Tag Archives: wheelchair accessible vehicle

Adaptive and Accessible Wintertime Activities

The colder months have a tendency to leave us feeling sluggish and craving extended naps. Although getting enough sleep is important for all of us, keeping our bodies and minds active, especially in the winter when our bodies are running slower, is essential. Here are a few ideas to keep you engaged this holiday season.

Change It Up
Don’t fall into the Netflix void this winter. While the online streaming service can help you host the perfect movie night, complete with hot chocolates and warm blankets, you know what they say about too much of a good thing.

Learn Something New
Master your camera’s manual functions or brush up on your own cooking skills by adding a few new recipes to your repertoire. With endless video tutorials and online resources, winter is the perfect time to pick up a new skill.

Out and About
Just because the temperature’s dropped doesn’t mean you have to be stuck indoors. If you have access to a wheelchair accessible car or van, you can go check out that new restaurant you’ve been eyeing, go explore a museum or even attend a play or concert. Some zoos even offer indoor exhibits. If you are in the mood for something a bit wilder, get out and discover all your city and neighboring towns have to offer.

Stay Active
Staying active doesn’t mean spending hours upon hours at the gym. Joining a bowling league or going for a stroll or ride around the neighborhood on days when the snow’s cleared can help you keep yourself warm this winter. You can also check with your local YMCA or other recreational centers to see if they offer accessible swim sessions or wheelchair basketball or wheelchair rugby leagues. If they don’t, talk to management about starting your own!

Accessible Vehicles And Adaptive Mobility Equipment Q&A

Rear entry vs. side entry. Buying online. Buying used. What do you need to know to get maximum benefit for minimum expense?

Good information is the key to saving money and getting the most value for the dollar when making a big-ticket purchase like a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

With that in mind, Seek out and find experts who truly care for answers to some common questions about adaptive mobility equipment.

Q: Can I just go to a car dealer down the street or do I need a certified mobility dealer?

A: Certified mobility dealers help consumers buy the right vehicle and adaptive mobility equipment to meet their mobility needs now and in the future. Future planning is especially important for people with muscle diseases that get progressively worse over time.

“There are so many different products out there, and technology has improved so much. We just want to help people make the right decision,” says Jim Sanders, president of Automotive Innovations based in Bridgewater, MA for over 25 years.

“Many times, consumers will go to a car dealer and buy [a vehicle] that can’t be modified or one that doesn’t fit their needs. And once you buy a vehicle, normally it’s very difficult to return it.”

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), a nonprofit organization that provides consumer guidance and ensures quality and professionalism in the manufacturing and installation of mobility equipment. Members include mobility equipment dealers, manufacturers, driver rehabilitation specialists and other professionals.

NMEDA member-dealers must follow the safety standards established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in addition to NMEDA’s own stringent guidelines.

Some dealers choose to enroll in NMEDA’s Quality Assurance Program (QAP), which requires them to adhere to national motor vehicle safety standards, and use proven quality control practices to yield the highest level of performance and safety. Automotive Innovations was the First Mobility Dealer in Massachusetts to enroll and exceed the safety standards.

“The QAP dealer is audited by an outside engineering firm to verify that technicians have been trained, make sure the dealer has insurance and make sure the facility is ADA-compliant,”

So it means the QAP dealer is going above and beyond.”

Other reasons to seek out a certified mobility equipment dealer include:

They provide a link to qualified service and repair, that it’s crucial to have done on a adapted vehicle serviced.

Some manufacturers of adapted vehicles sell directly to consumers, cutting costs by cutting out the middle man, says Jim Sanders, of VMi New England, based in Bridgewater, MA.

But expert assessment and “try before you buy” remain essentials for prospective buyers, with or without a dealer in the middle.

For example, We, a NMEDA QAP-certified member, send representatives to customers’ homes for assessment and test drives before they buy, and also offer unmatched service/maintenance to just about any modified vehicle including Rollx vans.

Q: Can I get a better price if I buy online rather than from a dealer?

A: As with any online shopping, the warning “buyer beware” rings true. Buying online without trying out different vehicles with different conversions can be a costly mistake. Furthermore there are many grey market converted vans being offered as quality conversions.

Online, clients are mostly shopping blind. Typically they have no idea how the vehicle they need will even work fro them, even if they have specific recommendations from a driver evaluator or occupational therapist.

“You definitely shouldn’t buy it online,” “There not trying to assess your needs by e-mail or over the phone. There just trying to sell you something.

Some online dealers even have a questionnaire on its Web site to try and give you the idea your getting what you need. But, it will never replace being able to go to a local mobility dealership and try the vans out first hand.

A mobility vehicle is probably the second-largest purchase after a house. You should see it, try it out, and make sure it’s something that will work for you. It’s horrible when people get something that they’re disappointed in.

Every vehicle is a little bit different — such as in the dimensions, electrical and fuel systems, or suspension modifications. “If you go online and buy [based] on price, you’re not really looking at the total package.”

While buying online maybe able to save money up front, it wont over the long term.

In addition to consumers missing out on the important local service contact that a mobility equipment dealer provides, these online deals or grey market vans are worth much less when it comes time to trade it in.

Where do you want to sit? If you plan to drive from your wheelchair, then a side-entry conversion is what you’ll need, unless you can transfer to the driver’s seat (rear entry). With a rear-entry conversion, the wheelchair user typically is positioned in the back or between two mid-row captain’s seats, while a side entry offers a wheelchair user multiple seating options in the driver, front passenger and middle sections.

Q: What are some common mistakes people make when buying a modified vehicle?

A: Manufacturers and mobility dealers agree that one of the most common — and costly — mistakes is buying the vehicle first and then shopping for the conversion or adaptive mobility equipment. Not all vehicles can be converted.

For example, If you purchase a minivan from a traditional car dealership you can hit a roadblock if it doesn’t meet specific requirements to have the floor lowered for a rear- or side-entry conversion.

Q: What are some good questions to ask a dealer or manufacturer?

A: Although buying a modified vehicle can be “a daunting experience,” says VMI’s Monique McGivney, it also can be “exciting and fun when you walk in armed with good questions and information.”

Prior to getting an assessment from a mobility dealer, evaluate your needs and try answering the following questions:

  • What vehicle will fit in my garage?
  • What kind of parking issues will I encounter where I live?
  • What is the size and weight of my wheelchair?
  • What is my seated height in the wheelchair?
  • How many people will ride in the vehicle?
  • In what part of the vehicle do I want to sit?
  • Will I be able to drive with hand controls?
  • Do I want a full-size van, minivan or alternative vehicle?
  • Do I want manual or power equipment?
  • Will an in-floor ramp or fold-out ramp meet my needs?
  • What is my budget, and do I have access to supplemental funding?

The first question mobility dealers usually ask a client is: “What is your seated height in the wheelchair?” From there, the dealer can advise whether a full-size or minivan is appropriate, and what kind of conversion is needed.

Be sure to ask the dealer about the warranty and how the vehicle can be serviced.

Q: Which is better: rear entry or side entry?

A: The most important difference between a rear- and side-entry conversion is that with a rear entry, wheelchair users can’t drive from their wheelchairs nor can they ride in the front passenger seat. From there, the choice comes down to personal preference and budget.

In recent years, because of quality, convenience and cost, there’s been a shift toward side entry vehicles. Rear entry is more of a frugal modification, involves a less of conversion process and is typically a little less expensive than a side-entry conversion.

Many people prefer side entry with a in-floor conversion for many safety reasons additionally because they can park almost anywhere and not worry deploying the ramp out into traffic. Also, side entry allows the consumer to ride in the passengers front position along with maintain the rear seats in a minivan because the conversion doesn’t affect that area.

Rear entry is harder to get out of compared to a side-entry.

Anyway you look at it side-entry vehicles are more versatile. For example, side entry allows someone with a progressively worsening condition to use the vehicle for a longer period of time. A wheelchair user can start out driving from his or her chair, and then move to several other positions in the vehicle when no longer able to drive.

Side-entry conversions typically are a little more expensive than rear-entry because they’re more intrusive and labor intensive. For example, with a minivan, the entire floor and frame must be removed and replaced with a lowered floor and new frame.

Q: What’s the difference between a fold-out ramp and in-floor ramp?

A: This decision comes down to safety, aesthetics, convenience and cost.

A fold-out ramp folds up into the vehicle, takes up valuable space in the passengers front area and must be deployed whenever the door is opened.

The in-floor ramp slides under the floor, so it safer for anyone seated in the passengers front position, mid-ship position, there’s no obstruction to the door, and other passengers can enter and exit without deploying the ramp. In-floor ramps only are currently only available for side-entry minivan conversions, and there is even a manual (unpowered) option.

In-floor ramps in addition to being safer will generally provide more room in the vehicle because there’s nothing blocking the doorway. The ramp is “out of sight, out of mind and may last longer because it doesn’t have to be deployed each time the side passenger door opens.

Fold-out ramps generally cost a little less than in-floor, and consumers can select from manual and power versions; a power fold-out ramp still costs less than an in-floor ramp.

If an in-floor ramp system breaks down or the vehicle loses power, VMI’s in-floor ramp systems have a backup system (sure-deploy) that bypasses the vehicle’s battery.

A lot of people just feel more secure knowing there isn’t a fold-out ramp next to them in the event of a accident.

Q: I use a wheelchair, but a van or minivan just isn’t “me.” Are they my only options?

A: You have some choices.

Lowered-floor conversions with fold-out ramps can be done on the Honda Element, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Toyota Scion. The conversions are small and don’t fit as many people.

Due to them being built on a much smaller scale, the ones we have seen have not been built with the same level of quality of mini van conversion. Parts availability and repairs have been a problem, some of the companies that converted them are out of business and or have no support for “something they used to build”

For those who prefer to keep their standard car rather than purchasing a modified vehicle — and who can make the transfer from a wheelchair to a car seat — the answer may be as simple as a set of hand controls or a left foot gas pedal

Turning seats can be used in a wide range of vehicles, from sedans to SUVs and pickup trucks. A way to transport the wheelchair (like a rear lift) also is needed.

The rate at which your disease symptoms are worsening is one thing to consider when looking at turning seats — is it likely you’ll be able to transfer and ride in a car seat for many more years? Also, be sure to check with a mobility dealer to determine if your vehicle can accommodate a turning seat and a wheelchair lift.

Q: Why are modified vehicles so darned expensive?

A: A vehicle conversion can cost consumers upwards of $27,000 — and that’s just the cost for the conversion, not the vehicle. The total package can run between $45,000 and $80,000 — or more.

Besides the cost of the components, the reason it’s so pricey is that basically there is a lot of work involved to build a quality vehicle.

Modified vehicles from certified manufacturers and dealers must meet NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). That means all modified vehicles must be properly crash tested. (To learn more, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.)

It’s quite a labor-intensive process because of the customization. When you make structural modifications to a vehicle, you have to go through all of the crash testing, and you have to show that the vehicle is compliant again, and those tests are very expensive.

Most of the time lowering the floor in a minivan requires replacing or moving the fuel tank. Once the conversion is finished, the vehicle still has to meet the original requirements for evaporative emissions, in addition to NHTSA requirements.

Q: How can I pay less?

A: Consumers have some options.

Many consumers cut costs by purchasing pre-owned vehicles with new conversions, typically saving around $10,000 to $12,000.

The previous van owner already has absorbed the depreciation hit on a new van, which essentially occurs right after you’ve driven off the dealer’s lot.

Buying used can be beneficial for first-time buyers who want to try out a vehicle for a few years before buying new.

But if you plan to buy used, do some research and make sure the vehicle is structurally sound including the conversion. Ask for a vehicle history (CARFAX) report, and get the vehicle inspected by a mobility dealer to ensure it’s in good shape and was well taken care of.

Q: How do people manage to pay for it?

A: Many consumers used home equity loans to purchase a vehicle and adaptive equipment. But with home values decreasing.

Many dealers and manufacturers work with lending institutions that offer extended-term financing, including 10-year loans, allowing consumers to make lower, more affordable monthly payments. The downside is that consumers are locked into the vehicle for 10 years, and end up paying more in interest.

If you finance for 10 years, and you’re not going to keep the vehicle for that amount of time, you’re going to lose money when you try to sell or trade it because you haven’t paid off much of the balance.

When you buy a new vehicle, many car manufacturers offer mobility reimbursement programs (up to $1,000) to help offset the cost for the purchase and installation of adaptive equipment.

Used Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

The used market for wheelchair accessible vehicles has grown in the past few years. This growing popularity seems to suggest that this solution works. In some cases, it does; however, buying a used wheelchair accessible vehicle is not like buying a new car. If you are are interested in purchasing a used vehicle, remember these key points.

  • It must meet your mobility needs
    All wheelchair accessible vehicles are different. Ramp width, door clearance, and interior height will vary between vehicles which will affect whether or not the vehicle will work for your needs. Previously installed aftermarket additions, such as hand controls and securment devices, will have to be removed or replaced considering they were put in for the previous owner. Before you you start your search you should know your exact needs. Be aware that this may narrow your options significantly.
  • Getting your current vehicle fitted with a ramp or lift
    It’s possible to convert a minivan you already own and make it accessible, as long as it meets the requirements set by your mobility dealer. Before doing so, you will need to know which accessible ramp or lift style works best for you and your family.
  • Buying online
    eBay Motors and Craigslist are increasingly popular options for buying vehicles online. An increasing number of wheelchair accessible vehicles are listed on these two sites. While the prices may be tempting, this option can be risky if it’s not being sold by a trusted resource (such as a Mobility Center). Ramps are complex pieces of machinery. Without a specially trained mechanic looking it over, it can be very hard to know if a person is selling a good vehicle. We do not recommend this option because it can lead to numerous issues.
  • Used vehicles from a dealership
    While mobility dealers are specifically trained to help you meet all your mobility needs, most still operate like conventional dealers. Customers sometimes trade-in their old vehicles for credit towards a new vehicle, leaving the dealership with a used vehicle. While not every dealership has a used vehicle inventory, some have good options to work with.

Roadside Assistance for Drivers with DisAbilities

Getting stuck on the side of the road due to a vehicle malfunction can be a major inconvenience and can keep you from achieving your goals for the day. For a person with a disAbility driving an adaptive or wheelchair accessible vehicle, this inconvenience can quickly become a big problem.

Coverage
Make sure you select coverage that follows you from vehicle to vehicle. In other words, even if you are driving a rental or a family member’s car, under this coverage, you will be entitled to roadside assistance.

Towing
Finding out the details in advance when it comes to towing can make a significant difference if you ever find yourself stranded. Will they provide an accessible vehicle for transportation? Will they tow your vehicle to a dealership or to the place of your choosing, such as a repair shop? What are the mileage limits? These are all questions you’ll need the answers to prior to settling on a provider, as they will determine the efficiency of the service.

Additional Services
From help locating hotels to maps and directions, roadside assistance plans can come bundled with a wide variety of additional services. Analyze the plans the provider offers to make sure you’re only paying for the services you might need to use.

Something to Think About
If you are a wheelchair user who drives his or her own vehicle, you might want to consider choosing a provider that caters specifically to persons with disAbilities.

 Drivers with or without disAbilities should consider purchasing a roadside assistance program to protect them in the event of an unforeseen vehicle malfunction. Determining the best option for you may be tricky, but keeping these things in mind may make the decision a bit easier.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle: Seating Options

There are many options you will need to consider when purchasing a wheelchair accessible vehicle, especially if you are a first time buyer. It’s our job to make the process easier.

There are several seating options to consider; first, you and your family or your caregiver will need to decide where you want to or are going to sit. This depends on whether you are going to drive from your wheelchair and/or if you are going to be a passenger.

Knowing if you will be transferred into a seat or if you will remain in your wheelchair while traveling is also an important factor.

Seating in a Side Entry vs. Seating in a Rear Entry

Side Entry

  • Offers both mid-section and front seat options (with tie-downs)
  • There are five passenger seats available for family members in a side entry van.
  • A total of six people can be seated in a side entry wheelchair accessible van.
  • The side entry can comfortable fit a wheelchair or power wheelchair, where as a scooter has a less roomier fit.

Rear Entry

  • Only offers the mid-section to rear of the vehicle (with tie-downs)
  • There are four passenger seats available for family members in a rear entry van.
  • Up to six people can be seated in a rear entry wheelchair accessible van.
  • The rear entry can comfortable fit a wheelchair, power wheelchair or a scooter, but
  • If you have a long wheelchair or scooter the rear entry is ideal with over six feet of space, no turning to face forward is necessary.

If you have any questions our Mobility Center can further explain and demonstrate all seating options.

Please feel free to consult us with any additional information you need regarding wheelchair vans and mobility equipment, it’s what we’re here for.

Steer Yourself In The Right Direction To Find The Perfect Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Purchasing or financing a wheelchair accessible vehicle takes time, money and a little bit of research. Because of the many available options when it comes to handicap vehicles, and the investment they require, knowing where to start your search is crucial and can shape the entire process. NMEDA member dealers work with individuals with disAbilities, as well as their caregivers and families, to ensure we steer you in the direction of the perfect vehicle for you. Here are a few useful tips and resources:

Go to the Pros
By going straight to a NMEDA members dealership, like ourselves, you’ll be sure that you’re getting the best possible care and attention, as well as professional service. All dealerships are required to adhere to strict quality standards under our Quality Assurance Program and, will provide you with the best solutions for your specific needs. Starting your search at a NMEDA dealer near you means you are sure you get behind the wheel of a handicap vehicle that’s right for you.

Establish Your Needs
Who will be the vehicle’s primary driver? Will you be driving from a wheelchair, transferring into the vehicle’s seat or transporting a loved one with a disability? Will you need to enter and exit the vehicle on your own or will help be nearby? Are you looking for a truck, car, minivan or a SUV? The answers to these questions can help determine what kind of adapted vehicle and equipment you need before diving into inventory listings.

Know Your Budget
We know that one of the most difficult parts of purchasing a new vehicle is making sure the cost is within your means. When it comes to finding a wheelchair accessible or adaptive vehicle, there are more options than you might realize. There are several state and government organizations in place to help get you the car you need.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Heater Malfunctions and Maintenance

That first day when the world is coated in frost and the temperature has plummeted below freezing is not the time to find out your wheelchair vans heater is not working. Not only would the inside of your car feel like an ice box, but a broken heater can prevent your defroster from blowing warm air to your windshield to eliminate ice and fog, which can pose a hazard while driving. Not having a working heater could even become a dire situation, if you ever end up stranded.

That is why we recommend that you turn your car heater on long before you really need the heat. If your heater doesn’t respond with a warm blast of air, call and schedule an appointment today.

Causes of a breakdown
Your mobility van heater could stop working for a number of reasons, including:

  • A low antifreeze/water level in the radiator due to a leak in the cooling system.
  • A bad thermostat that isn’t allowing the engine to properly warm up.
  • A blower fan that isn’t working properly.
  • Coolant that contains rust particles or becomes otherwise contaminated and is blocking the heating core from circulating air into the cabin properly.

Depending on the problem, different types of repairs could be required. There really isn’t a heater unit, like a furnace in your house, that you can just replace. It is a combination of different things that provide heat into the vehicle. It’s very difficult to give a cost due to the wide variety of possible problems without inspecting the vehicle first.

One of the most important components, the heater core, which acts like a small radiator, passes the hot air from under the dashboard into the handicapped accessible vehicle. They can cost several hundred dollars to replace and sometimes takes a day or more to repair.

A decrease in the coolant level or a leak in the coolant system is one of the more common problems. Coolant doesn’t evaporate on its own. Topping it off may help in the short term, but it’s an indication of a deeper problem and should be checked out. You shouldn’t have to add anything at all if everything is working well. It can damage the motor if there is low heat from too little coolant.

A leak could be as simple as a loose hose clamp, or a major problem like a leaking engine cylinder head gasket, which can cause serious damage to the engine and cost several hundred dollars to replace.

Maintenance can prevent breakdowns
Several components make up the heating system, so unless you have experience with wheelchair accessible vehicle maintenance, it’s best to have a us diagnose the problem.

In general terms, a heating system works when the vehicle receives heat from the engine’s coolant system. Once the engine reaches its operating temperature — controlled by the thermostat — it heats up the coolant and water mixture, passes it through hoses and valves and into the heating core, which resembles a miniature radiator. A blower fan then pushes the warm air from the heating core through the cabin filter and into the vehicle.

The No. 1 tip is to have a mechanic asses your heater regularly by having a mechanic checking the coolant level and the other components. However, the coolant in newer vehicles may not need service until 60,000 to 100,000 miles, and heating problems usually don’t occur on newer vehicles.

