Dave Jones talks us through what options there are when it comes to taking your wheelchair with you on the road
Most people looking to purchase a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) will be doing so for the first time. The process of finding the most appropriate vehicle for your needs – and budget – can be daunting, but it’s important to remember that said vehicle’s usability and comfort should always be the priorities.
Choosing on the basis of brands isn’t always straightforward, though. Different converters can approach the same vehicle in a different way; for example, a Citroen Berlingo from one converter may be suitable for your needs, but a Citroen Berlingo converted by a different company may not!
Speak to a specialist
The best solution to finding the right WAV is to speak to a WAV specialist. Ask how long they have been dealing in wheelchair accessible vehicles and make sure that they have a large and varied stock, so that you can be sure they are giving good, solid advice based on experience.
An internet search will bring up many companies that deal in WAVs, but never be tempted to purchase a vehicle without seeing it. Aside from the obvious – you won’t know what the quality of the vehicle is like – one thing that you must never forget is that the purchase of a WAV can be life changing.
Wheelchair users should always try the vehicle before any money is parted with. Get it wrong, and it could be detrimental to you or your family’s quality of life – but get it right, and you may well find it to be the best investment you’ve ever made.
It seems obvious to say, but if you have a small wheelchair and are only ever going to be travelling with a driver and a wheelchair passenger, it’s worth looking for a smaller vehicle. Buying a vehicle that’s bigger than your needs require may actually make life more difficult, since larger vehicles are harder to park and often more expensive to run.
Common WAVs of this type include the Renault Kangoo, Fiat Doblo, Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and the smallest of all, the Fiat Quobo. They are usually available in petrol or diesel versions, with petrol engines generally better suited to lower mileage users. Note, however, that automatic transmissions tend to only be an option in some smaller models.
If you’re looking for a vehicle in which the wheelchair user can be seated up front then your choices are likely to be very limited, but it’s worth looking into conversions of cars such as the Fiat Multipla, Kia Sedona and Citroen Berlingo.
If the wheelchair user would prefer to travel in the rear of the vehicle side by side with the backseat passenger, then you may find the Kia Sedona or Peugeot Expert to be a suitable option. Families or groups that include multiple wheelchair users will need to consider a larger vehicle or a full-size van.
Taller wheelchair users will need to focus their search more specifically on vehicles with higher ceilings. Kia Sedonas and Peugeot Experts have higher roofs with up to 60 inches of headroom and are good models to look into for taller passengers.
Dave Jones has 30 years of automotive experience and is currently Director of Mobility Nationwide – a family-run business that supplies WAVs throughout the UK. For more information, contact 01824 707 773 or visit www.wheelchairaccessiblevehicles.com