Dave Jones looks at how parents with a disabled child should go about choosing their first WAV
There are many things to consider when buying your first family car – especially if your child is a wheelchair user. While many families with young disabled children will often transfer them from their wheelchair into a car seat, as children grow up it may become necessary to invest in a vehicle that better meets their needs. It’s important to choose a vehicle in which will they feel safe, secure and comfortable. Of course, you’ll also need to find one that mum and dad are happy to drive!
If your child has a physical disability, then a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) is a great option. WAVs allow wheelchair users to travel without having to transfer out of their wheelchair. They also give wheelchair users who are able to propel themselves more independence, since they won’t require as much support from parents and carers.
Choose your model
The wide variety of vehicles available on the WAV market – from smaller types such as the Renault Kangoo to larger ones like the Kia Sedona and Renault Trafic – means there will be a vehicle that fits your needs, however large your family is.
But what will those needs involve? Your child’s specific requirements will be different depending on their physical abilities and any other special needs they might have. Here, we’ve put together a summarised guide so that first time buyers can familiarise themselves with the various considerations that should be made prior to purchasing.
Will my child be able to travel in comfort?
The comfort of your child in transit should be at the forefront of your mind when selecting a WAV. One of the key contributing factors will be the vehicle’s internal dimensions. When choosing your WAV, bring your child and their wheelchair along to check that they can comfortably fit inside. Consider purchasing a vehicle with room for your child to ‘grow into’, so that it can continue to be comfortable for a number of years.
How can I help my child feel secure?
If your child has special needs and requires monitoring during travel, an excellent way to help them feel reassured is to position them close to the driver or front passenger seat. One possible solution is to opt for a rear-entry van that allows the wheelchair to board from the back and be secured just behind the front seats via wheelchair tie-downs and seat fixtures.
Something else to consider is the environment in which your child feels most comfortable. If you know that your child is sensitive to heat or irritated by bright lights, it may be worth looking at vehicles with tinted windows and air conditioning.
What safety features will I need?
For children under 12, the safest place in the vehicle will be the rear seat. The reason for this is that the front seats in modern vehicles are typically fitted with airbags that deploy in the event of a collision. Airbags are safe for adults, but present a serious hazard to children and infants.
It’s also worth thinking about where you can store your child’s medical equipment if you can’t leave home without it. Look for vehicles with storage space that will be easily accessible during travel, such as underneath a car seat or on the vehicle’s floor.
Further information regarding government-provided support schemes relating to accessible transport can be found here.
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