Benefits of Owning an Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Safety
Safety is a universal concern for people with disAbilities and their caregivers. Many caregivers experience chronic back and joint pain from years of wheelchair lifts. And far too often there are stories of people fearful of loading and unloading their wheelchairs. Mobility vehicles are designed with a dedication to safety. Not only do ramp systems remove the liability, wear and tear and exhaustion of a lift, but brands like VMI adhere to the safety standards and qualifications of original equipment manufacturers like Honda, Toyota, Chrysler and Dodge.

A vehicle conversion from a company like VMI must maintain and provide the same safety ratings, post-conversion, as it did when the original model was created. That means collision safety and design is held to a very high standard. So there’s simply no reason to risk your personal safety or the livelihood of your passengers in an outdated vehicle.

Independence
If the daunting process of wheelchair lifts and transports kept you from leaving home in the past or the frustration of coordinating shuttles and third party transportation limits your lifestyle, look no further.

Mobility vehicles empower opportunity and independence. Frankly, when transportation is a possibility  rather than a limitation, the world gets a whole lot larger. Independent wheelchair users with reliable mobility vehicles hold the power to call the shots on their own life. They can drive where they need to, how they want to, when they want to. A mobility vehicle isn’t just a mechanism to take you from point A to B; A mobility vehicle is an entryway to possibility.

Increased Space and Flexibility
Most modern mobility vehicles feature side-entry and front door benefits which allow an array of seating arrangements and interior flexibility. With such added space, nearly any wheelchair — even power chairs — can fit in the cabin while still leaving room for the rest of the family.

Vehicles such as VMI’s Toyota Sienna Access360 have been engineered to promote a full range of motion and maneuverability for power chairs inside the vehicle, eliminating the need to hastily rearrange and remove seats for transports. Obstruction-free doorways and head clearance also pave the way for an enjoyable transition to and from the vehicle.

Simplicity and Ease-of-Use
Whether you are a caregiver or an independent wheelchair user, mobility vehicles have practical answers.

Through the addition of manual ramp systems and automated, in-floor ramp technology, transportation doesn’t have to remain a daily hassle.  Life often throws bigger dilemmas our way. Mobility vehicles make sure transportation isn’t one of those.

The Northstar E by VMI is a great example of a vehicle that was engineered with simplicity and ease-of-use at the forefront of its design. Caregivers can easily remove the vehicle’s ramp system without physical strain or contemplation. The process is intuitive and quick. Loading and unloading a van can be easily accomplished in a matter of minutes without sacrificing time or energy for the caregiver and loved one.

Mobility vehicles can even be outfitted with aftermarket additions such as remote start and keyless entry to  further simplify the transportation situation for independent wheelchair users and caregivers.

How To Make Your Wheelchair Van More Affordable

A wheelchair van can provide a little freedom for a person with a disAbility or someone caring for a loved one with mobility limitations. It’s hard to put a price on the freedom these vehicles can provide, however the fact remains that vans, conversions and specialized equipment all come with some costs. Fortunately, there are a number of ways that make these vehicles more affordable and get you one step closer to driving independence.

Search for Used Vans
Finding a used wheelchair accessible van in good condition might sound like a dream, but it is far from impossible. With a little research and some patience, you might be able to find a vehicle that works for your needs, at a discounted price. Many mobility dealerships take used vans as trade-ins for resale and some manufacturers will even install brand new wheelchair conversions in the pre-owned vehicles. Certain dealerships also sell rental vans that have been retired after a year of use. While a used van can be a great deal, it’s important to still consult with a qualified mobility equipment dealer, as these vehicles might not have the exact equipment to fit your needs.

Update Your Current Van
If your vehicle is still in relatively good condition but needs a few adjustments to make it more accessible for you and your loved ones, an update could be an affordable alternative to purchasing a new van. Talk to your local mobility dealer about updating your adaptive equipment and you could be on your way to saving a few thousand dollars!

Contact Local Organizations
If you need extra help funding a new handicap vehicle, a local chapter or organization working to help those with your particular disabilities might be able to help. While these groups might not be able to provide a large amount of money to fund your vehicle purchase, they might be able to provide you with helpful community resources or at least help coordinate fundraising activities.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles: Q&A

Wheelchair
Accessible Vans

Rear entry Vs. Side entry
Buying New Vs. Buying Used
Manual Ramp Vs. Powered Ramp
Honda Vs. Dodge/Chrysler Vs. Toyota Vs. Ford
Certified Mobility Dealer Vs. Car Dealer Vs. Buying online
What do you need to know to get maximum benefit for minimum expense?

Good information is the key to saving money and getting the most value for the dollar when making a big-ticket purchase like a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

With that in mind, Seek out and find experts who truly care. Here are some answers to common questions about adaptive mobility equipment.

Can I just go to a car dealer down the street or do I need a certified mobility dealer?

Certified mobility dealers will help you buy the right vehicle and adaptive mobility equipment to meet your needs now and in the future. Future planning is especially important for people with muscle diseases that get progressively worse over time.

“Technology has improved tremendously over the years so there are numerous products available. Our goal is to help people find the right equipment that best fits their needs,” says Jim Sanders, president of Automotive Innovations based in Bridgewater, MA for over 25 years.

“Many times, consumers will go to a car dealer and buy a vehicle that can’t be modified or one that doesn’t fit their needs. And once you buy a vehicle, normally it’s very difficult to return.”

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), a nonprofit organization that provides consumer guidance and ensures quality and professionalism in the manufacturing and installation of mobility equipment. Members include mobility equipment dealers, manufacturers, driver rehabilitation specialists and other professionals.

NMEDA member-dealers must follow the safety standards established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in addition to NMEDA’s own stringent guidelines.

Some dealers choose to enroll in NMEDA’s Quality Assurance Program (QAP), which requires them to adhere to national motor vehicle safety standards, and use proven quality control practices to yield the highest level of performance and safety. Automotive Innovations was the First Mobility Dealer in Massachusetts to enroll and exceed the safety standards.

“The QAP dealer is audited by an outside engineering firm to verify that technicians have been trained and that the dealer has insurance and make sure the facility is ADA-compliant,” which means the QAP dealer is going above and beyond.

 

Can I get a better price if I buy online rather than from a dealer?

As with any online shopping, the warning “buyer beware” rings true. Buying online without trying out different vehicles with different conversions can be a costly mistake. Furthermore there are many grey market converted vans being offered as quality conversions.

Online, you are mostly shopping blind. Typically you will have no idea how the vehicle you need will work for you, even with specific recommendations from a driver evaluator or occupational therapist.

“You definitely shouldn’t buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle online, most online sellers are not qualified Mobility Dealers attempting to assess your needs, they’re just car dealers trying to sell you something.”

Some online dealers even have questionnaires on their websites to try and give you the idea your getting what you need. But, it will never replace being able to go to a local mobility dealership and try the vans out first hand.

A mobility vehicle is probably the second-largest purchase after a house. You should see it, try it out, and make sure it’s something that will work for you and your family. It’s horrible when people spend so much an a vehicle that will never work for them.

Every vehicle is a little bit different — such as in the dimensions, electrical and fuel systems, or suspension modifications. “If you go online and buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle based on the price, you’re not really looking at the total package.”

While buying online may be able to save you some money up front, it won’t over the long term.

In addition to you missing out on the important local service contact that a mobility equipment dealer provides, these online deals or grey market vans are worth much less when it comes time to trade it in.

 

What are some common mistakes people make when buying a modified vehicle?

Manufacturers and mobility dealers agree that one of the most common — and costly — mistakes is buying the vehicle first and then shopping for the conversion or adaptive mobility equipment. Not all vehicles can be converted.

For example, If you purchase a minivan from a traditional car dealership you can hit a roadblock if it doesn’t meet specific requirements to have the floor lowered for a rear- or side-entry conversion.

 

What are some good questions to ask a dealer or manufacturer?

Although buying a modified vehicle can be “a daunting experience,” says VMI’s Monique McGivney, it also can be “exciting and fun when you walk in armed with good questions and information.”

Prior to getting an assessment from a mobility dealer, evaluate your needs and try answering the following questions:

  • What vehicle will fit in my garage?
  • What kind of parking issues will I encounter where I live?
  • What is the size and weight of my wheelchair?
  • What is my seated height in the wheelchair?
  • How many people will ride in the vehicle?
  • In what part of the vehicle do I want to sit?
  • Will I be able to drive with hand controls?
  • Do I want a full-size van, minivan or alternative vehicle?
  • Do I want manual or power equipment?
  • Will an in-floor ramp or fold-out ramp meet my needs?
  • What is my budget, and do I have access to supplemental funding?

The first question most mobility dealers will ask you is: “What is your seated height in the wheelchair?” From there, the dealer can advise whether a full-size or minivan is appropriate, and what kind of conversion is needed.

Be sure to ask the dealer about the warranty and how the vehicle can be serviced.

Which Make and Model is the best for a handicapped accessible vehicle?

It honestly depends on what you fit into best and what options you prefer.

No two wheelchair accessible vehicles are the same. They vary in size, shape, color, features and design depending on the vehicle’s make and model. The only way to guarantee which is the best vehicle for you is if you come in and try them all out.

For example: The Honda has a little bit more room inside to maneuver a wheelchair than a Dodge, just as a Toyota has a bit more space than a Honda. A Ford offers more headroom than all of the above. But that all depends on the conversion and manufacturer.

Although color and features matter least to us, some find them just as important as fitting into the vehicle. Each Manufacturer offers their own color schemes, which you can look up on their websites. You can also search for what features you would prefer to have.

When you come into our Mobility Center we will help you find the vehicle that best fits you and your family’s needs. If you love the vehicle but not the color or features we can custom order a vehicle for you. That way we know you are buying a vehicle that best fits you and one that you are 100% happy with.

Which is better: rear entry or side entry?

The most important difference between a rear entry and side-entry conversion is that with a rear entry, wheelchair users can’t drive from their wheelchairs nor can they ride in the front passenger seat. From there, the choice comes down to personal preference and budget.

In recent years, because of quality, convenience and cost, there’s been a shift toward side entry vehicles. Rear entry is more of a frugal modification, involves a less of conversion process and is typically a little less expensive than a side-entry conversion.

Many people prefer side entry with an in-floor conversion for many safety reasons additionally  because they can park almost anywhere and not worry deploying the ramp out into traffic. Also, side entry allows the consumer to ride in the passengers front position along with maintain the rear seats in a minivan because the conversion doesn’t affect that area.

Rear entry is harder to get out of compared to a side-entry.

Anyway you look at it side-entry vehicles are more versatile. For example, side entry allows someone with a progressively worsening condition to use the vehicle for a longer period of time. A wheelchair user can start out driving from his or her chair, and then move to several other positions in the vehicle when no longer able to drive.

Side-entry conversions typically are a little more expensive than rear-entry because they’re more intrusive and labor intensive. For example, with a minivan, the entire floor and frame must be removed and replaced with a lowered floor and new frame.


What’s the difference between a fold-out ramp and in-floor ramp?

This decision comes down to safety, aesthetics, convenience and cost.

A fold-out ramp folds up into the vehicle, takes up valuable space in the passengers front area and must be deployed whenever the door is opened.

The in-floor ramp slides under the floor which makes riding in the vehicle safer for anyone seated in the passengers front position or the mid-ship position. There is no obstruction to the doorway so other passengers can enter and exit without deploying the ramp. In-floor ramps are currently only available as a side-entry minivan conversion, but they offer a manual (un-powered) option as well.

In-floor ramps in addition to being safer will generally provide more room in the vehicle because there’s nothing blocking the doorway. The ramp is “out of sight, out of mind” and may last longer because it doesn’t have to be deployed each time the side passenger door opens.

Fold-out ramps generally cost a little less than an in-floor ramp and consumers can select from manual and power versions; a power fold-out ramp still costs less than an in-floor ramp.

If an in-floor ramp system breaks down or the vehicle loses power, VMI’s in-floor ramp systems have a backup system (sure-deploy) that bypasses the vehicle’s battery.

A lot of people just feel more secure knowing there isn’t a fold-out ramp next to them in the event of a accident.

I use a wheelchair, but a van or minivan just isn’t “me.” Are they my only options?

You have other choices.

Lowered-floor conversions with fold-out ramps can be done on the Honda Element, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Toyota Scion. The conversions are small and don’t fit as many people.

Due to them being built on a much smaller scale, the ones we have seen have not been built with the same level of quality as the minivan conversion. Parts availability and repairs have been a problem, some of the companies that converted them are out of business and or have no support for “something they used to build”

If you prefer to keep your standard car rather than purchasing a modified vehicle — and can make the transfer from a wheelchair to a car seat — the answer may be as simple as a set of hand controls or a left foot gas pedal

Turning seats can be used in a wide range of vehicles, from sedans to SUVs and pickup trucks. A way to transport the wheelchair (like a rear lift) also is needed.

The rate at which your symptoms worsen is one thing to consider when looking at turning seats — is it likely you’ll be able to transfer and ride in a car seat for many more years? Also, be sure to check with a mobility dealer to determine if your vehicle can accommodate a turning seat and a wheelchair lift.

Why are modified vehicles so  expensive?

A vehicle conversion can cost consumers upwards of $27,000 —  and that’s just the cost for the conversion, not the vehicle. The total package can run between $45,000 and $80,000 — or more.

Besides the cost of the components, the reason it’s so pricey is that basically there is a lot of work involved to build a quality vehicle.

Modified vehicles from certified manufacturers and dealers must meet NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). That means all modified vehicles must be properly crash tested. (To learn more, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.)

It’s quite a labor-intensive process because of the customization. When you make structural modifications to a vehicle, you have to go through all of the crash testing, and you have to show that the vehicle is compliant again, and those tests are very expensive.

Most of the time lowering the floor in a minivan requires replacing or moving the fuel tank. Once the conversion is finished, the vehicle still has to meet the original requirements for evaporative emissions, in addition to NHTSA requirements.

How can I pay less?

You have  a few options.

You could cut costs by purchasing a pre-owned vehicle with a new conversion, typically saving you around $10,000 to $12,000.

The previous van owner already has absorbed the depreciation hit on a new van, which essentially occurs right after they’ve driven off the dealer’s lot.

Buying used can be beneficial for first-time buyers who want to try out a vehicle for a few years before buying new.

But if you plan to buy used, do some research and make sure the vehicle is structurally sound including the conversion. Ask for a vehicle history (CARFAX) report, and get the vehicle inspected by a mobility dealer to ensure it’s in good shape and was well taken care of.

Another tactic to help save you money is to ask your Certified Mobility Dealer about any rebates or financial aid options that could benefit you.

How do people manage to pay for it?

Many consumers used home equity loans to purchase a vehicle and adaptive equipment.

Many dealers and manufacturers work with lending institutions that offer extended-term financing, including 10-year loans, allowing consumers to make lower, more affordable monthly payments. The downside is that consumers are locked into the vehicle for 10 years, and end up paying more in interest.

If you finance for 10 years, and you’re not going to keep the vehicle for that amount of time, you’re going to lose money when you try to sell or trade it because you haven’t paid off much of the balance.

When you buy a new vehicle, many car manufacturers offer mobility reimbursement programs (up to $1,000) to help offset the cost for the purchase and installation of adaptive equipment.

Things You Should Know Before Renting a Wheelchair Accessible Van

Whether your own wheelchair accessible vehicle is undergoing repairs or modifications or you’re testing the adaptive automobile waters before taking the plunge with the purchase of one, renting a Wheelchair Accessible Van is an affordable, convenient and comfortable way of improving your mobility.

If you’re looking to rent this type of vehicle, these are some good tips to keep in mind.

How Much Does It Cost To Rent A Handicap Van?
If you’re all about saving your pennies, there are many ways to reduce the cost of renting a wheelchair accessible van. Here are just a few:

  • Avoid renting an accessible vehicle airport. Enjoy lower taxes and minimal fees by going to a dealer or rental agency outside the airport grounds.
  • Reserve online whenever possible to take advantage of special offers.
  • Fill up the tank before returning the vehicle. More often than not, this will be less expensive than paying the fill-up fee or pre-paying for gas at the rental agency.
  • Don’t double up on insurance. If your personal auto insurance already covers you for rentals, make sure you don’t sign up for redundant coverage.

Where to Go
Many mobility dealers maintain a fleet of accessible cars or conversion vans for rental purposes. Identify and contact the location nearest you to find out if they have handicap vehicles available to meet your needs. There are also a number of companies that specialize in accessible rental vehicles.

When to Rent
A wheelchair accessible van or car can transform the lives of people with disabilities or temporary mobility impairment. Renting a wheelchair accessible vehicle can be particularly helpful when:

  • Your current wheelchair accessible vehicle requires repairs or maintenance over a period of multiple days.
  • You’re going on a road trip or long ride – a rented wheelchair accessible vehicle can make these much more comfortable. Even if you own a wheelchair accessible vehicle, you might still consider renting a vehicle in order to avoid putting the mileage and wear on your own van.
  • A loved one or family member with a disability visits. If you don’t own an accessible vehicle, renting a wheelchair accessible vehicle can facilitate transporting your friends and family.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Heater Malfunctions and Maintenance

That first day when the world is coated in frost and the temperature has plummeted below freezing is not the time to find out your wheelchair vans heater is not working. Not only would the inside of your car feel like an ice box, but a broken heater can prevent your defroster from blowing warm air to your windshield to eliminate ice and fog, which can pose a hazard while driving. Not having a working heater could even become a dire situation, if you ever end up stranded.

That is why we recommend that you turn your car heater on long before you really need the heat. If your heater doesn’t respond with a warm blast of air, call and schedule an appointment today.

Causes of a breakdown
Your mobility van heater could stop working for a number of reasons, including:

  • A low antifreeze/water level in the radiator due to a leak in the cooling system.
  • A bad thermostat that isn’t allowing the engine to properly warm up.
  • A blower fan that isn’t working properly.
  • Coolant that contains rust particles or becomes otherwise contaminated and is blocking the heating core from circulating air into the cabin properly.

Depending on the problem, different types of repairs could be required. There really isn’t a heater unit, like a furnace in your house, that you can just replace. It is a combination of different things that provide heat into the vehicle. It’s very difficult to give a cost due to the wide variety of possible problems without inspecting the vehicle first.

One of the most important components, the heater core, which acts like a small radiator, passes the hot air from under the dashboard into the handicapped accessible vehicle. They can cost several hundred dollars to replace and sometimes takes a day or more to repair.

A decrease in the coolant level or a leak in the coolant system is one of the more common problems. Coolant doesn’t evaporate on its own. Topping it off may help in the short term, but it’s an indication of a deeper problem and should be checked out. You shouldn’t have to add anything at all if everything is working well. It can damage the motor if there is low heat from too little coolant.

A leak could be as simple as a loose hose clamp, or a major problem like a leaking engine cylinder head gasket, which can cause serious damage to the engine and cost several hundred dollars to replace.

Maintenance can prevent breakdowns
Several components make up the heating system, so unless you have experience with wheelchair accessible vehicle maintenance, it’s best to have a us diagnose the problem.

In general terms, a heating system works when the vehicle receives heat from the engine’s coolant system. Once the engine reaches its operating temperature — controlled by the thermostat — it heats up the coolant and water mixture, passes it through hoses and valves and into the heating core, which resembles a miniature radiator. A blower fan then pushes the warm air from the heating core through the cabin filter and into the vehicle.

The No. 1 tip is to have a mechanic asses your heater regularly by having a mechanic checking the coolant level and the other components. However, the coolant in newer vehicles may not need service until 60,000 to 100,000 miles, and heating problems usually don’t occur on newer vehicles.

Respect Accessible Spaces

Going out in public is often riddled with obstacles for people with disAbilities. While this is largely due to inaccessible structures like stairs and narrow doors, so many unnecessary barriers are created by able-bodied people who place themselves where they shouldn’t be. That’s not to say that someone with a disAbility has special privileges. Rather, reserved access locations are intended to give people with disAbilities equal opportunities to experience the world around them. Here are some accessible places where able-bodied people should not be:

Handicap Parking Spaces
By far, the most frustrating obstacle put in place by able-bodied people is parking illegally in handicap accessible parking spaces. Though often thought that handicap parking is one of the “perks” of having a disAbility, the reality is that it’s a necessity, not a convenience. Most people with a disAbility get around in a wheelchair accessible vehicle that’s adapted with either a foldout/in-floor ramp or a lift so they can easily get in and out of their vehicle. If they don’t have access to a parking spot with enough space, there is literally no (safe) way for them to get out of their vehicles, which directly prevents them from getting where they need to go.

