that a wheelchair user can drive.
If you want to drive from your wheelchair, the vehicle will have to be fitted with custom controls and other features to enable you to drive independently.
To create a wheelchair accessible vehicle, a range of modifications are carried out. These vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but most include:
Lowering the floor of the vehicle (or raising its roof)
Modifying front seats to allow wheelchair access
Adding a means of access – ramp or lift
Strengthening the vehicle’s suspension so that it can take the extra weight of modifications
Modifying or replacing petrol tanks to take account of the lower floor
Vehicles with a Ramp
Some wheelchair accessible vehicles have:
A motorised or manual folding ramp, or…
A sliding ramp that’s hidden under the floor.
On other vehicles a lift is used to manoeuvre the wheelchair inside. These can be inside or outside the vehicle. Some are powered manually while others are powered electrically.
Double-arm and under body lifts are used in larger wheelchair accessible vehicles such as minibuses or buses. Mono-arm lifts are more suited to private transport since they can fit smaller wheelchair accessible vehicles.
Comfort and Style
These days most wheelchair accessible vehicles look good. From the outside you can’t tell that they’ve been converted. And many are so well fitted out that the trim and finish match the original vehicle.