Wheelchair accessible vans encompass a range of vehicles that have been modified to allow access by individuals who are in wheelchairs. The typical modifications performed are lowering the floor and adding a ramp so the chair can be rolled into the van or adding a powered lift that picks the chair up from ground level to the same level as the floor of the van.
The general steps manufacturers undergo to convert a van differ greatly from one manufacturer to another. Most conversions involve the following:
- The floor is generally removed
- Front seating is modified to allow access from wheelchair
- Means of external access added. This is most often a ramp, lift, or turning seat
- Suspension stiffened to allow extra weight of power chairs / additional weight from conversion
- Gas tanks may be modified or replaced with custom models
- Vehicle is tested to ensure full operation
Ramp based modifications most commonly performed on minivans (citation needed). In order to provide usable headroom, the floor on the vehicle is lowered. In rear-entry configuration, floor is not lowered, but rather removed, and a composite or steel tub inserted.
- Folding Ramps (Both motorized and manual)
- Sliding Ramps hidden in floor
- Rear-entry with folding ramp.
Vehicles known to have ramp-based conversions:
- Dodge Grand Caravan
- Chrysler Town & Country
- Honda Odyssey
- Toyota Sienna
- Chevrolet Venture
- Ford Freestar
- Honda Element
- Volkswagen Routan
Questions to ask when considering the purchase of an accessible minivnan:
- Will the necessary conversion equipment require a van and wheel chair access can the vehicle accommodate the equipment that needs to be installed?
- Will there be enough space to accommodate other passengers once the vehicle is modified and will the handling be simple enough to cope with in traffic situations?
- Is there enough parking spaces at home and at work for a wheelchair accessible ramp for entering and exiting the van with a wheel chair?
- Is there adequate parking space if you use a walker or other prosthetic equipment?
- What additional options are necessary for the safe operation of the vehicle?
- What are the costs for conversion for wheelchair access vans?
Full size vans require that lifts in the form of a platform that can be raised and lowered from inside the vehicle down to the ground outside.
Crane type lifts are combined with seats that turn and lower to the ground as a means of providing wheelchair access to some types of vehicles.
Rear-entry conversions provide easy ingress and egress for attended applications. They are different from side-entry conversions in that the wheelchair occupant is not driving vehicle, but rather is riding as a passenger. The conversion is very simple and does not carry the complicated engineering and electronics typically found in a side-entry conversion. As a result, they are very well suited for commercial and heavy-cycle applications (i.e.-taxi, non-emergency ambulance, paratransit, assisted living, and dial-a-ride) and geographic areas prone to vehicle corrosion from salt and chloride usage on highways in winter seasons.