There are countless times when entering many parking lots that you’ll find that the only accessible spots are occupied by someone who doesn’t have a proper license plate or a permit. It is also common that vehicles park illegally in the white/blue lines next to the accessible spots making it impossible for the owner to access their vehicle which leaves them stranded.

Parking illegally in a handicap spot denies an important means of access to all people who legitimately need the accessible spaces. Able-bodied people have an entire parking lot full of spaces to choose from; disabled people usually only have a few accessible spaces. The accessible spaces are not there for the convenience of people who are lazy, or for people who claim they just needed to run into the store for a second. Illegal use of any part of a accessible parking space is inexcusable in any situation.

Accessible restroom stalls
While using the restroom at multiple locations you will find that most stalls are empty except the accessible one. Able-bodied people see the big, roomy bathroom open and are drawn to it; it’s understandable not wanting to be cramped into a small stall. However, using accessible bathroom facilities, especially when others are available, does demonstrate that people with disabilities aren’t in society’s conscience as being just as likely to be out in public as non-disabled people.

If every other stall is taken, it’s obviously okay to use it. But since people with disAbilities cannot physically get into regular sized restroom stalls, it’s not asking too much for able-bodied people to leave the one accessible bathroom option open when there are five other empty ones that are readily available.

Accessible shower stalls
Much like accessible bathroom stalls, there’s usually only one accessible shower facility in places like shared college dormitory restrooms and gym locker rooms. The accessible stalls are roomier and they often have a fold-down seat attached to the wall. Although this may be tempting for non-disabled people who want a shower with room to dance around or have a place to rest tired feet the accessible facilities are not intended for the convenience of able-bodied people.

Apparently, this is a hard concept for people. Frequently you’ll discover that every shower stall is empty except for the accessible one.  Unfortunately it seems that able-bodied people see accessible showers as a luxury, rather than realizing that they are a necessity for disAbled people.

Accessible dressing rooms
Most stores have a large dressing room that qualifies as “accessible.” Unfortunately, they are rarely, if ever, properly labeled or guarded by store employees. Hence, some of the worst offenders of able-bodied people who block public access are the ones who use accessible dressing rooms.

Some people who actually need the accessible stall have to wait for 15-20 minutes (give/take) while able-bodied people take their time in the only accessible dressing room, even though several other regular dressing rooms are available. Able-bodied people need to realize that they have fifteen dressing rooms to choose from while people with disAbilities, that actually need an accessible room, only have one option.

Respect Accessible Spaces
If you don’t have a disAbility, then next time you just have to grab a gallon of milk or try on a bunch of shirts, please reconsider and don’t take up the only reserved accessible places. Leaving accessible places open for the people who truly need them is a super simple way to promote inclusion and acceptance of the disAbled community.

Beginner’s Tips: Searching for the Right Wheelchair Van

If you’re a first-time buyer looking to purchase a wheelchair accessible vehicle things might seem a little overwhelming at first. You most likely have some questions and concerns when starting out, and that’s fine. We have several mobility vehicle experts/dealers and resources available to help you along the way.

Still, there’s never any harm in getting informed before you step onto your first lot as you look for a handicap van that meets your needs. Being equipped with information when you start looking for a mobility van will help you make a well-informed decision. It will also help you better express to us exactly what you are looking for.

There are a few basic pieces of information that can help you make your decision and learn more about accessible vans. Before heading out to shop around, there are some things you can to do prepare for your search.

  • Think about the options and features you are going to need in order to travel comfortably and without any hassle. This will give you a better idea of what sort of van you need while also giving a glimpse of what sort of price range you might be looking at.
  • Consider whether or not you’ll routinely have passengers such as family and friends and the room they might need.
  • Be realistic about the budget you have to work with. There is no sense in making another headache later on with a vehicle payment you can’t afford.

In addition to these tips, there are also several ways you can make the process easier outside of home. First and foremost, you could talk with one of our mobility consultants/experts to find out about benefits and features available to you in regards to whatever disability you may have.

We will let you try out a van before any money is put down. Take advantage of this opportunity to find out more about certain features and options that may suit your needs. Most of all, make sure you can ride comfortably.

Adaptive Equipment for Those with Partial Disabilities

Some individuals with partial disabilities say they do not have a need for a fully wheelchair accessible van or truck and state they only need a bit of extra help. For those able to stand with or without assistance, turn, and walk a few steps, there are a number of simple, affordable solutions that can make the vehicle you already own more comfortable and accessible.

Turning Seating
Convenient and affordable, turning automotive seating can eliminate the need to twist and climb into vehicles. Seats can be adapted to automatically swivel over the door frame with the push of a button, allowing drivers or passengers to easily accommodate themselves without having to struggle to get inside. These solutions can be installed in nearly any vehicle, including tall trucks and SUVs. In these cases, the seat lowers to the driver or passenger’s preferred height, then lifts and turns back into the vehicle.

Wheelchair or Scooter Lifts/Carriers
For those who are able to transfer into a vehicle’s seats, whether they are automatic or not, a wheelchair or scooter lifts can stow their equipment in the trunk or roof of a car, back of a van or SUV, or bed of a pick-up truck. These systems can be fully automatic or manually powered, depending on the needs of the user.

Grab Bars and Assist Handles
Grab bars and assist handles can make it safer for those with partial disabilities to enter, exit and drive a vehicle. Extremely affordable and portable, these solutions can be incorporated into nearly any make or model in mere minutes.

Steering Aids
Modifications like low-effort steering and wheel attachments can make driving much easier for those with limited upper body mobility, arthritis, etc. From palm grips to tri-grip designs, spinner knobs and steering cuffs, there is an accessible option to meet every need.

The Importance of Regular Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Maintenance

Whether it’s an oil change, tire rotation, rust treatment, or an air conditioner fix, regularly servicing your wheelchair accessible vehicle can help save you time and money, as well as keep you safe and happy on the road. Just as our bodies begin to show the signs of aging, cars, SUVs and vans also can experience diminished performance as time passes. Due to this natural process, it’s vital to get your vehicle checked out by professionals in order to ensure your vehicle’s longevity.

Save Money
While most things wear over time, regular maintenance can significantly decrease the chances of a major problem later on. Preventative and scheduled services are normally small and inexpensive jobs, and can also preserve resale value, saving you even more money.

Save Time
A major breakdown not only costs thousands of dollars, it can also put your vehicle out of working condition for weeks. The worse the damage is, the longer it will likely take a mechanic to get your van or car ready for the road again. Even if the downtime for your car isn’t more than a few hours, a breakdown on the road can be particularly difficult for people with disabilities or limited mobility operating or riding in the vehicle.

Protect Yourself
Not only does maintenance and regular service save you time and money, it’s an important way to ensure you are safe inside your vehicle.

A wheelchair accessible or other adaptive vehicle can mean the difference between social freedom and considerable limitations. Take care of the investment in your freedom by following regular maintenance schedules and ensuring your ride is in the best shape possible!

Used Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

The used market for wheelchair accessible vehicles has grown in the past few years. This growing popularity seems to suggest that this solution works. In some cases, it does; however, buying a used wheelchair accessible vehicle is not like buying a new car. If you are are interested in purchasing a used vehicle, remember these key points.

  • It must meet your mobility needs
    All wheelchair accessible vehicles are different. Ramp width, door clearance, and interior height will vary between vehicles which will affect whether or not the vehicle will work for your needs. Previously installed aftermarket additions, such as hand controls and securment devices, will have to be removed or replaced considering they were put in for the previous owner. Before you you start your search you should know your exact needs. Be aware that this may narrow your options significantly.
  • Getting your current vehicle fitted with a ramp or lift
    It’s possible to convert a minivan you already own and make it accessible, as long as it meets the requirements set by your mobility dealer. Before doing so, you will need to know which accessible ramp or lift style works best for you and your family.
  • Buying online
    eBay Motors and Craigslist are increasingly popular options for buying vehicles online. An increasing number of wheelchair accessible vehicles are listed on these two sites. While the prices may be tempting, this option can be risky if it’s not being sold by a trusted resource (such as a Mobility Center). Ramps are complex pieces of machinery. Without a specially trained mechanic looking it over, it can be very hard to know if a person is selling a good vehicle. We do not recommend this option because it can lead to numerous issues.
  • Used vehicles from a dealership
    While mobility dealers are specifically trained to help you meet all your mobility needs, most still operate like conventional dealers. Customers sometimes trade-in their old vehicles for credit towards a new vehicle, leaving the dealership with a used vehicle. While not every dealership has a used vehicle inventory, some have good options to work with.

Putting Amputees Back in the Driver’s Seat

For some people, an automobile is a necessity not a luxury.

To have a full life in America requires mobility -not just the ability to walk or run, but the ability to travel greater distances with more convenience and flexibility than public transportation provides.

For many lower-limb amputees, however, the lack of feet makes driving impossible in a conventionally equipped vehicle. Hand controls along with left foot gas pedals provide the solution. They make it possible for lower-limb amputees and people with other disabilities to enjoy the prosperity and independence that comes with vehicle ownership and use.

Different types of hand controls
Basic hand controls usually consist of a lever attached to a bracket and mounted under the steering column on cars equipped with automatic transmissions. The lever is moved to operate throttle and brakes. Usually the left hand operates the control, allowing the right hand to steer and operate the vehicle’s accessories. The three most common types of hand controls are push/rock, push/twist, right angle pull, and push/pull.

The push rock and push twist hand control works by twisting the handle to apply the gas and pushing it to apply the brakes. The right angle pull hand control works by moving the lever down towards the driver’s lap for acceleration. To apply the brakes, the driver pushes the handle forward towards the front of the car. The push/pull hand control works by pulling on the handle to apply the gas, and pushing for the brakes. Most hand controls, except for a very few, apply the brakes by pushing.

Most hand controls are hand-powered, using linkages or cables to operate the gas and brakes. Some models are power-assisted to make it easier on the hand and arm. Cars are designed for the driver’s foot to operate the gas and brake, so the force required to operate the hand control can be tiring to the hand during long drives. Power-assist options for hand controls range from very complex devices such as an electric joystick, to relatively simple ones that use vacuum power like power brakes. Most hand controls are dual-action devices that permit the simultaneous application of throttle and brake. Dual-action controls are helpful when the car is stopped on a steep hill or when making tight maneuvers on steep grades. The throttle can be applied a little before releasing the brake to prevent the car from coasting backward before moving forward. While most users prefer dual-action, some prefer single-action units because they eliminate the chance of accidentally applying the throttle during braking.

Which is best for you?
The best choice of hand controls for a person depends on a number of factors, such as the car’s layout, expected driving conditions, and the driver’s size, disability, and preference.

Push/twist
Push/twist hand controls are a good choice if either a large driver, a small car, or both, limit space. Economical use of space is achieved because the lever only needs to be moved to apply the brake. Throttle control is achieved by twisting the grip in the same manner as operating a motorcycle.

Push/twist controls provide a precise, sporty feel. By necessity, push/twist hand controls are often power-assisted. Without power-assistance, the twisting motion tends to feel stiff, and the hand tires. With a good quality power-assisted twist control, very little effort is required to maintain a throttle setting; simply resting the hand on the handle should provide enough force. This results in less fatigue on long drives.

Push/twist controls are good in tight turns and on rough roads. Throttle surges, which can be experienced with a push/pull or right angle pull device, as the driver and his or her arm bumps, sways, leans, or lurches going through curves and over bumps tend not to occur with a push/twist. Most push/twist controls are dual-action units.

These controls are not recommended for people with grip problems or those with amputated fingers or hands. Good left-hand dexterity is required for safe driving with push/ twist controls.

Right angle pull
Right angle pull controls are the most widely used form of hand control. They are relatively inexpensive and, usually, easy to install and adjust. Operation is simple and intuitive for these strictly mechanical units.

Space, however, can be a problem. Throttle application requires that the lever be moved down toward the driver’s lap. If the driver is large or the car is small, a push/twist or even a push/pull control may be more suitable. Because the lever is connected to the gas pedal with mechanical linkages, the underside of the dashboard will often require trimming.

For those missing fingers, hands, or with reduced grip strength, various handles, wrist straps, grips, etc., can be adapted for the right angle pull control. Specialized handles can be configured for use with a prosthesis. Right angle pull controls are usually dual-action, but also can be single-action.

Push/pull
Push/pull hand controls are by definition single-action. Since the lever is pulled for gas and pushed for brakes, the gas and brakes can never be operated at the same time.

This is the easiest hand control to learn to use. Senior citizens like the push/pull because there is no confusion when learning, after using the foot pedals all their lives. Power-assisted and non-power-assisted models are available. The driver’s hand can rest directly on the lever without causing the throttle to surge.

As with the right angle pull control, different handles can be adapted to the driver to permit safe and easy operation. Power-assisted push/pull hand controls equipped with handle adaptations are recommended for people with limited arm strength and poor manual dexterity.

Some other factors to consider
When shopping for hand controls, aesthetics is also a factor to consider. Car owners can be surprised to find that a section of the dashboard was cut away during the installation process. Most hand controls are mounted under the dash with a support extending into the driver space under the steering column where the lever is connected. A panel under the dashboard is removed during installation. If the hand control’s design and the dashboard layout permit, the panel can be returned allowing the mounting bracket to be hidden. Sometimes, however, the hand control’s hardware protrudes into the passenger space, and the panel cannot be reinstalled without cutting a window in it. Each installation varies with the model of automobile and the particular hand-control unit. Check with your dealer about what you can expect to see when you get your car back.

Many of us share cars with other family members. It is important that the pedals can still be used with the hand control installed and that there are as few impediments to using them as possible. Most good controls provide room for a pedal-pushing driver. Ask the installer what to expect.

Driving should be fun. Poorly designed hand controls, or a badly performed installation, can cause the driver to be distracted or preoccupied with the control, lead to frustration, and reduce safety. Good hand controls, professionally installed, will allow enjoyable, safe driving.

Installation
No matter what type of hand controls you use, you are making a significant modification to your vehicle. It is, therefore, important to have a trained and qualified person perform the installation.

The installer should cut a minimum amount of the dashboard. The handle should be located in a comfortable position so that the driver can hold on to the hand control and hook a thumb over the steering wheel. This position helps to stabilize the steering wheel and the throttle. The whole assembly should feel solid and sturdy. If the installation is done properly using a high-quality control, driving will be easy and fun.

Everyone is different, and each person is a special case. If you are uncertain about your condition and your abilities, consult a Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS). A CDRS knows about different disabilities and can advise you about the best solution to your driving needs. Contact a CDRS through your rehabilitation facility or through your local amputee support group.

Whether you are a first-time buyer or already drive with hand controls, it is good to know what is out there and what to look for. High-quality hand controls are available, as are skilled mobility technicians who understand the quality and safety issues involved with their installation.

Spend a few extra dollars to purchase a high-quality product and have it professionally installed. You already have made a significant investment in your vehicle. A quality set of hand controls will surely enhance your driving experience and, above all, your safety.

Have You Voted For Your Local Hero?

Click here to view the stories and submit your vote!

What is the Local Heroes Contest?
This is the 4th annual National Mobility Awareness Month. During this month NMEDA has an amazing promotion where they encourage people with disAbilities to embody the spirit of Life Moving Forward by raising awareness of the many life-changing mobility vehicle solutions available today.

NMEDA and their members are mobility advocates dedicated to changing the lives of those living with disAbilities by providing access to quality handicap accessible vehicles and adaptive equipment. Whether you are living with a disAbility or have dedicated your time to helping someone who is, they want to hear your story of perseverance and strength.

For your chance to win a FREE wheelchair accessible vehicle enter NMEDA’s contest by telling them what makes you (or your loved one) a Local Hero!

This year they will be giving away 4 handicap accessible vehicles:

  • one to a caregiver
  • one to a senior (60+)
  • one that is battery powered (for in-town driving only)
  • one in the general category.

Over 18 million people in North America are living with restrictive mobility issues. This is your chance to change the lives of just a few of those triumphing in the face of adversity.

Local Heroes Contest! Enter To Win a Free Accessible Vehicle!

This is the 4th annual National Mobility Awareness Month. During this month NMEDA has an amazing promotion where they encourage people with disAbilities to embody the spirit of Life Moving Forward by raising awareness of the many life-changing mobility vehicle solutions available today.

NMEDA and their members are mobility advocates dedicated to changing the lives of those living with disAbilities by providing access to quality handicap accessible vehicles and adaptive equipment. Whether you are living with a disAbility or have dedicated your time to helping someone who is, they want to hear your story of perseverance and strength.

For your chance to win a FREE wheelchair accessible vehicle enter NMEDA’s contest by telling them what makes you (or your loved one) a Local Hero! You can enter here

This year they will be giving away 4 handicap accessible vehicles:

  • one to a caregiver
  • one to a senior (60+)
  • one that is battery powered (for in-town driving only)
  • one in the general category.

Over 18 million people in North America are living with restrictive mobility issues. This is your chance to change the lives of just a few of those triumphing in the face of adversity.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle checklist For Passengers

Traveling position

  • Make sure you can sit comfortably and upright (without having to duck your head), and can easily see out of the windows.
  • Is there enough space above your head so you don’t hit the ceiling if the driver takes a bump too fast?
  • Will you be able to talk to the driver and any other passengers?
  • Will your carer be able to get to you if you need assistance of any kind while you’re underway?
  • Ideally, you should be positioned in front of the rear wheels or the ride can be very uncomfortable. This may not be possible in some smaller vehicles.
  • If you have uncontrolled movements, make sure you are not too close to un-padded parts of the car.

Getting in and out

  • Make sure that you, or whoever is helping you, can get you in and out and can safely and easily operate any equipment.
  • Make sure that you and your wheelchair will fit along the entry and exit route without getting stuck.
  • Some wheelchair accessible vehicle users place stickers on the ramp or somewhere else on the vehicle to help guide them into the right position when they are getting in.

Space

  • Think about who will be traveling with you.
  • Often, some of the rear passenger seats need to be removed to make enough space to get the wheelchair in – sometimes they’re replaced with folding or smaller seats.
  • Think about where you’ll stow, and how you’ll secure, any luggage or equipment you’ll be carrying. You can’t use the space behind the wheelchair travelling position – it has to be clear for you to get in and out.
  • Some wheelchair accessible vehicle users carry their extra luggage in roof boxes or trailers. Note that most wheelchair accessible vehicles cannot be used to pull a trailer because of the way the rear of the vehicle has been modified.

The 2015 Local Heroes Contest Begins Next Week

NEMEDA Local Hero Contest – Enter or Vote Today!

May Is National Mobility Awareness Month

Join the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) in celebrating the 4th annual National Mobility Awareness Month. During this amazing promotion, they encourage people with disAbilities to embody the spirit of Life Moving Forward by raising awareness of the many life-changing mobility vehicle solutions available today.

NMEDA and their members are mobility advocates dedicated to changing the lives of those living with disAbilities by providing access to quality handicap accessible vehicles and adaptive equipment. Whether you are living with a disAbility or have dedicated your time to helping someone who is, they want to hear your story of perseverance and strength. Once the promotion begins, tell them what makes you, or your loved one, a Local Hero for a chance to win a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle.

This year they will be giving away 4 handicap accessible vehicles:

  • one to a caregiver
  • one to a senior (60+)
  • one that is battery powered (for in-town driving only)
  • one in the general category.

Find out more about NMEDA and the work they do within the disAbled community and stay tuned for this year’s events!

You can summit your stories on April 15, 2015.
Voting for your favorite Local Hero story will begin on May 1 and end on May 31.

Over 18 million people in North America are living with restrictive mobility issues. This is your chance to change the lives of just a few of those triumphing in the face of adversity.

The Importance of Regular Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Maintenance

Whether it’s an oil change or tire rotation, regularly servicing your wheelchair accessible vehicle can help save you time and money, as well as keep you safe on the road. Just as our bodies begin to show the signs of aging, cars, SUVs and vans also can experience diminished performance as time passes. Due to this natural process, it’s vital to get your vehicle checked out by professionals in order to ensure your vehicle’s longevity.

Save Money
While most things wear over time, regular maintenance can significantly decrease the chances of a major problem later on. Preventative and scheduled services are normally small and inexpensive jobs, and can also preserve resale value, saving you even more money.

Save Time
A major breakdown not only costs thousands of dollars, it can also put your vehicle out of working condition for weeks. The worse the damage is, the longer it will likely take a mechanic to get your van or car ready for the road again. Even if the downtime for your car isn’t more than a few hours, a breakdown on the road can be particularly difficult for people with limited mobility operating or riding in the vehicle.

Protect Yourself
Not only does maintenance and regular service save you time and money, it’s an important way to ensure you are safe inside your vehicle.

