Vehicles to accomodate disabled passengers


#1


I need recommendations on late model cars that accomodate mobility limitations…this could include vehicles that might be significantly modified in the future to accomodate wheel chair use. Right now, features that appeal to me include: fully swiveling front seats, sliding door entry into the second row seats, second row seats that can be removed, and room for potential addition of a sleeping surface in second row and rear of the vehicle. I’d like to avoid a van, if possible. Multiple internal handgrips would be helpful, too…more than just the ones that commonly are above the doors. Advice?


#2

First I have to ask why you don’t want a van when you NEED a van. Honestly, if you can find such a vehicle that’s NOT a van, let me know. {end rant}

{begin actual advice}
Head to a local church or nursing/assisted living home and ask if they have transportation available for their tenants. If they do, ask them where they have their work done, or if they are planning on getting rid of any of their vehicles. You may luck out and they’re getting ready to sell one of their vehicles that’ll fit your needs perfectly.
If they aren’t selling anything, call up the shop that they use and talk with them about the modifications you want and how much it would cost to do so.


#3

My dad had a degenerative muscle disease, and I’m the vehicle goto guy for my folks, so I’ve had a lot of experience in figuring out accessible vehicles.

First, you need to get a custom accessible vehicle if you’re planning to modify it for wheelchair use, and unless you get a (crazy expensive and unreliable) PT-Driver from Aero Mobility (unreliable because it’s a PT-Cruiser, which can barely carry itself around, much less the weight of accessible equipment) - - Unless you get that, you’re going to have to get a minivan or a full sized van.

You need to get what you will need down the road now (unless the wheelchair need is, say, 10 years out), because in order to accommodate an occupied wheelchair (especially if it’s a powerchair), you’re going to either need a dropped floor or a raised roof. In fact, with some of the powerchairs (permobil, for instance) both is desirable but not absolutely required as long as the user has the ability to duck his/her head when entering. Anyway, you should get it now, because retrofitting a vehicle is going to be very expensive, if you can even find someone willing to do it (since tooling and processes change as new vehicles are updated, which means instead of getting a factory-run vehicle you have to pay for a custom job).

The minivans are the most efficient, both in space and mileage, and the easiest to drive. They’re generally built on the Caravan, though the Sienna and the Odyssey are options as well, but very expensive ones.

But if you require sleeping surfaces, you’re probably going to want to look at full-sized vans with a fullcut drop floor (fullcut drops the floor from the front to just before the rear bench seat - - centercut is also available, which cuts from behind the front seats to in front of the bench seat, but that can be difficult for a wheelchair to maneuver around in, and you lose the option of removing a front seat to allow wheelchair access to the front). The rear bench seat folds into a bed, so that would solve your sleeping surface desire.

For the swiveling seats, you are looking for a “power transfer seat.” They’re expensive - a couple grand. They rotate, slide back, and lift to assist in standing and transferring to a chair. Some can also lift the passenger outside of the vehicle and down to street level. My folks had one in their fullsize. It wasn’t very useful for a patient with overall muscle degeneration, but a paraplegic would find it quite handy.

These vehicles are not cheap - new they’ll run 40 grand and up. You might want to try and find a used van that fits your needs - the depreciation on accessible vehicles is fairly extreme, so good deals can be found.

Google Rollx, AMS, Cummins Mobility, and Braun Entervan for info and to get quick access to used vehicle listings.


#4

Well, the PT Cruiser isn’t the only smaller vehicle you can get for this purpose:

http://www.ride-away.com/vehicle-detail.php?productid=13023

They also make them out of the Mazda 5 in Japan, so maybe that’s an option here, too?


#5

The Paratransit is extremely new, in a very new vehicle. Its reliability is not proven. But take a look at the pictures. It has the same problem as the PT Driver - - You have to enter it in the back, and there’s no room to move the wheelchair except forward and back. You can’t get the chair up to the front, and you can’t turn the chair around which means you either ride backwards or enter improperly if equipped with a lift instead of a ramp.

I also notice that the rear floor slopes to accommodate the ramp/lift, which is going to suck for the wheelchair passenger because he’ll have to ride tilted backwards unless he has a stander-chair and tilts it forward (which you’re not supposed to do when the chair is moving).


#6

Hi HarryKrishna,

I do some web work for GM and wanted to ask if you have checked out the GM Mobility Program yet? I encourage you to take a look at the GM Mobility site at http://bit.ly/9UsVSe.
There is also a Facebook Page to help you learn and converse with others: http://bit.ly/b99pVL
They offer a really good program that helps people continue their day-to-day activities by helping pay for adaptive equipment on new GM vehicles. Thought this might be useful for anyone on this board.

Best,
Colleen


#7

You might also seek out the advice of a specialty shop that does handicap conversions. They’d probably be able to make a recommendation on what makes and models are more accomodating to the types of modifications you’ll need.