A wheelchair accessible or other adaptive vehicle can mean the difference between social freedom and considerable limitations. Take care of the investment in your freedom by following regular maintenance schedules and ensuring your ride is in the best shape possible!

Options For Driving From A Wheelchair

There are two options for a person who uses a wheelchair to drive an accessible vehicle. They can drive from their wheelchair and or transfer to the driver’s seat.

Drive from your wheelchair
Driving controls can be adapted to operate from your wheelchair. Usually this means some form of hand controls, though other solutions are possible. There will also be an automatic docking system to secure your wheelchair. All of this will be designed around you and your wheelchair as part of your assessment from an experienced mobility installer.

Safety

  • Because you have the opportunity to travel by yourself, you need to be sure you are able to get out in an emergency.
  • Typically wheelchair accessible vehicle have fail-safe devices for the doors, ramps/lifts and docking systems. These include battery backups and manual over-rides.

Other drivers

  • In many wheelchair accessible vehicles, the front passenger seat can be switched to the drivers side, and there is a docking system on both sides so you can travel as a passenger.

Assessment and training

  • If you’re going to be using adapted controls, you will need a professional driving assessment and training.

Transfer to the Driver’s Seat
Some wheelchair users prefer to transfer to a driving seat because they find it more comfortable or easier to drive. Sometimes it’s necessary because your wheelchair may not be suitable for driving. Using the standard car seat also means that you don’t need to fit a specialist seat belt.

By contrast, transferring into the driver seat may not be suitable if you have a specialist seating system in your wheelchair and may be difficult if you have limited mobility.

Wheelchair accessible vehicles can be adapted to allow you to enter with your wheelchair or scooter (by ramp or lift), secure the wheelchair or scooter in the vehicle, and then transfer to the driving seat. You can replace the standard car seat with one that swivels and slides so that you can transfer into it more easily.

Safety

  • You will need a docking system for securing the wheelchair – you need to be able to do this by yourself.
  • Because you may be traveling by yourself, you need to be sure you will be able to get out in an emergency.

Transferring

  • Transferring between the wheelchair and the seat does take some effort – make sure you can do it even on a bad day.
  • Make sure there is enough room in the vehicle to let you transfer comfortably and that there are handholds and supports where you need them. You may need to fit extra hand rails or other supports.

Assessment and training

  • If you’re going to be using adapted controls, you will need a professional driving assessment and training.

How To Choose A Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

When you’re choosing a wheelchair accessible vehicle, you need to think not only about all the same things you do when you’re choosing a standard car, but also other, more specific, things too. Just as when you’re choosing any other car, you may need to compromise and decide which features are most important to you.

Things To Consider

Size

  • Will it fit on your driveway or in your garage? Don’t forget you need to think about the space required for the ramp/lift to be deployed
  • Will it be easy to drive in traffic and on the roads you normally drive on?

Money

  • What’s the price?
  • If you’re buying it yourself, what’s the resale value likely to be?
  • What will it cost you to insure?
  • What’s the fuel consumption like?

Comfort and convenience

  • Can you get in and out easily?
  • Can you use the controls?
  • Is it quiet and smooth when you’re driving?
  • Is there good visibility for everyone in the vehicle?

Space

  • Is there room for all the people and luggage you want to carry?
  • What about times when you might want to carry a lot of luggage or equipment (ex. holidays)?

Features

  • Does it have everything you need?
  • What about air conditioning, automatic transmission, electric windows, remote start, heated seats, etc?

Performance

  • Does it give you reasonable speed and acceleration?
  • What about braking, ride and handling?

Specific considerations

Getting in and out

  • Will you choose a ramp or a lift?
  • Will you have someone to assist you?
  • Can you get in and out without hitting your head or having to duck?

Traveling position

  • Where will your wheelchair sit?
  • Will you be able to see out of the windows?
  • Will you be able to talk to other people easily?

Safety

  • How will you secure yourself and your wheelchair?
  • How will you secure any equipment you use to get in and out?
  • How will you secure anything else (unattended wheelchair, luggage, equipment, etc)?

Reliability

  • Can you rely on the equipment you use to get in and out?
  • What happens if it breaks down?
  • Are there manual over-rides for any powered equipment?
  • Do you have a suitable dealer nearby for servicing?

Build quality

  • Different conversions have been built to different standards, so some will be more comfortable and less noisy inside than others.

Ready To Sell You Wheelchair Van? Make sure Its Ready To Be Bought!

If you’re trying to sell your wheelchair accessible vehicle by yourself, you should know the average mobility vehicle could take a few months to sell. The number of people with limited mobility in one local area who are in the market to purchase can be very small. Add to that the specialized equipment on your van that a potential buyer may not want, and the weeks roll by (and you’re still making payments on the old van).

The fastest deal is at a local mobility dealership. We buy and sell new and used vans throughout New England, take trade-ins, buy vehicle outright and/or can put them on consignment—whether it’s a non-converted vehicle or a converted van.

In order to get the best offer (or trade-in value), you should make sure its in “buying condition”.

Look at the vehicle with fresh eyes—like a buyer would. Ask yourself, “Would I buy this vehicle?”

  • If something needs repairing, fix it. A small investment can add hundreds to the value.
  • Wash it, wax it or take it to a detailer for a shine, inside and out. Maybe you only need to wash it and perhaps buy new floor mats.
  • Write down vehicle information such as year, make, model, interior and exterior colors and mileage; VIN number; side or rear entry, configuration of the interior of the van; standard features; removable features and any other adaptive extras.
  • Double check safety features: Are the tie-downs still sturdy and clean? Does the lift or ramp still operate smoothly?
  • Consider replacing the tires if they are bald.
  • Take out all personal items you may want to keep.
  • Find the registration, warranty, owner’s manual, equipment manuals and repair receipts.
  • All controls should be clearly labeled—and work!

Now you’re ready to sell or trade-in for a newer model.

Wheelchair Securement Systems

Securing a person and their wheelchair inside a wheelchair accessible vehicle isn’t much fun, especially if you do it several times a day, but it can be a lifesaver in the event of an accident or sudden stop. “Wheelchair tie-downs,” “wheelchair docking systems” and “wheelchair tie-down straps” are systems used to secure a wheelchair when in motion.

Although most securement systems have a universal design to accommodate almost all wheelchairs, it is important to understand the different kinds.

The three main types of wheelchair tie-downs are non-retractable tie-downs, retractable tie-downs and electric/automatic docking systems.

  • The non-retractable strap is a 4-point system. It is the most basic and the least expensive. You must get the wheelchair into the right position to tighten and release the straps. Since the straps do not retract into a housing, they can get in the way.
  • The simple-to-use retractable tie-down offers a tie-down on four points of the wheelchair and four straps. “Retractable” means that the strap retracts into a housing where it can be tightened and/or released.
  • Automatic docking systems are more popular and allow the wheelchair to be secured just by pushing it into a pre-determined position. The wheelchair slides into position and locks automatically. For wheelchair users who are driving, these systems are required for them to be able to secure their wheelchair without assistance.

A variety of add-ons and options are available, including:

  • Audible and visual indicators which advise when the passenger is secure
  • Automatic, self-locking allows one-handed hook-up of wheelchairs
  • Self-tensioning – retractors automatically take up the slack

Some companies that make securement systems include EZ Lock, Q’Straint and Sure-Lok. For more companies call or visit your local mobility equipment dealer.

How To Have A Comfortable & Safe Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle In Winter

We’re sure there’s no need to remind you, given the freezing temperatures outside, but winter is in full effect. During this season, keeping warm is an absolute top priority to both stay comfortable and safe. Whereas summer makes driving feel like a blast, winter might mean your accessible vehicle is taking on some damage you might not even know about.

Frozen seats, iced over windows and cold air are only some of the effects you’ll be experiencing unless you make sure to follow these helpful tips. With proper preparation, your wheelchair van doesn’t have feel like a refrigerator.

How to stay safe in your wheelchair accessible vehicle:

  • Always keep spare hats, gloves, blankets and extra layers in your wheelchair accessible vehicle. Unfortunately, cars break and, if it happens to you, having these extra essentials will make your wait for help bearable or even life-saving.
  • Make sure to keep at least half a tank of gas at all times. This helps weigh down your car in icy conditions and also prevents running out of fuel while lost or stuck in the snow.
  • Check your antifreeze levels weekly or bi-weekly for any potential leaks. You would much rather find one in your garage than learn about it on the road when your engine stops.
  • Switch your windshield wiper fluid to cold weather formula ASAP. Summer formula is great in the heat, but it’ll freeze during winter and either clog the pipes or ice over your windshield when sprayed.
  • Especially for those in a wheelchair, an extra-long/telescopic ice scraper will do wonders in creating maximum visibility. Don’t forget to clean the roof as well, which will prevent a pile of snow from hitting the car behind you.
  • Store an emergency cell phone battery in the glove box for when you’re potentially lost or stranded. Just make sure to keep the battery charged!

How to stay warm:

  • There’s no reason not to enjoy heated seats even if your accessible vehicle wasn’t installed with them. Pick up aftermarket seat warmers to provide both heat and additional support for your back and hips.
  • Stop by your local hardware store to grab a can of silicone spay. A quick spray along the window and door cracks will help prevent moisture buildup, which means your doors won’t freeze shut overnight.
  • Use steering wheel covers to help insulate your hands and also provide extra grip for slippery conditions.
  • Switch your heat settings over to recirculate the interior air. This reheats the already hot air instead of pulling in cold air from the outside. During the summer, always keep air coming in from the outside to cool the engine. But during the winter, the air inside does the job just fine.
  • Starting at around $100, you can install an aftermarket remote car starter. Now you can start and pre-heat your acessible vehicle from the comfort of your living room, just remember to set your dials accordingly each time you leave your car.
  • And of course, sip on some delicious coffee or tea from an insulated container.

Applying these ideas will help keep you comfy and safe during the harsh winter months. Always make sure to drive safe; and smile, because spring is just around the corner.

What To Consider When Shopping For A Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

If you have a disAbility and don’t yet have an accessible vehicle, it’s difficult to know where to start. You’ve worked with your doctor and therapist, maybe even a certified driver rehabilitation specialist (CDRS), but they don’t know your budget, your preferred car or van, or where the nearest mobility dealer is.

Your medical team will help, of course, but you have homework to do:

Set a budget
How much can you afford to pay for a new or used wheelchair van? Figure in the down payment, monthly payment, insurance, gas and an estimate for yearly maintenance. Look for rebates, grants, loans, etc. to help reduce the price tag.

Research, research, research
Your doctor or therapist may recommend necessary adaptive equipment, but there may be other equipment you’d like. Check out the many options available now.

Testing, testing
If you can, test drive different vehicles at the mobility dealership to get the feel of spaciousness, ease or difficulty of loading, driving and parking, etc.

As you narrow the choices down, you might want to rent your top choice for a weekend or week-long trip. Time on the road will determine if the make and model are right for you.

Ask yourself these questions

  • Does it fit lengthwise and width-wide in my driveway or garage?
  • Is there space enough for the ramp or lift to deploy?
  • Can I easily reach and work all the controls?
  • If you plan to use a transfer seat- Is the seat comfortable? (Like your favorite chair at home—can you sit in it for hours and still be comfortable?)

There are many factors to consider that you may not have thought about until you test drive several candidates.

Find a mobility dealer
You will need to find an expert on wheelchair accessible vehicles and adaptive equipment. There are some things to consider when searching for the perfect mobility dealer to assist you.

  • Where are they located?
  • How experienced are they?
  • Do they offer a full-service shop?
  • How many vehicle options do they have available?

Renting A Wheelchair Van

There are 3 key points that everyone looking to rent a wheelchair van should be aware of.

  • Rentals can be delivered – even to airports
    Having your vehicle with you is not always an option. Wheelchair van rentals just may be the right thing to make your travels, business functions, and more, easier.
  • Rentals come in both minivans and full-sized vans
    Wheelchair vans are rented for more reasons than vacation travel. Transportation for bigger chairs or multiple people may facilitate the need for different vans for different situations. Depending on your rental location, you have the option to rent either a full-size van or a mini-van.
  • Rental vehicles can be a good way to find the right vehicle for you
    Test drives are critical for determining what vehicle is right for you, but what if you want to make sure the vehicle will work perfectly for your day-to-day routine? Rent the wheelchair van! Renting different vehicles may help you truly determine what ramp style, vehicle type, or door height will give you the best results for your daily routine.

 

The Pros and Cons of Private Transportation

The Pros of Private Transportation
Having your own accessible vehicle can offer you the ease of being able to travel at any time to any place. It can also give you peace of mind that if there should ever be an emergency where you need to reach the hospital or simply return home, you would be able to do so immediately. Your own vehicle could also accommodate the exact needs of your family. If you need a wheelchair accessible vehicle, this can be altered to perfectly fit the size of the individual wheelchair.

The Cons of Private Transportation
The downside to your own transport is of course the cost and maintenance of a vehicle. However, there are many providers of good quality second hand/used vehicles which can save on costs. Wheelchair permit holders will further benefit from being able to park their vehicle for in a more convenient location. If you or your child has limited mobility then this can be a real plus point.

Six-Month Maintenance on Accessible Vehicles

Every vehicle needs maintenance on a periodic basis, and a wheelchair-accessible vehicle is no exception. Do you take your van to a regular mechanic occasionally for oil changes and tune-ups and then a mobility dealer for the adaptive equipment check-up every six months?

Going to two different places when you don’t need to is poor time management. For smooth operation of your time, vehicle and adaptive equipment, skip the mechanic and take it to a us – we can do both in just one trip.

We have the training and experience needed to maintain and repair complicated, high-tech systems and controls installed in modern wheelchair accessible vans and the expertise in dozens of features that a regular mechanic is not trained to repair.

Accessible Valentine’s Day Ideas

For some, Valentine’s Day is a special day spent with a significant other, but loved family members and friends also make for a great reason to spend time with people you care about. With a mobility vehicle, there are endless possibilities when it comes to planning the perfect day with those closest to you. The following are a few date night ideas your wheelchair van can get you to and that are handicap accessible.

See a Show
Many local theatres and movie theaters run special shows or engagements on Valentine’s Day. Specially designed ramps are common and make for a great evening supporting local arts programs or just having an enjoyable time. Make sure to purchase tickets in advance and arrive early for preparation.

Plan a Romantic Dinner
Restaurants are booming on February 14 and, with a little planning, you can relish in an evening on the town. By using Google and/or Yelp! (which offers wheelchair accessible information), you can easily book a reservation for a handicap accessible table.

Leisurely Stroll in a Park
You can research ahead of time for events at local parks for a special evening with the whole family or a significant other. Festivals with crafts, food and music while walking under the stars would make a magical night on easy terrain. Your wheelchair accessible car can find a spot in the lot while you find one in a field or arena using available ramps.

Try Something New: Find a Drive-In Theater
If you’re looking for a truly unique experience, you can find a drive-in movie theater in your area. Take your wheelchair accessible vehicle and pile the whole family in for an affordable movie and distinct adventure. Enjoy the comfort of your mobility vehicle while you watch movies on the outdoor silver screen.

In all, with enough preparation, your wheelchair van can go anywhere you want with ease for a successful Valentine’s Day date.

Find Financial Resources for Your Mobility Needs

Far too often, you find it hard to afford many of the tools and resources that you need in everyday life. For that reason, there are several alternative ways to get funding that will ensure that you get the assistance you need to live a hassle-free life without worrying about breaking the bank.

Here are a few sources of financial assistance to look into if you are finding it hard to cover all of your mobility expenses.

Medicare:
Usually offered only through private companies, Medicare can be a good option for certain medical devices and equipment and is based on your medical necessity for the goods or services you may need help with.

Medicaid:
While there is no exclusive list in terms of medical equipment covered, cases are approved on a case-by-case basis. Medicaid is a great option to look into if your expenses and needs aren’t covered by Medicare.

The IRS:
Did you know that certain mobility aids such as adaptive driving equipment can be deducted from your federal taxes? Contact your local tax adviser to see what equipment and supplies you use regularly to see if they can be deducted.

State Programs:
Check with your state’s vocational rehabilitation agencies to see if your mobility needs are approved for financial assistance. If any of it helps you get to work or perform your job efficiently, you may be covered here. Aside from that, you may also want to check out your local Center for Independent Living to see if they have any other resources that you can look into for financial assistance.

Vehicle-Related:
If you’ve recently had any adaptive equipment or ramps installed in your vehicle—or, for that matter, if you’ve recently purchased wheelchair van—there are some dealerships that will reimburse you for such things. Check with your local mobility-friendly dealership to learn more.

With these resources at your disposal, you can hopefully stop worrying about money and focus more on living a stress-free life where your mobility needs are easily met.

Wheelchair Tie Downs Systems

When deciding what type of seating you need for driving, it’s important to know all of your options before choosing. Accessible vehicles usually can accommodate two types of seating options: wheelchair tie downs, where the driver stays in their wheelchair while in the vehicle; and transfer seat bases, which are installed to allow easy transferring from the wheelchair to the front seat. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the driver’s needs.

Wheelchair Tie Downs
For people who have trouble transfering, Wheelchair Tie-Downs and Occupant Restraints Systems are used. The most common type of Wheelchair Tie-Down is the manual four-point system, consisting of four straps that attach to the wheelchair and the van floor. These tie-downs are very effective and can secure a wide range of wheelchair types, but they require that another person to attach and tighten the straps.

Wheelchair frames should include four easily accessible brackets for attaching the tie-down straps. If the wheelchair does not have designated strapping points, four structural points on the wheelchair base or seat frame must be identified and used to secure the wheelchair. When using this system, it is very important to ensure the tie-downs are not connected to any movable part of a wheelchair.

There are also electric Wheelchair Tie-Down systems available. The electric restraint system contains an anchored device mounted on the floor of the vehicle and its connecting part mounted to the bottom of the wheelchair. The wheelchair occupant guides the two pieces together, and when they are properly locked, an audible click is heard. Some electric models also contain an alarm system that will have a buzzer or light to indicate the system is not properly locked in place. These systems require the addition of adaptive hardware to the wheelchair for engaging with the docking device mounted to the vehicle floor. No matter the system used to secure a wheelchair and its occupant for travel in vehicle, the wheelchair occupant must always wear a vehicle seat belt and/or shoulder harness to properly secure the wheelchair occupant to the wheelchair, which is in turn securely mounted to the vehicle floor. Most electric restraint systems can be used by the driver alone and only requires one hand to operate.

Securement and restraint systems need to be properly sized and fitted for your type of wheelchair and vehicle.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Repair Shops

When your accessible vehicle needs repairing, where do you take it? After checking the warranty, take it to the place where you bought it. But if you are out of town, have moved or it’s after hours, what do you do? You should know that answer before you need a repair or auto body shop.

Call the company that sold it to you. If they don’t make repairs, they can find a service center near you that works with conversion vehicles.

Check with your insurance company as they often make recommendations or have preferred shops. Get the list and research the shops.

Contact shops and ask if they have quality assurance program training, are members of national organizations such as ASA, I-CAR, are ASE certified and/or are members of NMEDA

  • NMEDA is a non-profit trade association of mobility equipment manufacturers, dealers, driver rehabilitation specialists, and other professionals dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities and assisting with driving independence using wheelchair accessible vehicles.
  • The non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) conducts a national certification program for automotive technicians. Call 800-ASA-SHOP to see if the shop is a member and if they have any complaints against them.
  • I-CAR is a not-for-profit international training organization dedicated to improving the quality, safety, and efficiency of auto collision repair. Visit i-car.com.
  • ASA (Automotive Service Association) has a database of repair facility members nationwide. Visit asashop.org or call 800-272-7467.

Other tips:

  • Ask friends, neighbors and associates who they use. They will recommend a good shop or warn you away from not-so-good shops.
  • Call the Better Business Bureau.
  • Get the estimate in writing, not just over the phone.
  • Ask about a warranty on the work.
  • Google local repair shops

Financing A Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

One of the top reasons people with disAbilities don’t own adequate transportation is because they cannot afford it. The good news is there are a variety of options to consider when you’re looking for financing to purchase a wheelchair accessible vehicle. Don’t hesitate to do your homework and pursue all the possibilities that might be available out there. In addition to the traditional financing sources available from a vehicle dealership you may also want to consider:

Third Party Sources
There are numerous nonprofit groups and funding programs that can provide funding for a wheelchair accessible vehicle. But you will need to do your research to find out who can help. For example, the Muscular Dystrophy Family Foundation might be able to help if you have Muscular Dystrophy or United Cerebral Palsy may be able to assist with resources if you have Cerebral Palsy. Other philanthropic groups like the Masons, the Jaycees, and Easter Seals may provide assistance, as well.

The PASS Program
If you are on Social Security Income (SSI), you may want to take a look at the PASS Program. PASS stands for Plan to Achieve Self Success and is a program that provides the resources to help you reach a predetermined goal. For example, if you said you needed a wheelchair accessible vehicle to get to work or to attend school, the money for the vehicle would be provided each month to cover the payments.

Fundraisers
They may not be for everyone, but they can be effective and many people have successfully raised the money to pay for a wheelchair accessible vehicle with a fundraiser. Fundraising events can be held by family, friends, schools, churches, just about anyone who can rally a group of people together to work and contribute towards your cause.

Vocational Rehabilitation
Assistance will vary depending on where you live but the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services in your state may be able to help pay for the modifications to your vehicle. Many of the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) may also offer financial assistance.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles: MPG

As gas can be a bit of challenge to get for drivers with disAbilities, you’ll want to make sure your wheelchair accessible vehicle can get all the mileage possible before stopping to refuel. Below is a list of some vehicles that are great for conversions and their respective mileages to help you choose which is best for your needs.

  • Wheelchair Accessible Toyota Sienna FWD  3.5L – 23 mpg highway, 17 mpg city
  • Wheelchair Accessible Honda Odyssey FWD 3.5L – 23 mpg highway, 16 mpg city
  • Wheelchair Accessible Dodge Grand Caravan FWD SE 3.3L – 24 mpg highway, 17 mpg city
  • Wheelchair Accessible Dodge Grand Caravan FWD 3.3L V6 – 25 mpg highway, 18 mpg city
  • Wheelchair Accessible Chrysler Town & Country FWD 3.3L – 24 mpg highway, 17 mpg city
  • Wheelchair Accessible Scion XB FWD 2.4L – 28 mpg highway, 22 mpg city
  • Wheelchair Accessible Ford Transit Connect – 25 mpg highway

Adaptive and Accessible Wintertime Activities

The colder months have a tendency to leave us feeling sluggish and craving extended naps. Although getting enough sleep is important for all of us, keeping our bodies and minds active, especially in the winter when our bodies are running slower, is essential. Here are a few ideas to keep you engaged this holiday season.

Change It Up
Don’t fall into the Netflix void this winter. While the online streaming service can help you host the perfect movie night, complete with hot chocolates and warm blankets, you know what they say about too much of a good thing.

Learn Something New
Master your camera’s manual functions or brush up on your own cooking skills by adding a few new recipes to your repertoire. With endless video tutorials and online resources, winter is the perfect time to pick up a new skill.

Out and About
Just because the temperature’s dropped doesn’t mean you have to be stuck indoors. If you have access to a wheelchair accessible car or van, you can go check out that new restaurant you’ve been eyeing, go explore a museum or even attend a play or concert. Some zoos even offer indoor exhibits. If you are in the mood for something a bit wilder, get out and discover all your city and neighboring towns have to offer.

Stay Active
Staying active doesn’t mean spending hours upon hours at the gym. Joining a bowling league or going for a stroll or ride around the neighborhood on days when the snow’s cleared can help you keep yourself warm this winter. You can also check with your local YMCA or other recreational centers to see if they offer accessible swim sessions or wheelchair basketball or wheelchair rugby leagues. If they don’t, talk to management about starting your own!

How To Make Your Wheelchair Vehicle Ready To Sell or Trade

If you’re trying to sell your wheelchair accessible vehicle by yourself, you should know the average mobility vehicle could take a few months to sell. The number of people with mobility challenges in one local area who are in the market to purchase can be very small. Add to that the specialized equipment on your van that a potential buyer may not want, and the weeks roll by (and you’re still making payments on the old van).

The quickest deal is at a local mobility dealership. Many buy and sell new and used vans nationwide and take trade-ins, buy outright or on consignment—whether it’s a non-converted vehicle or a converted van.

You want to get the best offer (or trade-in value), so before taking the family transportation to a dealership, have a friend help clean it up if it is too big of a task for you.

Look at the vehicle with fresh eyes—like a buyer would. Ask yourself, “Would I buy this vehicle?”

  • If something needs repairing, fix it. A small investment can add hundreds to the value.
  • Wash it, wax it or get it detailed for a shine, inside and out. Maybe you only need to wash it and perhaps buy new floor mats.
  • Write down vehicle information such as year, make, model, interior and exterior colors and mileage; VIN number; side or rear entry, configuration of the interior of the van; standard features; removable features and any other adaptive extras.
  • Double check safety features: Are the tie-downs still sturdy and clean? Does the lift or ramp still operate smoothly?
  • Consider replacing the tires if they are bald.
  • Take out all personal items you may want to keep.
  • Find the registration, warranty, owner’s manual, equipment manuals and repair receipts.
  • All controls should be clearly labeled—and work!

Now you’re ready to sell or trade-in for a newer model.

Benefits Of Owning A Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

With adaptive technologies emerging each year, mobility vehicles have become more powerful than ever before. These handicap solutions have changed the lives of countless persons with disAbilities and helped alleviate some of the everyday challenges of just as many caregivers. If you’ve been considering the addition of a wheelchair accessible vehicle to your family, here are three ways in which owning a handicap van or car can empower you and transform your entire life.

Safety
Whether you’re a person with a disAbility, a dedicated caregiver or an able-bodied family member, safety is a universal concern and one of the main benefits of owning a vehicle designed for adaptive use. Besides power wheelchair lifts and transfer seating options, these vehicles are built to be used by persons with limited mobility, meaning they have been modified to be a secure transportation solution. Additionally, the high-quality equipment used in handicap van conversions reduces the risk of injury while getting in and out of the vehicle, as well as transferring from a wheelchair to a built-in seat. With wheelchair ties, in-floor ramps and alternative restraint options, a wheelchair accessible van can provide the added safety you need to feel confident on the road.

Freedom
For many people, owning a mobility vehicle means having the freedom to be able to go anywhere, any time. Often, persons with physical disAbilities are able to operate a handicap accessible car or van independently, without the need to have a caregiver help them in and out of the vehicle. Thanks to lifts, ramps and transfer seats, as well as hand controls and other conversion options, wheelchair vans have helped countless individuals regain their freedom after an injury or due to a medical condition, transforming their lives for the better.

Accessibility and Ease of Use
Automatic ramp systems, in-floor ramp technology, low-effort steering and many other adaptive conversion possibilities make operating mobility vehicles simple and convenient. This accessibility not only makes these vehicles easy to grow accustomed to, it also prevents injuries that can occur if the proper equipment is not utilized. Practicality and usability are two huge benefits of owning a wheelchair accessible vehicle, as they make getting from point A to point B a seamless and enjoyable process.

Ready to begin your search for the perfect wheelchair accessible vehicle? Contact us or your local NMEDA dealer today to discuss the purchasing process and the best options for your needs.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle: Seating Options

There are many options you will need to consider when purchasing a wheelchair accessible vehicle, especially if you are a first time buyer. It’s our job to make the process easier.

There are several seating options to consider; first, you and your family or your caregiver will need to decide where you want to or are going to sit. This depends on whether you are going to drive from your wheelchair and/or if you are going to be a passenger.

Knowing if you will be transferred into a seat or if you will remain in your wheelchair while traveling is also an important factor.

Seating in a Side Entry vs. Seating in a Rear Entry

Side Entry

  • Offers both mid-section and front seat options (with tie-downs)
  • There are five passenger seats available for family members in a side entry van.
  • A total of six people can be seated in a side entry wheelchair accessible van.
  • The side entry can comfortable fit a wheelchair or power wheelchair, where as a scooter has a less roomier fit.

Rear Entry

  • Only offers the mid-section to rear of the vehicle (with tie-downs)
  • There are four passenger seats available for family members in a rear entry van.
  • Up to six people can be seated in a rear entry wheelchair accessible van.
  • The rear entry can comfortable fit a wheelchair, power wheelchair or a scooter, but
  • If you have a long wheelchair or scooter the rear entry is ideal with over six feet of space, no turning to face forward is necessary.

If you have any questions our Mobility Center can further explain and demonstrate all seating options.

Please feel free to consult us with any additional information you need regarding wheelchair vans and mobility equipment, it’s what we’re here for.

Steer Yourself In The Right Direction To Find The Perfect Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Purchasing or financing a wheelchair accessible vehicle takes time, money and a little bit of research. Because of the many available options when it comes to handicap vehicles, and the investment they require, knowing where to start your search is crucial and can shape the entire process. NMEDA member dealers work with individuals with disAbilities, as well as their caregivers and families, to ensure we steer you in the direction of the perfect vehicle for you. Here are a few useful tips and resources:

Go to the Pros
By going straight to a NMEDA members dealership, like ourselves, you’ll be sure that you’re getting the best possible care and attention, as well as professional service. All dealerships are required to adhere to strict quality standards under our Quality Assurance Program and, will provide you with the best solutions for your specific needs. Starting your search at a NMEDA dealer near you means you are sure you get behind the wheel of a handicap vehicle that’s right for you.

Establish Your Needs
Who will be the vehicle’s primary driver? Will you be driving from a wheelchair, transferring into the vehicle’s seat or transporting a loved one with a disability? Will you need to enter and exit the vehicle on your own or will help be nearby? Are you looking for a truck, car, minivan or a SUV? The answers to these questions can help determine what kind of adapted vehicle and equipment you need before diving into inventory listings.

Know Your Budget
We know that one of the most difficult parts of purchasing a new vehicle is making sure the cost is within your means. When it comes to finding a wheelchair accessible or adaptive vehicle, there are more options than you might realize. There are several state and government organizations in place to help get you the car you need.

How To Make Your Wheelchair Van More Affordable

A wheelchair van can provide a little freedom for a person with a disAbility or someone caring for a loved one with mobility limitations. It’s hard to put a price on the freedom these vehicles can provide, however the fact remains that vans, conversions and specialized equipment all come with some costs. Fortunately, there are a number of ways that make these vehicles more affordable and get you one step closer to driving independence.

Search for Used Vans
Finding a used wheelchair accessible van in good condition might sound like a dream, but it is far from impossible. With a little research and some patience, you might be able to find a vehicle that works for your needs, at a discounted price. Many mobility dealerships take used vans as trade-ins for resale and some manufacturers will even install brand new wheelchair conversions in the pre-owned vehicles. Certain dealerships also sell rental vans that have been retired after a year of use. While a used van can be a great deal, it’s important to still consult with a qualified mobility equipment dealer, as these vehicles might not have the exact equipment to fit your needs.

Update Your Current Van
If your vehicle is still in relatively good condition but needs a few adjustments to make it more accessible for you and your loved ones, an update could be an affordable alternative to purchasing a new van. Talk to your local mobility dealer about updating your adaptive equipment and you could be on your way to saving a few thousand dollars!

Contact Local Organizations
If you need extra help funding a new handicap vehicle, a local chapter or organization working to help those with your particular disabilities might be able to help. While these groups might not be able to provide a large amount of money to fund your vehicle purchase, they might be able to provide you with helpful community resources or at least help coordinate fundraising activities.

Benefits of Owning an Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Safety
Safety is a universal concern for people with disAbilities and their caregivers. Many caregivers experience chronic back and joint pain from years of wheelchair lifts. And far too often there are stories of people fearful of loading and unloading their wheelchairs. Mobility vehicles are designed with a dedication to safety. Not only do ramp systems remove the liability, wear and tear and exhaustion of a lift, but brands like VMI adhere to the safety standards and qualifications of original equipment manufacturers like Honda, Toyota, Chrysler and Dodge.

A vehicle conversion from a company like VMI must maintain and provide the same safety ratings, post-conversion, as it did when the original model was created. That means collision safety and design is held to a very high standard. So there’s simply no reason to risk your personal safety or the livelihood of your passengers in an outdated vehicle.

Independence
If the daunting process of wheelchair lifts and transports kept you from leaving home in the past or the frustration of coordinating shuttles and third party transportation limits your lifestyle, look no further.

Mobility vehicles empower opportunity and independence. Frankly, when transportation is a possibility  rather than a limitation, the world gets a whole lot larger. Independent wheelchair users with reliable mobility vehicles hold the power to call the shots on their own life. They can drive where they need to, how they want to, when they want to. A mobility vehicle isn’t just a mechanism to take you from point A to B; A mobility vehicle is an entryway to possibility.

Increased Space and Flexibility
Most modern mobility vehicles feature side-entry and front door benefits which allow an array of seating arrangements and interior flexibility. With such added space, nearly any wheelchair — even power chairs — can fit in the cabin while still leaving room for the rest of the family.

Vehicles such as VMI’s Toyota Sienna Access360 have been engineered to promote a full range of motion and maneuverability for power chairs inside the vehicle, eliminating the need to hastily rearrange and remove seats for transports. Obstruction-free doorways and head clearance also pave the way for an enjoyable transition to and from the vehicle.

Simplicity and Ease-of-Use
Whether you are a caregiver or an independent wheelchair user, mobility vehicles have practical answers.

Through the addition of manual ramp systems and automated, in-floor ramp technology, transportation doesn’t have to remain a daily hassle.  Life often throws bigger dilemmas our way. Mobility vehicles make sure transportation isn’t one of those.

The Northstar E by VMI is a great example of a vehicle that was engineered with simplicity and ease-of-use at the forefront of its design. Caregivers can easily remove the vehicle’s ramp system without physical strain or contemplation. The process is intuitive and quick. Loading and unloading a van can be easily accomplished in a matter of minutes without sacrificing time or energy for the caregiver and loved one.

Mobility vehicles can even be outfitted with aftermarket additions such as remote start and keyless entry to  further simplify the transportation situation for independent wheelchair users and caregivers.

Things You Should Know Before Renting a Wheelchair Accessible Van

Whether your own wheelchair accessible vehicle is undergoing repairs or modifications or you’re testing the adaptive automobile waters before taking the plunge with the purchase of one, renting a Wheelchair Accessible Van is an affordable, convenient and comfortable way of improving your mobility.

If you’re looking to rent this type of vehicle, these are some good tips to keep in mind.

How Much Does It Cost To Rent A Handicap Van?
If you’re all about saving your pennies, there are many ways to reduce the cost of renting a wheelchair accessible van. Here are just a few:

  • Avoid renting an accessible vehicle airport. Enjoy lower taxes and minimal fees by going to a dealer or rental agency outside the airport grounds.
  • Reserve online whenever possible to take advantage of special offers.
  • Fill up the tank before returning the vehicle. More often than not, this will be less expensive than paying the fill-up fee or pre-paying for gas at the rental agency.
  • Don’t double up on insurance. If your personal auto insurance already covers you for rentals, make sure you don’t sign up for redundant coverage.

Where to Go
Many mobility dealers maintain a fleet of accessible cars or conversion vans for rental purposes. Identify and contact the location nearest you to find out if they have handicap vehicles available to meet your needs. There are also a number of companies that specialize in accessible rental vehicles.

When to Rent
A wheelchair accessible van or car can transform the lives of people with disabilities or temporary mobility impairment. Renting a wheelchair accessible vehicle can be particularly helpful when:

  • Your current wheelchair accessible vehicle requires repairs or maintenance over a period of multiple days.
  • You’re going on a road trip or long ride – a rented wheelchair accessible vehicle can make these much more comfortable. Even if you own a wheelchair accessible vehicle, you might still consider renting a vehicle in order to avoid putting the mileage and wear on your own van.
  • A loved one or family member with a disability visits. If you don’t own an accessible vehicle, renting a wheelchair accessible vehicle can facilitate transporting your friends and family.

Roadside Assistance for Drivers with DisAbilities

Getting stuck on the side of the road due to a vehicle malfunction can be a major inconvenience and can keep you from achieving your goals for the day. For a person with a disAbility driving an adaptive or wheelchair accessible vehicle, this inconvenience can quickly become a big problem.

Coverage
Make sure you select coverage that follows you from vehicle to vehicle. In other words, even if you are driving a rental or a family member’s car, under this coverage, you will be entitled to roadside assistance.

Towing
Finding out the details in advance when it comes to towing can make a significant difference if you ever find yourself stranded. Will they provide an accessible vehicle for transportation? Will they tow your vehicle to a dealership or to the place of your choosing, such as a repair shop? What are the mileage limits? These are all questions you’ll need the answers to prior to settling on a provider, as they will determine the efficiency of the service.

Additional Services
From help locating hotels to maps and directions, roadside assistance plans can come bundled with a wide variety of additional services. Analyze the plans the provider offers to make sure you’re only paying for the services you might need to use.

Something to Think About
If you are a wheelchair user who drives his or her own vehicle, you might want to consider choosing a provider that caters specifically to persons with disAbilities.

 Drivers with or without disAbilities should consider purchasing a roadside assistance program to protect them in the event of an unforeseen vehicle malfunction. Determining the best option for you may be tricky, but keeping these things in mind may make the decision a bit easier.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles: Q&A

Wheelchair
Accessible Vans

Rear entry Vs. Side entry
Buying New Vs. Buying Used
Manual Ramp Vs. Powered Ramp
Honda Vs. Dodge/Chrysler Vs. Toyota Vs. Ford
Certified Mobility Dealer Vs. Car Dealer Vs. Buying online
What do you need to know to get maximum benefit for minimum expense?

Good information is the key to saving money and getting the most value for the dollar when making a big-ticket purchase like a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

With that in mind, Seek out and find experts who truly care. Here are some answers to common questions about adaptive mobility equipment.

Can I just go to a car dealer down the street or do I need a certified mobility dealer?

Certified mobility dealers will help you buy the right vehicle and adaptive mobility equipment to meet your needs now and in the future. Future planning is especially important for people with muscle diseases that get progressively worse over time.

“Technology has improved tremendously over the years so there are numerous products available. Our goal is to help people find the right equipment that best fits their needs,” says Jim Sanders, president of Automotive Innovations based in Bridgewater, MA for over 25 years.

“Many times, consumers will go to a car dealer and buy a vehicle that can’t be modified or one that doesn’t fit their needs. And once you buy a vehicle, normally it’s very difficult to return.”

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), a nonprofit organization that provides consumer guidance and ensures quality and professionalism in the manufacturing and installation of mobility equipment. Members include mobility equipment dealers, manufacturers, driver rehabilitation specialists and other professionals.

NMEDA member-dealers must follow the safety standards established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in addition to NMEDA’s own stringent guidelines.

Some dealers choose to enroll in NMEDA’s Quality Assurance Program (QAP), which requires them to adhere to national motor vehicle safety standards, and use proven quality control practices to yield the highest level of performance and safety. Automotive Innovations was the First Mobility Dealer in Massachusetts to enroll and exceed the safety standards.

“The QAP dealer is audited by an outside engineering firm to verify that technicians have been trained and that the dealer has insurance and make sure the facility is ADA-compliant,” which means the QAP dealer is going above and beyond.

 

Can I get a better price if I buy online rather than from a dealer?

As with any online shopping, the warning “buyer beware” rings true. Buying online without trying out different vehicles with different conversions can be a costly mistake. Furthermore there are many grey market converted vans being offered as quality conversions.

Online, you are mostly shopping blind. Typically you will have no idea how the vehicle you need will work for you, even with specific recommendations from a driver evaluator or occupational therapist.

“You definitely shouldn’t buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle online, most online sellers are not qualified Mobility Dealers attempting to assess your needs, they’re just car dealers trying to sell you something.”

Some online dealers even have questionnaires on their websites to try and give you the idea your getting what you need. But, it will never replace being able to go to a local mobility dealership and try the vans out first hand.

A mobility vehicle is probably the second-largest purchase after a house. You should see it, try it out, and make sure it’s something that will work for you and your family. It’s horrible when people spend so much an a vehicle that will never work for them.

Every vehicle is a little bit different — such as in the dimensions, electrical and fuel systems, or suspension modifications. “If you go online and buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle based on the price, you’re not really looking at the total package.”

While buying online may be able to save you some money up front, it won’t over the long term.

In addition to you missing out on the important local service contact that a mobility equipment dealer provides, these online deals or grey market vans are worth much less when it comes time to trade it in.

 

What are some common mistakes people make when buying a modified vehicle?

Manufacturers and mobility dealers agree that one of the most common — and costly — mistakes is buying the vehicle first and then shopping for the conversion or adaptive mobility equipment. Not all vehicles can be converted.

For example, If you purchase a minivan from a traditional car dealership you can hit a roadblock if it doesn’t meet specific requirements to have the floor lowered for a rear- or side-entry conversion.

 

What are some good questions to ask a dealer or manufacturer?

Although buying a modified vehicle can be “a daunting experience,” says VMI’s Monique McGivney, it also can be “exciting and fun when you walk in armed with good questions and information.”

Prior to getting an assessment from a mobility dealer, evaluate your needs and try answering the following questions:

  • What vehicle will fit in my garage?
  • What kind of parking issues will I encounter where I live?
  • What is the size and weight of my wheelchair?
  • What is my seated height in the wheelchair?
  • How many people will ride in the vehicle?
  • In what part of the vehicle do I want to sit?
  • Will I be able to drive with hand controls?
  • Do I want a full-size van, minivan or alternative vehicle?
  • Do I want manual or power equipment?
  • Will an in-floor ramp or fold-out ramp meet my needs?
  • What is my budget, and do I have access to supplemental funding?

The first question most mobility dealers will ask you is: “What is your seated height in the wheelchair?” From there, the dealer can advise whether a full-size or minivan is appropriate, and what kind of conversion is needed.

Be sure to ask the dealer about the warranty and how the vehicle can be serviced.

Which Make and Model is the best for a handicapped accessible vehicle?

It honestly depends on what you fit into best and what options you prefer.

No two wheelchair accessible vehicles are the same. They vary in size, shape, color, features and design depending on the vehicle’s make and model. The only way to guarantee which is the best vehicle for you is if you come in and try them all out.

For example: The Honda has a little bit more room inside to maneuver a wheelchair than a Dodge, just as a Toyota has a bit more space than a Honda. A Ford offers more headroom than all of the above. But that all depends on the conversion and manufacturer.

Although color and features matter least to us, some find them just as important as fitting into the vehicle. Each Manufacturer offers their own color schemes, which you can look up on their websites. You can also search for what features you would prefer to have.

When you come into our Mobility Center we will help you find the vehicle that best fits you and your family’s needs. If you love the vehicle but not the color or features we can custom order a vehicle for you. That way we know you are buying a vehicle that best fits you and one that you are 100% happy with.

Which is better: rear entry or side entry?

The most important difference between a rear entry and side-entry conversion is that with a rear entry, wheelchair users can’t drive from their wheelchairs nor can they ride in the front passenger seat. From there, the choice comes down to personal preference and budget.

In recent years, because of quality, convenience and cost, there’s been a shift toward side entry vehicles. Rear entry is more of a frugal modification, involves a less of conversion process and is typically a little less expensive than a side-entry conversion.

Many people prefer side entry with an in-floor conversion for many safety reasons additionally  because they can park almost anywhere and not worry deploying the ramp out into traffic. Also, side entry allows the consumer to ride in the passengers front position along with maintain the rear seats in a minivan because the conversion doesn’t affect that area.

Rear entry is harder to get out of compared to a side-entry.

Anyway you look at it side-entry vehicles are more versatile. For example, side entry allows someone with a progressively worsening condition to use the vehicle for a longer period of time. A wheelchair user can start out driving from his or her chair, and then move to several other positions in the vehicle when no longer able to drive.

Side-entry conversions typically are a little more expensive than rear-entry because they’re more intrusive and labor intensive. For example, with a minivan, the entire floor and frame must be removed and replaced with a lowered floor and new frame.


What’s the difference between a fold-out ramp and in-floor ramp?

This decision comes down to safety, aesthetics, convenience and cost.

A fold-out ramp folds up into the vehicle, takes up valuable space in the passengers front area and must be deployed whenever the door is opened.

The in-floor ramp slides under the floor which makes riding in the vehicle safer for anyone seated in the passengers front position or the mid-ship position. There is no obstruction to the doorway so other passengers can enter and exit without deploying the ramp. In-floor ramps are currently only available as a side-entry minivan conversion, but they offer a manual (un-powered) option as well.

In-floor ramps in addition to being safer will generally provide more room in the vehicle because there’s nothing blocking the doorway. The ramp is “out of sight, out of mind” and may last longer because it doesn’t have to be deployed each time the side passenger door opens.

Fold-out ramps generally cost a little less than an in-floor ramp and consumers can select from manual and power versions; a power fold-out ramp still costs less than an in-floor ramp.

If an in-floor ramp system breaks down or the vehicle loses power, VMI’s in-floor ramp systems have a backup system (sure-deploy) that bypasses the vehicle’s battery.

A lot of people just feel more secure knowing there isn’t a fold-out ramp next to them in the event of a accident.

I use a wheelchair, but a van or minivan just isn’t “me.” Are they my only options?

You have other choices.

Lowered-floor conversions with fold-out ramps can be done on the Honda Element, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Toyota Scion. The conversions are small and don’t fit as many people.

Due to them being built on a much smaller scale, the ones we have seen have not been built with the same level of quality as the minivan conversion. Parts availability and repairs have been a problem, some of the companies that converted them are out of business and or have no support for “something they used to build”

If you prefer to keep your standard car rather than purchasing a modified vehicle — and can make the transfer from a wheelchair to a car seat — the answer may be as simple as a set of hand controls or a left foot gas pedal

Turning seats can be used in a wide range of vehicles, from sedans to SUVs and pickup trucks. A way to transport the wheelchair (like a rear lift) also is needed.

The rate at which your symptoms worsen is one thing to consider when looking at turning seats — is it likely you’ll be able to transfer and ride in a car seat for many more years? Also, be sure to check with a mobility dealer to determine if your vehicle can accommodate a turning seat and a wheelchair lift.

Why are modified vehicles so  expensive?

A vehicle conversion can cost consumers upwards of $27,000 —  and that’s just the cost for the conversion, not the vehicle. The total package can run between $45,000 and $80,000 — or more.

Besides the cost of the components, the reason it’s so pricey is that basically there is a lot of work involved to build a quality vehicle.

Modified vehicles from certified manufacturers and dealers must meet NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). That means all modified vehicles must be properly crash tested. (To learn more, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.)

It’s quite a labor-intensive process because of the customization. When you make structural modifications to a vehicle, you have to go through all of the crash testing, and you have to show that the vehicle is compliant again, and those tests are very expensive.

Most of the time lowering the floor in a minivan requires replacing or moving the fuel tank. Once the conversion is finished, the vehicle still has to meet the original requirements for evaporative emissions, in addition to NHTSA requirements.

How can I pay less?

You have  a few options.

You could cut costs by purchasing a pre-owned vehicle with a new conversion, typically saving you around $10,000 to $12,000.

The previous van owner already has absorbed the depreciation hit on a new van, which essentially occurs right after they’ve driven off the dealer’s lot.

Buying used can be beneficial for first-time buyers who want to try out a vehicle for a few years before buying new.

But if you plan to buy used, do some research and make sure the vehicle is structurally sound including the conversion. Ask for a vehicle history (CARFAX) report, and get the vehicle inspected by a mobility dealer to ensure it’s in good shape and was well taken care of.

Another tactic to help save you money is to ask your Certified Mobility Dealer about any rebates or financial aid options that could benefit you.

How do people manage to pay for it?

Many consumers used home equity loans to purchase a vehicle and adaptive equipment.

Many dealers and manufacturers work with lending institutions that offer extended-term financing, including 10-year loans, allowing consumers to make lower, more affordable monthly payments. The downside is that consumers are locked into the vehicle for 10 years, and end up paying more in interest.

If you finance for 10 years, and you’re not going to keep the vehicle for that amount of time, you’re going to lose money when you try to sell or trade it because you haven’t paid off much of the balance.

When you buy a new vehicle, many car manufacturers offer mobility reimbursement programs (up to $1,000) to help offset the cost for the purchase and installation of adaptive equipment.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Heater Malfunctions and Maintenance

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Heater Malfunctions and Maintenance

That first day when the world is coated in frost and the temperature has plummeted below freezing is not the time to find out your wheelchair vans heater is not working. Not only would the inside of your car feel like an ice box, but a broken heater can prevent your defroster from blowing warm air to your windshield to eliminate ice and fog, which can pose a hazard while driving. Not having a working heater could even become a dire situation, if you ever end up stranded.

That is why we recommend that you turn your car heater on long before you really need the heat. If your heater doesn’t respond with a warm blast of air, call and schedule an appointment today.

Causes of a breakdown
Your mobility van heater could stop working for a number of reasons, including:

  • A low antifreeze/water level in the radiator due to a leak in the cooling system.
  • A bad thermostat that isn’t allowing the engine to properly warm up.
  • A blower fan that isn’t working properly.
  • Coolant that contains rust particles or becomes otherwise contaminated and is blocking the heating core from circulating air into the cabin properly.

Depending on the problem, different types of repairs could be required. There really isn’t a heater unit, like a furnace in your house, that you can just replace. It is a combination of different things that provide heat into the vehicle. It’s very difficult to give a cost due to the wide variety of possible problems without inspecting the vehicle first.

One of the most important components, the heater core, which acts like a small radiator, passes the hot air from under the dashboard into the handicapped accessible vehicle. They can cost several hundred dollars to replace and sometimes takes a day or more to repair.

A decrease in the coolant level or a leak in the coolant system is one of the more common problems. Coolant doesn’t evaporate on its own. Topping it off may help in the short term, but it’s an indication of a deeper problem and should be checked out. You shouldn’t have to add anything at all if everything is working well. It can damage the motor if there is low heat from too little coolant.

A leak could be as simple as a loose hose clamp, or a major problem like a leaking engine cylinder head gasket, which can cause serious damage to the engine and cost several hundred dollars to replace.

Maintenance can prevent breakdowns
Several components make up the heating system, so unless you have experience with wheelchair accessible vehicle maintenance, it’s best to have a us diagnose the problem.

In general terms, a heating system works when the vehicle receives heat from the engine’s coolant system. Once the engine reaches its operating temperature — controlled by the thermostat — it heats up the coolant and water mixture, passes it through hoses and valves and into the heating core, which resembles a miniature radiator. A blower fan then pushes the warm air from the heating core through the cabin filter and into the vehicle.

The No. 1 tip is to have a mechanic asses your heater regularly by having a mechanic checking the coolant level and the other components. However, the coolant in newer vehicles may not need service until 60,000 to 100,000 miles, and heating problems usually don’t occur on newer vehicles.

A Little Extra Help: Adaptive Equipment for Those with Partial Disabilities

Some individuals with partial disabilities say they do not have a need for a fully wheelchair accessible van or truck and state they only need a bit of extra help. For those able to stand with or without assistance, turn, and walk a few steps, there are a number of simple, affordable solutions that can make the vehicle you already own more comfortable and accessible.

Turning Seating
Convenient and affordable, turning automotive seating can eliminate the need to twist and climb into vehicles. Seats can be adapted to automatically swivel over the door frame with the push of a button, allowing drivers or passengers to easily accommodate themselves without having to struggle to get inside. These solutions can be installed in nearly any vehicle, including tall trucks and SUVs. In these cases, the seat lowers to the driver or passenger’s preferred height, then lifts and turns back into the vehicle.

Wheelchair or Scooter Lifts/Carriers
For those who are able to transfer into a vehicle’s seats, whether they are automatic or not, a wheelchair or scooter lifts can stow their equipment in the trunk or roof of a car, back of a van or SUV, or bed of a pick-up truck. These systems can be fully automatic or manually powered, depending on the needs of the user.

Grab Bars and Assist Handles
Grab bars and assist handles can make it safer for those with partial disabilities to enter, exit and drive a vehicle. Extremely affordable and portable, these solutions can be incorporated into nearly any make or model in mere minutes.

Steering Aids
Modifications like low-effort steering and wheel attachments can make driving much easier for those with limited upper body mobility, arthritis, etc. From palm grips to tri-grip designs, spinner knobs and steering cuffs, there is an accessible option to meet every need.

Beginner’s Tips: Searching for the Right Wheelchair Van

If you’re a first-time buyer looking to purchase a wheelchair accessible vehicle things might seem a little overwhelming at first. You most likely have some questions and concerns when starting out, and that’s fine. We have several mobility vehicle experts/dealers and resources available to help you along the way.

Still, there’s never any harm in getting informed before you step onto your first lot as you look for a handicap van that meets your needs. Being equipped with information when you start looking for a mobility van will help you make a well-informed decision. It will also help you better express to us exactly what you are looking for.

There are a few basic pieces of information that can help you make your decision and learn more about accessible vans. Before heading out to shop around, there are some things you can to do prepare for your search.

  • Think about the options and features you are going to need in order to travel comfortably and without any hassle. This will give you a better idea of what sort of van you need while also giving a glimpse of what sort of price range you might be looking at.
  • Consider whether or not you’ll routinely have passengers such as family and friends and the room they might need.
  • Be realistic about the budget you have to work with. There is no sense in making another headache later on with a vehicle payment you can’t afford.

In addition to these tips, there are also several ways you can make the process easier outside of home. First and foremost, you could talk with one of our mobility consultants/experts to find out about benefits and features available to you in regards to whatever disability you may have.

We will let you try out a van before any money is put down. Take advantage of this opportunity to find out more about certain features and options that may suit your needs. Most of all, make sure you can ride comfortably.

Respect Accessible Spaces

Going out in public is often riddled with obstacles for people with disAbilities. While this is largely due to inaccessible structures like stairs and narrow doors, so many unnecessary barriers are created by able-bodied people who place themselves where they shouldn’t be. That’s not to say that someone with a disAbility has special privileges. Rather, reserved access locations are intended to give people with disAbilities equal opportunities to experience the world around them. Here are some accessible places where able-bodied people should not be:

Handicap Parking Spaces
By far, the most frustrating obstacle put in place by able-bodied people is parking illegally in handicap accessible parking spaces. Though often thought that handicap parking is one of the “perks” of having a disAbility, the reality is that it’s a necessity, not a convenience. Most people with a disAbility get around in a wheelchair accessible vehicle that’s adapted with either a foldout/in-floor ramp or a lift so they can easily get in and out of their vehicle. If they don’t have access to a parking spot with enough space, there is literally no (safe) way for them to get out of their vehicles, which directly prevents them from getting where they need to go.

There are countless times when entering many parking lots that you’ll find that the only accessible spots are occupied by someone who doesn’t have a proper license plate or a permit. It is also common that vehicles park illegally in the white/blue lines next to the accessible spots making it impossible for the owner to access their vehicle which leaves them stranded.

Parking illegally in a handicap spot denies an important means of access to all people who legitimately need the accessible spaces. Able-bodied people have an entire parking lot full of spaces to choose from; disabled people usually only have a few accessible spaces. The accessible spaces are not there for the convenience of people who are lazy, or for people who claim they just needed to run into the store for a second. Illegal use of any part of a accessible parking space is inexcusable in any situation.

Accessible restroom stalls
While using the restroom at multiple locations you will find that most stalls are empty except the accessible one. Able-bodied people see the big, roomy bathroom open and are drawn to it; it’s understandable not wanting to be cramped into a small stall. However, using accessible bathroom facilities, especially when others are available, does demonstrate that people with disabilities aren’t in society’s conscience as being just as likely to be out in public as non-disabled people.

If every other stall is taken, it’s obviously okay to use it. But since people with disAbilities cannot physically get into regular sized restroom stalls, it’s not asking too much for able-bodied people to leave the one accessible bathroom option open when there are five other empty ones that are readily available.

Accessible shower stalls
Much like accessible bathroom stalls, there’s usually only one accessible shower facility in places like shared college dormitory restrooms and gym locker rooms. The accessible stalls are roomier and they often have a fold-down seat attached to the wall. Although this may be tempting for non-disabled people who want a shower with room to dance around or have a place to rest tired feet the accessible facilities are not intended for the convenience of able-bodied people.

Apparently, this is a hard concept for people. Frequently you’ll discover that every shower stall is empty except for the accessible one.  Unfortunately it seems that able-bodied people see accessible showers as a luxury, rather than realizing that they are a necessity for disAbled people.

Accessible dressing rooms
Most stores have a large dressing room that qualifies as “accessible.” Unfortunately, they are rarely, if ever, properly labeled or guarded by store employees. Hence, some of the worst offenders of able-bodied people who block public access are the ones who use accessible dressing rooms.

Some people who actually need the accessible stall have to wait for 15-20 minutes (give/take) while able-bodied people take their time in the only accessible dressing room, even though several other regular dressing rooms are available. Able-bodied people need to realize that they have fifteen dressing rooms to choose from while people with disAbilities, that actually need an accessible room, only have one option.

Respect Accessible Spaces
If you don’t have a disAbility, then next time you just have to grab a gallon of milk or try on a bunch of shirts, please reconsider and don’t take up the only reserved accessible places. Leaving accessible places open for the people who truly need them is a super simple way to promote inclusion and acceptance of the disAbled community.

The Importance of Regular Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Maintenance

Whether it’s an oil change, tire rotation, rust treatment, or an air conditioner fix, regularly servicing your wheelchair accessible vehicle can help save you time and money, as well as keep you safe and happy on the road. Just as our bodies begin to show the signs of aging, cars, SUVs and vans also can experience diminished performance as time passes. Due to this natural process, it’s vital to get your vehicle checked out by professionals in order to ensure your vehicle’s longevity.

Save Money
While most things wear over time, regular maintenance can significantly decrease the chances of a major problem later on. Preventative and scheduled services are normally small and inexpensive jobs, and can also preserve resale value, saving you even more money.

Save Time
A major breakdown not only costs thousands of dollars, it can also put your vehicle out of working condition for weeks. The worse the damage is, the longer it will likely take a mechanic to get your van or car ready for the road again. Even if the downtime for your car isn’t more than a few hours, a breakdown on the road can be particularly difficult for people with disabilities or limited mobility operating or riding in the vehicle.

Protect Yourself
Not only does maintenance and regular service save you time and money, it’s an important way to ensure you are safe inside your vehicle.

A wheelchair accessible or other adaptive vehicle can mean the difference between social freedom and considerable limitations. Take care of the investment in your freedom by following regular maintenance schedules and ensuring your ride is in the best shape possible!

10 Questions

When searching for a wheelchair van, take these 10 questions to your local Certified Mobility Equipment Dealer and take 10 minutes to get educated.  Test out different vehicles with you and your family and see which best fits you.  Just because it is a wheelchair accessible van, does not mean it is a one size fits all.

  1. What are the differences between an in-floor and fold-out ramp?
  2. How does SURE DEPLOY help in case of vehicle power failure?
  3. Why is a 55 1/2″ or higher door opening height so important?
  4. What is the benefit of having an 8 degree ramp angle?
  5. Why is an 11″ or lower dropped floor beneficial?
  6. What does “wheelchair maneuverability” in an accessible van mean?
  7. How do I know how much interior headroom I need in an accessible van?
  8. Is the functionality of the front passenger’s seat the same with all ramp systems?
  9. Where is the spare tire located and how is it accessed?
  10. How much ground clearance do I need to clear speed bumps?

Wheelchair Accessible Van Maintenance

Auto Mechanic Car Hood
As with any vehicle, regular maintenance is important especially before a long road trip, as to prevent any maintenance-related issues from popping up. Standard “check-up” procedures such as getting your oil changed, checking the tire pressure, and making sure your spare tire is filled and your emergency kit is stocked are highly recommended.

In addition, there are special handicapped van upkeep procedures that are recommended.

These include the following:

  1. Make sure your lower door tracks are free of debris by using a vacuum along the tracks and ensuring any extra supplies won’t be able to fall onto the track.
  2. Spray your van’s ramp with a silicon or teflon based lubricant to make sure it slides with ease. If you use an in-the-floor ramp there’s one hinge, but if you have a fold-down ramp make sure to spray both the upper and lower hinges.
  3. You will also want to lightly lubricate the kneeling chain and the hand controls, if applicable to your van. Your handicap van’s manual should explain how to do this maintenance.
  4. Check your tie downs and securements to make sure there are no rips and they’re clear of debris.
  5. Tighten your 6-way power seat and make sure it’s clear of debris, if applicable to your van.

If you need any of this maintenance work done call us today to schedule an appointment.

We also provide a rust treatment that will help your wheelchair accessible vehicle last longer.

Putting Amputees Back in the Driver’s Seat

For most of us, an automobile is a necessity rather than a luxury.

Hand Controls putting amputees back in the drivers seat

Hand Controls putting amputees back in the drivers seat

To have a full life in America requires mobility -not just the ability to walk or run, but the ability to travel greater distances with more convenience and flexibility than public transportation provides.

For many lower-limb amputees, however, the lack of feet makes driving impossible in a conventionally equipped vehicle. Hand controls along with left foot gas pedals provide the solution. They make it possible for lower-limb amputees and people with other disabilities to enjoy the prosperity and independence that comes with vehicle ownership and use.

Different types of hand controls

Basic hand controls usually consist of a lever attached to a bracket and mounted under the steering column on cars equipped with automatic transmissions. The lever is moved to operate throttle and brakes. Usually the left hand operates the control, allowing the right hand to steer and operate the vehicle’s accessories. The three most common types of hand controls are push/rock, push/twist, right angle pull, and push/pull.

The push rock and push twist hand control works by twisting the handle to apply the gas and pushing it to apply the brakes. The right angle pull hand control works by moving the lever down towards the driver’s lap for acceleration. To apply the brakes, the driver pushes the handle forward towards the front of the car. The push/pull hand control works by pulling on the handle to apply the gas, and pushing for the brakes. Most hand controls, except for a very few, apply the brakes by pushing.

Most hand controls are hand-powered, using linkages or cables to operate the gas and brakes. Some models are power-assisted to make it easier on the hand and arm. Cars are designed for the driver’s foot to operate the gas and brake, so the force required to operate the hand control can be tiring to the hand during long drives. Power-assist options for hand controls range from very complex devices such as an electric joystick, to relatively simple ones that use vacuum power like power brakes. Most hand controls are dual-action devices that permit the simultaneous application of throttle and brake. Dual-action controls are helpful when the car is stopped on a steep hill or when making tight maneuvers on steep grades. The throttle can be applied a little before releasing the brake to prevent the car from coasting backward before moving forward. While most users prefer dual-action, some prefer single-action units because they eliminate the chance of accidentally applying the throttle during braking.

Which is best for you?

The best choice of hand controls for a person depends on a number of factors, such as the car’s layout, expected driving conditions, and the driver’s size, disability, and preference.

Push/twist

Push/twist hand controls are a good choice if either a large driver, a small car, or both, limit space. Economical use of space is achieved because the lever only needs to be moved to apply the brake. Throttle control is achieved by twisting the grip in the same manner as operating a motorcycle.

Push/twist controls provide a precise, sporty feel. By necessity, push/twist hand controls are often power-assisted. Without power-assistance, the twisting motion tends to feel stiff, and the hand tires. With a good quality power-assisted twist control, very little effort is required to maintain a throttle setting; simply resting the hand on the handle should provide enough force. This results in less fatigue on long drives.

Push/twist controls are good in tight turns and on rough roads. Throttle surges, which can be experienced with a push/pull or right angle pull device, as the driver and his or her arm bumps, sways, leans, or lurches going through curves and over bumps tend not to occur with a push/twist. Most push/twist controls are dual-action units.

These controls are not recommended for people with grip problems or those with amputated fingers or hands. Good left-hand dexterity is required for safe driving with push/ twist controls.

Right angle pull

Right angle pull controls are the most widely used form of hand control. They are relatively inexpensive and, usually, easy to install and adjust. Operation is simple and intuitive for these strictly mechanical units.

Space, however, can be a problem. Throttle application requires that the lever be moved down toward the driver’s lap. If the driver is large or the car is small, a push/twist or even a push/pull control may be more suitable. Because the lever is connected to the gas pedal with mechanical linkages, the underside of the dashboard will often require trimming.

For those missing fingers, hands, or with reduced grip strength, various handles, wrist straps, grips, etc., can be adapted for the right angle pull control. Specialized handles can be configured for use with a prosthesis. Right angle pull controls are usually dual-action, but also can be single-action.

Push/pull

Push/pull hand controls are by definition single-action. Since the lever is pulled for gas and pushed for brakes, the gas and brakes can never be operated at the same time.

This is the easiest hand control to learn to use. Senior citizens like the push/pull because there is no confusion when learning, after using the foot pedals all their lives. Power-assisted and non-power-assisted models are available. The driver’s hand can rest directly on the lever without causing the throttle to surge.

As with the right angle pull control, different handles can be adapted to the driver to permit safe and easy operation. Power-assisted push/pull hand controls equipped with handle adaptations are recommended for people with limited arm strength and poor manual dexterity.

Some other factors to consider

When shopping for hand controls, aesthetics is also a factor to consider. Car owners can be surprised to find that a section of the dashboard was cut away during the installation process. Most hand controls are mounted under the dash with a support extending into the driver space under the steering column where the lever is connected. A panel under the dashboard is removed during installation. If the hand control’s design and the dashboard layout permit, the panel can be returned allowing the mounting bracket to be hidden. Sometimes, however, the hand control’s hardware protrudes into the passenger space, and the panel cannot be reinstalled without cutting a window in it. Each installation varies with the model of automobile and the particular hand-control unit. Check with your dealer about what you can expect to see when you get your car back.

Many of us share cars with other family members. It is important that the pedals can still be used with the hand control installed and that there are as few impediments to using them as possible. Most good controls provide room for a pedal-pushing driver. Ask the installer what to expect.

Driving should be fun. Poorly designed hand controls, or a badly performed installation, can cause the driver to be distracted or preoccupied with the control, lead to frustration, and reduce safety. Good hand controls, professionally installed, will allow enjoyable, safe driving.

Installation

No matter what type of hand controls you use, you are making a significant modification to your vehicle. It is, therefore, important to have a trained and qualified person perform the installation.

The installer should cut a minimum amount of the dashboard. The handle should be located in a comfortable position so that the driver can hold on to the hand control and hook a thumb over the steering wheel. This position helps to stabilize the steering wheel and the throttle. The whole assembly should feel solid and sturdy. If the installation is done properly using a high-quality control, driving will be easy and fun.

Everyone is different, and each person is a special case. If you are uncertain about your condition and your abilities, consult a Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS). A CDRS knows about different disabilities and can advise you about the best solution to your driving needs. Contact a CDRS through your rehabilitation facility or through your local amputee support group.

Whether you are a first-time buyer or already drive with hand controls, it is good to know what is out there and what to look for. High-quality hand controls are available, as are skilled mobility technicians who understand the quality and safety issues involved with their installation.

Spend a few extra dollars to purchase a high-quality product and have it professionally installed. You already have made a significant investment in your vehicle. A quality set of hand controls will surely enhance your driving experience and, above all, your safety.

Save Big When Purchasing a Dodge Wheelchair Van

2013 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT VMI Northstar DR552571 front right side
You’ve found the ideal Dodge wheelchair van to meet your needs and now it’s time to determine exactly how you’re going to pay for the vehicle. Here are some things you can do to improve the buying experience.

Are You Purchasing from a Dodge mobility dealer?

If you’re buying a new Dodge wheelchair van, you’ll want to consider these pointers before you even think about opening your wallet.

Time is everything.
You can get the best possible prices on a vehicle in the last two weeks of December and between July and October. If you can hold off on a purchase until one of these date ranges, you’ll pay less.

Do your research.
You can pay less for a new vehicle if you do your homework. Know what other dealers are doing and seek out the best possible deals. Knowing what’s happening in the market can give you real negotiating leverage.

Don’t limit your choices.
You don’t need to restrict your choices to the vehicles on the lot. You can have a mobility dealer order the wheelchair van you want and those vehicles that come from the factory shouldn’t cost you a penny more than the ones that are already at the dealership.

Are You Purchasing from an individual?

Paying for a used Caravan, Grand Caravan sold by an disabled individual or caregiver can pose a few unique challenges. Keep the following advice in mind:

Be careful with cash.
Unless you personally know the seller, you should be cautious about showing up anywhere with a large quantity of cash on your person.

Be prepared to pay with a cashier’s check or money order. Many individual sellers will be wary about accepting a personal check from a buyer.

Stay away from wiring money.
Don’t utilize services like Western Union or Moneygram to buy a used wheelchair van. These outlets are often used in fraudulent activity and may not provide you with adequate protection.

Exercise caution.
If you’re considering using an escrow or shipping service when paying for your Dodge wheelchair van. Many people have lost their money due to criminal behavior on the part of those claiming to offer a legitimate service.

Are You Paying for Dodge Wheelchair Van Conversion?

Buying the underlying vehicle may only be part of your plans. If you’ll be paying for modifications, as well, consider the following:

Look for assistance.
Your state’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation or development services offices may have a program to provide financial assistance for wheelchair van conversions. The Veteran’s Administration may be able to help vets qualify for funding.

Check with your insurance.
Depending upon your personal situation, you health or worker’s compensation insurance may provide benefits that will pay for part, or all, of the necessary modifications. Thoroughly investigate the opportunity.

Talk with your Dodge dealer.
Some dealers can actually wrap the financing of your mobility package up with your vehicle loan. You’ll end up with a single payment and you may save money on the interest rate in the process.

Get a prescription.
If you can get a doctor’s prescription for your planned modifications, you may be able to exempt the expense from sales tax. If you’re not responsible for those taxes, you’ll be spending less money.

Buying a Dodge wheelchair van requires a little bit of planning, thinking and investigation. If you follow these recommendations, paying for a Caravan, Grand Caravan or Sprinter should be more enjoyable and less expensive.

Adaptive Driving Aids: Reduced Effort Modifications

Experienced users of adaptive driving aids, as well as those who have just been introduced to them, will appreciate the depth of experience and the number of options available to them here at VMi New England Mobility Center and Automotive Innovations, Inc.

Adaptive driving aids are as diverse as the people who use them, but they do fall into several distinct categories; basic driving aids, reduced effort modifications and advanced driving controls.

Reduced Effort Modifications

Reduced Effort Steering
Reduced effort modifications are used in conjunction with hand controls and other adaptations to reduce the physical strength required to perform the operations of braking and steering. Reduced effort braking and reduced effort steering are modification packages that make the steering wheel or brake pedal easier to turn or push. The level of assistance or “reduced-effort” is adjusted to the level prescribed by the driving rehabilitation specialist, based on the strength of the driver.

  • Drive-Master’s low effort and no effort braking modifications significantly reduces the required pressure needed to press down on a pedal to brake.
  • Drive-Master’s reduced effort steering modification reduces the amount of effort it takes to move a steering wheel. There is low effort to no effort available depending on the model of car and tire size.

Adaptive Driving Aids: Advanced Driving Controls

Experienced users of adaptive driving aids, as well as those who have just been introduced to them, will appreciate the depth of experience and the number of options available to them here at VMi New England Mobility Center and Automotive Innovations, Inc.

Adaptive driving aids are as diverse as the people who use them, but they do fall into several distinct categories; basic driving aids, reduced effort modifications and advanced driving controls.

advanced driving system

Advanced Driving Controls

Advanced driving controls, or “high-tech driving systems” have advanced tremendously over the years, thus creating options for drivers with higher levels of disability. Advanced driving controls are truly a custom solution. As a result, the key components of these systems are combined, fitted and installed based on an extremely thorough process of evaluation, prescription and fine-tuning.

Hand Controls
Hand Controls in the advanced driving aid category are of course more advanced and are typically for individuals with very limited mobility and strength for operating a vehicle. A slight touch of various adaptive devices allow the car to accelerate and brake with ease.

  • Electric Gas and Brakes are operated from an electric servo in the form of a joystick or lever input device. Individuals can then use their hands to control their speed and to brake.
  • Pneumatic Gas and Brakes are operated from an air pressure system and controlled by an easy joystick, foot pedal or other device.

Steering Controls

  • Horizontal Steering accommodates a limited range of motion when the driver cannot use a conventional steering wheel.
  • Reduced and Zero Effort steering is for users who do not have adequate strength to operate the vehicle with factory resistance levels.
  • Electric steering allows the steering control to be located almost anywhere to assist the operator. They can be operated in the forms of miniature steering wheels or joysticks.

Electronic Gear Selection
Electronic Gear Selection allows the operator to push a button for a gear selection.

Remote Accessory Controls

  • Voice Scan uses one to two targets or buttons to operate a multitude of functions within the vehicle while utilizing a verbal audible menu.
  • Single Touch allows vehicle functions to be moved to a different location in order to fit the needs of the disabled driver.

Adaptive Driving Aids: Basic Driving Aids

Experienced users of adaptive driving aids, as well as those who have just been introduced to them, will appreciate the depth of experience and the number of options available to them here at VMi New England Mobility Center and Automotive Innovations, Inc.

Adaptive driving aids are as diverse as the people who use them, but they do fall into several distinct categories; basic driving aids, reduced effort modifications and advanced driving controls.

Basic Driving Aids

2013 Toyota Tacoma Hand Controls installed at VMi New England Mobility Center Automotive Innovations, Inc.
Basic driving aids are adaptations which are engineered to allow you to utilize the more “able” aspects of your body in order to operate your vehicle. Hand controls, left foot gas pedals and pedal extensions are among the many options that fall into this category.

Hand Controls
Hand Controls allow you to use the upper part of your body to do what might be difficult for the lower parts – such as braking and accelerating. A variety of hand control options are available to fit your needs and preferences.

  • A Push/Pull is the basic of hand controls allowing you to push forward to brake and pull back to accelerate.
  • A Push Right Angle is a hand control where you push forward to brake and pull down towards your lap to accelerate.
  • A Push/Twist is a hand control where you push forward to brake and twist similar to a motorcycle grip to accelerate.

Steering Controls
Steering Controls are adaptations added to the steering wheel of a vehicle. Steering controls make steering for those with limited grip or strength an easier task.

  • A Spinner Knob is a small knob that presses firmly in the palm of your hand. A spinner knob gives the operator a steady grip and the ability to steer with one hand.
  • A Palm Grip is made only by MPD and allows your hand to comfortably sit in a lightweight aluminum wrap with sheepskin liner. The Palm Grip allows firm steering control for those who have little or no gripping ability. The Palm Grip is ideal for those with arthritis.
  • A Tri-Pin is a steering grip that comfortably rests your hand in-between three pins. The pins are adjustable and can be used to accelerate, brake or be used on the steering wheel instead of a spinner knob. If need be, they can also be custom fitted to operate the turn signal, horn and dimmer.

Extension Controls
Extension Controls are driving aids that give users the extra inch they need to be comfortable in their accessible vehicle. Whether they are shorter than average or have limited strength in their arms these adaptations can make all the difference in driving.

  • Pedal Extensions are for vehicle operators who can not reach the gas or brake pedal. Pedal extensions give the driver the inches they need to sit and drive comfortably at a safe distance from the airbags.
  • Turn Signal Extensions consist of a simple rod to the right side of the steering wheel that can be adjusted appropriately to meet the needs of the driver.
  • Key Extensions are available for those who have trouble with the turning motion of starting their vehicle. The additional leverage is adjustable to fit the needs of the operator.
  • Steering Column Extensions allow up to six inches between the operator and the steering column.

Foot Controls
Foot Controls are for individuals who have zero to limited feeling in their feet. Foot controls are also valuable to those who may have a prosthetic limb and need to use their left foot to drive.

  • Left Foot Gas Pedals allow drivers to accelerate using their left foot. A pedal is attached to the accelerator that is located on the left side of the brake. A guard is then placed over the original accelerator so that the right foot does not inadvertently rest on the factory installed pedal.
  • An Accelerator & Brake Guard is a shield that goes over the accelerator, brake or both when the operator is using hand controls to operate the vehicle. An accelerator and brake guard is a safety feature that prevents operators from accidentally resting their foot on the brake or accelerator.

Funding Your Wheelchair Van with a Grant


Mobility beyond the wheelchair is out there, but so often, it’s out of reach financially for individuals with disabilities who have spent thousands on medical care. There are several avenues that lead to funds for a wheelchair accessible vehicle or adaptive equipment for driving, like loans, government assistance, mobility rebates and grants. So what’s great about grants?

Grant money doesn’t need to be repaid, which makes it especially attractive. What’s more, grant opportunities are plentiful; relevant grant-making organizations and foundations will supply partial or complete funding on wheelchair accessible vans for sale or assistive equipment; and you can combine funds from several sources to purchase the freedom and independence an accessible vehicle provides. Obtaining a grant to fund an accessible vehicle requires patience, perseverance and a detailed application process. Though it sounds daunting, these tips will help you navigate the process:

  • Be Patient

Grant providers don’t work in your time frame. They process thousands of applications just like yours, so you may wait longer than you’d like for a response. Expressing your aggravation to the grant provider might be counterproductive. Lowering your expectations will also lower your level of frustration during your quest for grant money. If you’re prepared for progress to move slowly, you’ll be thrilled if it takes less time than you expect.

  • Be Prepared with Necessary Information

With the likelihood you’ll want to apply to several granting institutions, it simply makes sense to have your basic information gathered and quickly accessible, so you can begin filling out an application as soon as you’ve identified another potential grant opportunity. Though the requirements on grant applications vary, you’ll need personal information on all of them, such as your Social Security Number, driver’s license number (if you have one), marital status, financial information and personal background details. It’s all about expediting the application process on your end. Keep in mind that funding organizations have different policies and requirements, so you’ll need to be flexible.

  • Line up Medical Records and References

Granting institutions will want to see your medical records. Your physician can provide you with a copy. Some physicians prefer to send your records directly to the granting institution. Either way, be sure your physician understands why you need your medical records. While you’re at it, ask your physician to write a letter of recommendation. It’s not necessary, but a letter from your physician, written on letterhead stationery, can often be helpful when applying for a grant. Ask that the letter be addressed to a generic individual (“Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern”), so you can include a copy with each application.

Now’s the time to get references to support your efforts – ask close friends, neighbors, colleagues, church members and anyone who you believe will provide convincing, compelling input about your character and disability. Funding organizations want their personal perspective about your accomplishments, your attitude and how you manage your disability on a daily basis. Your references can also comment on how grant money to buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle would improve your present lifestyle.

  • Make Your Case

Your mission is to help the funding organization understand your personal history, your challenges and the impact any hardships have had on your life. Be honest and persuasive in telling your story to the grant provider (including an articulate, straightforward narrative, 1-2 pages in length), describing your plans for the funding and its potential positive effect on your future. Focus on setting yourself apart from other applicants with an emotional, inspiring account. You’re in competition for a limited amount of money, so this is important.

  • Research and Identify Appropriate Granting Institutions

You now have the necessary documents and backing to begin applying for grants. Start your research with these handicap van grants, sorted by location, medical need, veterans, special needs children and others to find one or more grants for your specific situation. If you search the Internet, use “disability grant providers,” “disability grants” and other relevant keyword phrases to find foundations and organizations. If you’re a disabled veteran, check with the Veterans Administration. Remember, you can combine sources to amass as much money as possible for your wheelchair van or adaptive equipment.

Organizations that support specific conditions often provide grants to people living with that disorder. Examples include United Cerebral Palsy, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

When you’ve identified a potential granting organization, read their mission statement and get an application form. Craft a cover letter in which you align your needs with the organization’s goals to demonstrate how you can help achieve the provider’s objectives. This is essential information for the funding organization.

  • Contact the Grant Providers

If at all possible, speak or write to the person in charge when you begin the application process to fund your handicap van. Typically, assistance programs will assign a project officer or contact person to help you through the details. Always be polite and thank them for their time. Through this direct line of communication, you can have your questions and concerns addressed. Get a contact name, phone number and email address for every organization to obtain status updates on your application. Request information on their timeline for choosing a candidate for the funding opportunity.

  • Stay Organized and Aware

With multiple applications at different stages in the process, it’s essential to keep track of your documents and deadlines. You should be able to put your hands on documents and paperwork at any given moment. Devise a system to remind yourself of important dates and deadlines, and be sure everything is submitted on time. Stand out from other applicants by demonstrating your desire to earn their financial assistance – meet all deadlines and stay up-to-date on the status of your applications.

Keep copies of all of your applications (electronic or paper copies, or both), and save any confirmation numbers or application numbers you may receive in a safe, readily accessible place. You may be asked for them at some point.

It may take time and effort to get the funding you need for a wheelchair van or adaptive equipment, but it’s absolutely worth it to gain the freedom and independence that can change your life.

Why a Toyota should be your next wheelchair van if you live in New England

Toyota offers some of the best options on the market when it comes to wheelchair accessible vans.  Each van offers comfort, reliability, and reasonable pricing for its conversion.   Choosing a new wheelchair van isn’t always as easy as choosing a traditional car.  There isn’t a particular one-size-fits-all van that covers every need or preference. As you make your choice, keep in mind a few practical reasons to choose an accessible Toyota.

why a toyota should be your next wheelchair van if you live in new england

why a toyota should be your next wheelchair van if you live in new england

Variety

Toyota’s wheelchair accessible minivan is a modified version of the Toyota Sienna and is the most popular Toyota vehicle that is converted for accessibility.  Overall, it’s an easy vehicle for the major wheelchair accessible vehicle manufacturers to convert. Toyota currently produces five different models of the Sienna that are available for modification:

  • Sienna L- the L model is the most basic model of Sienna.  It includes all the standard features and will often be the lowest priced model.
  • Sienna LE- the LE is still a fairly basic model but includes a rear-view camera and enhanced climate controls.
  • Sienna SE- Sienna SE is a mid-level option that offers enhanced navigation displays, rear-view cameras, and cross-traffic controls for ease and maneuverability.
  • Sienna XLE- Sienna XLE is outfitted with leather-trimmed driver and front passenger seats.  It also features a blind spot monitor and a power lift gate with jam guard.
  • Sienna Limited- The Sienna Limited is the final and most luxurious model of Sienna.  The Limited features many of the standard and upgraded features of the other models while offering more extras like a JBL sound system, driver and passenger leather- trimmed seats, and a dual moon roof.

Any one of these models of the Sienna can be easily modified to accommodate your specific needs.  Budgetary constraints and your individual situation will play a major part in which model you decide to purchase.  Once you’ve made that decision, VMi New England Bridgewater, MA Mobility Center will help you find a Toyota wheelchair van that combines Toyota’s infamous quality with comfort and accessibility.

Adaptability

Toyota’s wheelchair accessible vans don’t start out being adapted for accessibility.  These vans start as traditional vehicles without any modifications before being converted to accommodate individuals with disabilities.  Toyota relies on certified wheelchair conversion manufacturers, such as VMI, to fit the vehicles with lowered floors, kneeling systems, ramps, and more.

why a toyota should be your next wheelchair van if you live in new england

why a toyota should be your next wheelchair van Bridgewater, MA Mobility Center

After the initial conversion is made the vehicle is sent to our Bridgewater, MA Mobility center where we can make even more adaptations to your vehicles. Mobility seating, hand controls, and pedal extensions are all available and fit beautifully inside the modified Toyota Sienna. There are even products that allow users to control the vehicle by pressing a few key buttons or by simply flipping a switch on the vehicle.

2013 Toyota Sienna VMI Summit Silver VMi New England

2013 Toyota Sienna XLE VMI Summit Silver VMi New England

Though the middle row of seats is removed to accommodate a wheelchair, there are still plenty of options to satisfy your needs. Both front seats can be removed to allow the wheelchair user to ride up front and there is a full bench seat in the back for children or guests. There is also a large trunk to accommodate groceries or additional supplies.

Safety locks and straps are installed into the floor of the van to keep wheelchair passengers in place and prevent any excess movement during transit.  The lowered floors help to compensate for a wheelchair passenger’s added height.  There are countless additional features and add-ons, so it is clear that the Toyota Sienna’s adaptability and flexibility are two key factors that make it a good choice for an accessible vehicle.

2013 Toyota Sienna VMI Summit Silver VMi New England Mobility Center

2013 Toyota Sienna VMI Summit Silver VMi New England Mobility Center

Style

When it comes to the Sienna, you’ll be hard pressed to find a vehicle as stylish. This Toyota is available in a rainbow of colors from a vibrant cherry red to a subtle sage green. Its sleek exterior is curvier and more modern than that of some types of minivans.

The interior is stunning, and the more customizations you make, the more personal and warm the vehicle feels. Its spaciousness accommodates passengers for a ride to the store or a road trip to Disney World with the same comfort and style you’d get from a luxury vehicle. If you’re looking for an accessible vehicle that is practical and attractive, be sure to consider the Toyota Sienna for its superior style.

 

Why Choose a Toyota?

A Toyota Sienna with a VMI Northstar 360 is one of best wheelchair accessible vans on the market. The variety of options means there’s really one for everyone. It’s able to be adapted with ease and features many options to suit all your needs. And, to top it all off, it’s a beautiful vehicle that will provide its purchaser’s with a long life and a lot of fun. It has, without a doubt, cemented its place as a top-rated accessible van that will retain its value and perform under the most rigorous conditions.  If the Toyota Sienna fits what you’re looking for in an accessible van, then come take it for a spin! Contact VMi New England today to schedule a test drive by filling out our online contact form or by giving us a call at 508-697-6006.

Questions To Ask Your Mobility Consultant

boston strong wheelchair vans vminewwngland.com

Questions To Ask Your Mobility Consultant

We understand that you or a family member may be in an unanticipated situation that has had a profound impact on your lives and may have you feeling vulnerable and alone. This is uncharted territory for you – and we’re here to help you navigate your way through the process of selecting a wheelchair accessible vehicle. Asking a VMi New England Mobility Consultant the right questions can help make your experience more enjoyable, as well as enhance your knowledge about wheelchair accessible vehicles. Here are some frequently asked questions individuals new to the vehicle modification industry often ask our Mobility Consultants.

Do you have a fully equipped facility capable of making repairs to wheelchair vans?

Yes. Our Bridgewater, MA Mobility Center is the best equipped facility in all of New England.

Our specialized equipment and facility allows us the ability to preform a custom one of a kind fitment, unavailable anywhere else in all of New England. Small chain store mobility dealers couldn’t fit 1/2 of our equipment into one of stores.

Used car guys bolting adaptive mobility equipment into vehicles with hose clamps and sheet rock screws will never be able to match a custom fabricated product built by a master fabricator.

You can’t be expected to doo a very good job when all you have is a set of wrenches, a hammer and a set of vice grips.

VMi New England’s  highly trained and certified Service Technicians are available to fix any issues that you might be having with your wheelchair accessible vehicle.

What if something happens to my wheelchair accessible vehicle in the middle of the night or on the weekend?

VMi New England offers 24-hour roadside assistance – no matter what the problem may be. Our on-call Service Technicians are available to make emergency vehicle pick up’s 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to ensure that you (and your wheelchair accessible vehicle) are never stranded. Just call 508-697-6006 and you will be connected with a mobility expert. A service charge may apply.

I don’t have the money to pay for a wheelchair van upfront. Do you offer any payment plans?

Yes. Our Finance and Insurance department will work with you to arrange financing that fits your budget. With up to 10-year financing options and competitive interest rates, we can make purchasing a wheelchair van possible for just about anyone.

I don’t know how long I’m going to need my handicap van for. Do you have a leasing program?

VMi New England does in fact offer short-term, closed-end and easy-termination leases. Our Finance and Insurance department will help you decide what makes sense – and dollars – for you, during the purchasing process for a handicap van.

Since I am going to purchase a wheelchair van, I will no longer need my current vehicle. What can I do with my current vehicle?

Trade it in for a wheelchair van. We accepts all trade-ins, no matter if the vehicle is modified or un-modified.

Can you convert my current vehicle into a handicap accessible vehicle?

In most cases, it is not recommended to try and convert your current vehicle into a handicap accessible vehicle (with a lift or ramp and lowered floor) because of all the safety and comfort factors that have to be taken into consideration. Most vehicles simply cannot be converted. It is easier, safer and less costly to trade in your current vehicle and purchase a handicap accessible vehicle, because our trained Mobility Center Consultants will work with you on getting the best vehicle for your needs.

What kind of selection of wheelchair vans will I have available to me?

With hundreds of new and used wheelchair vans available, we have access to one of the largest adaptive vehicle inventory in the industry. Our selection consists of minivans, full size conversion vans, and paratransit vehicles – giving you options like none other in the modified vehicle industry.

Can I test drive a wheelchair accessible vehicle?

Absolutely. Our “Try-Before-You-Buy” program means that we will ship any wheelchair accessible vehicle from any of our state of the art East Coast mobility center directly to you so you can see the vehicle in person and drive it. You do not need to buy the vehicle “unseen” and you are under no obligation to buy the vehicle once you have seen and driven it. Please contact your Mobility Center Consultant for further details.

What kind of warranties do you offer on your wheelchair vans?

VMi New England offers up to a 5-year/60,000-mile warranty on most new lowered floor conversion chassis.

What kind of safety precautions does, and should, your staff have in the vehicle modification industry?

As New England’s premier provider of wheelchair accessible vehicles for people with disabilities, our high-quality vehicles, technical expertise and legendary customer care are equaled only by our commitment to safety. Our standard operating procedure, since opening our doors in 1987, has always been to make sure our customers’ safety comes first.

By adhering to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), becoming a Quality Assurance Program (QAP) facility (first in MA) and creating the adaptive driving , We have our dedication to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities time and time again.

 

What kind of training programs do your technicians go through in order to service wheelchair vehicles?

The success of any great service company is how they take care of clients after the sale. At VMi New England, we take pride in training our Service Technicians to be the best in the vehicle modification industry. We invest thousands of dollars into our Service Departments to ensure that if there is a problem, it will be fixed correctly the first time, every time. All of our Service Technicians are certified in every product line they are involved in and attend various training sessions throughout the year to keep current in the modified vehicle service industry.

How do you determine which wheelchair accessible vehicle will be right for me?

At VMi New England- Mobility Center, we have a very detailed in-take process that ensures that we get to know our customers thoroughly – from measurements of your wheelchair to taking the time to learn about your specific needs. We will ask about your family, your activities, your work environment, your typical travel distances and other aspects of your life since all of these factors will determine the wheelchair van type, size and any modifications or special fitment that might be necessary.

Wheelchair Vans, Accessible Cars, and Wheelchair Accessible SUVs…Proudly built just for you!

Wheelchair Vans, Accessible Cars, and Wheelchair Accessible SUVs…Proudly built just for you!

Wheelchair Van VMi New England

VMi New England has been building and selling the safest, most affordable, and reliable wheelchair vans, mobility cars and accessible SUVs for over 25 years! Our FREE, at-home product demonstration program takes the stress out of purchasing an accessible vehicle and will ensure you get the perfect van for your needs. Our factory direct pricing will save you thousands over purchasing from a internet dealer. When you see a VMi New England wheelchair van for sale on our website, you know you’re getting the safest and most reliable handicap accessible vehicle on the mobility market today. Buy factory direct and save!

 Our success is measured by our customers’ happiness…

2013 GM Eqonix Hand Controls

VMi New England’s mission is providing you with the perfect new or used wheelchair van or handicap accessible vehicle, based on your individual mobility needs, and our entire inventory of new and used handicapped vans come standard with the most comprehensive mobility conversion warranty in the industry. With our vans, you’re purchasing a handicap van or accessible car directly from a manufacturer at factory direct pricing, and while a internet mobility dealer or car dealer may mark up a wheelchair van or wheelchair lift thousands of dollars, we pass our factory direct savings directly on to you, our customers.

Free at-home product demonstrations and nationwide delivery! We offer you the freedom to make the purchase of wheelchair vans, handicap vans, scooter accessible vans, and mobility vehicles easier than it’s ever been before…

Ford Wheelchair Driver Van 4x4

The right wheelchair accessible vehicle at the right price…We offer FREE, at-home mobility vehicle demonstrations and substantial factory direct savings. Our mobility consultants will bring the wheelchair conversion you’re interested in directly to your home and provide a custom fitting and mobility consultation with both you and your family…all in the comfort of your own driveway! Or you have the option to come to our facility and test out new and used, Honda, Toyota, Dodge, Chrysler, Volkswagen and Ford wheelchair vans Whether you’re interested in new or used wheelchair vans or accessible cars, our huge selection of over 150 accessible vehicles, fast handicap vehicle loan track approval processes, and nationwide delivery make buying the wheelchair accessible van or car of your dreams an absolute breeze.

 

mobility concept vehicles for wheelchair drivers

“To get something you never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” ~Unknown

dodge wheelchair driver and passenger concept vehicles
Were going to change the world one person at a time
Join the revolution
Do you want a 4×4 wheelchair vehicle you can drive?
We have built 4×4 accessible vehicles going all the way back to the 80’s
Want a 4×4 SUV you can drive your wheelchair from?
Want a Ford Explorer SUV that is a wheelchair accessible vehicle?
We can and will build you a concept vehicle you can drive from a wheelchair.
 'Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.'    - -George S. Patton
‘Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.’    – -George S. Patton

One definition of resilience is “the ability to cope with shocks and keep functioning in a satisfying way”. Resilience is about the self organizing capacity of systems. This means the ability to bounce back after disaster, or the ability to transform if a bad stage has happened. Both of these forms of resilience seem relevant to explore in our times, especially in relation to Assistive Driving Technology for Wheelchair Drivers.

Vmi New England and Automotive Innovations as a company is aware of this challenge and has been working on cutting edge wheelchair driving technology since the 80’s

automotive mobility concept vehicle systems
Vmi New England and Automotive Innovations is leading in its study of ever evolving automotive wheelchair driving systems.

wheelchair driver and passenger concept vehicles

Ford wheelchair driver and passenger concept vehicles

The way we see it, everyone has a fundamental need to have there own personal transportation, to access anything they need like, clean water, food, fibres and many other goods and services.

For future human development it is essential to understand the contribution each person can make to human livelihoods, health, security and culture if given the chance.

wheelchair driver and passenger concept vehicles

wheelchair driver and passenger concept vehicles

Resilience thinking is part of the solution, as it thrives at building flexibility and adaptive capacity. People and nature are interdependent. That means, we have to look for collaboration within society to find resilient solutions.

Interdependence between people and nature.

IMG_0094

Exploring the missing links in our imagination
Solutions to find new possibilities in the Assistive Driving Technology require creativity.

Creativity is the answer to missing links in our imagination, at least according to Jim Sanders. They have found a unique way to explore the relationship between current automotive designs, people and technology.
A safe operating vehicle for people in wheelchairs
“In the face of ever evolving change in transportation needs, we need to work together to find safe mobility solutions for humanity. The key is in creative mobility solutions that connect nature with people. Flexible and adaptive strategies will bring us further. By stretching our imagination, we will start to explore the unknown. And by always looking for new combinations of technology, and common sense, we will find the new solutions.” Jim Sanders 2013

Sometimes even the smallest shift in thinking or doing can create the biggest changes in someones lifecan you save trust for a rainy day?necessity is the mother of invention

IMG_1598

driven by the freedom of the choice  to explore the worlds future possibilities

 VMi New England Mobility Center and Automotive Innovations is one of America’s best providers of wheelchair vans, vehicle modifications, and adaptive equipment including hand controls, wheelchair and scooter lifts, ramps, raised doors, lowered floors and specialized gas, brake and steering controls. With hundreds of accessible vehicles available to be custom built for your specific needs, from the industries best manufacturers such as VMI, Eldorado and Braun, at our New England mobility center.   Founded in 1984 and offering the best equipped mobility facility in New England with a unparalleled commitment to offering a broad selection of specialized vehicles and services to meet the needs of every customer. Our facility is also Quality Assurance Program (QAP) certified (first in Massachusetts) through the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), resulting in Automotive Innovations being held to the highest standards in the vehicle modification industry.   We have a strong and committed Veteran sales staff with many decades of experience satisfying our customers’ needs. Feel free to browse our inventory online, visit our huge indoor showroom where every day is a ability expo, request more information about vehicles, set up a test drive or inquire about financing!   Feel free to call upon our friendly Mobility Consultants with any questions you may have about options on wheelchair vans or any of our other products. 508-697-6006We look forward to exceeding your expectations for decades to come!
concept |ˈkänˌsept|nounan abstract idea; a general notion: structuralism is a difficult concept | the concept of justice.• a plan or intention; a conception: the center has kept firmly to its original concept.• an idea or invention to help sell or publicize a commodity: a new concept in corporate hospitality.• Philosophy an idea or mental picture of a group or class of objects formed by combining all their aspects.• [ as modifier ] (of a car or other vehicle) produced as an experimental model to test the viability of new design features.ORIGIN mid 16th cent. (in the sense ‘thought, frame of mind, imagination’): from Latinconceptum ‘something conceived,’ from concept-‘conceived,’ from concipere (see conceive) .
exceed |ikˈsēd|verb [ with obj. ]be greater in number or size than (a quantity, number, or other measurable thing): production costs have exceeded $60,000.• go beyond what is allowed or stipulated by (a set limit, esp. of one’s authority): the Tribunal’s decision clearly exceeds its powers under the statute.• be better than; surpass: catalog sales have exceeded expectations.mobilitynoun1 elderly people may become socially isolated as a result ofrestricted mobility: ability to move, movability,moveableness, motility, vigour, strength, potency.2 the gleeful mobility of Billy’s face: expressiveness,eloquence, animation.3 the mobility of the product: transportability,portability, manoeuvrability.4 an increasing mobility in the workforce: adaptability,flexibility, versatility, adjustability.
freedom |ˈfrēdəm|nounthe power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint: we do have some freedom of choice | he talks of revoking some of the freedoms.• absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government: he was a champion of Irish freedom.• the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved: the shark thrashed its way to freedom.• the state of being physically unrestricted and able to move easily: the shorts have a side split for freedom of movement.• (freedom from) the state of not being subject to or affected by (a particular undesirable thing):government policies to achieve freedom from want.• the power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity.• unrestricted use of something: the dog is happy having the freedom of the house when we are out.• archaic familiarity or openness in speech or behavior.

Accessible Vehicles And Adaptive Mobility Equipment Q&A

Accessible Vehicles and Adaptive Mobility Equipment Q&A

Rear entry vs. side entry. Buying online. Buying used. What do you need to know to get maximum benefit for minimum expense?

Good information is the key to saving money and getting the most value for the dollar when making a big-ticket purchase like a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

With that in mind, Seek out and find experts who truly care for answers to some common questions about adaptive mobility equipment.

Q: Can I just go to a car dealer down the street or do I need a certified mobility dealer?

A: Certified mobility dealers help consumers buy the right vehicle and adaptive mobility equipment to meet their mobility needs now and in the future. Future planning is especially important for people with muscle diseases that get progressively worse over time.

“There are so many different products out there, and technology has improved so much. We just want to help people make the right decision,” says Jim Sanders, president of Automotive Innovations based in Bridgewater, MA for over 25 years.

“Many times, consumers will go to a car dealer and buy [a vehicle] that can’t be modified or one that doesn’t fit their needs. And once you buy a vehicle, normally it’s very difficult to return it.”

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), a nonprofit organization that provides consumer guidance and ensures quality and professionalism in the manufacturing and installation of mobility equipment. Members include mobility equipment dealers, manufacturers, driver rehabilitation specialists and other professionals.

NMEDA member-dealers must follow the safety standards established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in addition to NMEDA’s own stringent guidelines.

Some dealers choose to enroll in NMEDA’s Quality Assurance Program (QAP), which requires them to adhere to national motor vehicle safety standards, and use proven quality control practices to yield the highest level of performance and safety. Automotive Innovations was the First Mobility Dealer in Massachusetts to enroll and exceed the safety standards.

“The QAP dealer is audited by an outside engineering firm to verify that technicians have been trained, make sure the dealer has insurance and make sure the facility is ADA-compliant,”

So it means the QAP dealer is going above and beyond.”

Other reasons to seek out a certified mobility equipment dealer include:

They provide a link to qualified service and repair, that it’s crucial to have done on a adapted vehicle serviced.

Some manufacturers of adapted vehicles sell directly to consumers, cutting costs by cutting out the middle man, says Jim Sanders, of VMi New England, based in Bridgewater, MA.

But expert assessment and “try before you buy” remain essentials for prospective buyers, with or without a dealer in the middle.

For example, We, a NMEDA QAP-certified member, send representatives to customers’ homes for assessment and test drives before they buy, and also offer unmatched service/maintenance to just about any modified vehicle including Rollx vans.

Q: Can I get a better price if I buy online rather than from a dealer?

A: As with any online shopping, the warning “buyer beware” rings true. Buying online without trying out different vehicles with different conversions can be a costly mistake. Furthermore there are many grey market converted vans being offered as quality conversions.

Online, clients are mostly shopping blind. Typically they have no idea how the vehicle they need will even work fro them, even if they have specific recommendations from a driver evaluator or occupational therapist.

“You definitely shouldn’t buy it online,” “There not trying to assess your needs by e-mail or over the phone. There just trying to sell you something.

Some online dealers even have a questionnaire on its Web site to try and give you the idea your getting what you need. But, it will never replace being able to go to a local mobility dealership and try the vans out first hand.

A mobility vehicle is probably the second-largest purchase after a house. You should see it, try it out, and make sure it’s something that will work for you. It’s horrible when people get something that they’re disappointed in.

Every vehicle is a little bit different — such as in the dimensions, electrical and fuel systems, or suspension modifications. “If you go online and buy [based] on price, you’re not really looking at the total package.”

While buying online maybe able to save money up front, it wont over the long term.

In addition to consumers missing out on the important local service contact that a mobility equipment dealer provides, these online deals or grey market vans are worth much less when it comes time to trade it in.

Where do you want to sit? If you plan to drive from your wheelchair, then a side-entry conversion is what you’ll need, unless you can transfer to the driver’s seat (rear entry). With a rear-entry conversion, the wheelchair user typically is positioned in the back or between two mid-row captain’s seats, while a side entry offers a wheelchair user multiple seating options in the driver, front passenger and middle sections.

Q: What are some common mistakes people make when buying a modified vehicle?

A: Manufacturers and mobility dealers agree that one of the most common — and costly — mistakes is buying the vehicle first and then shopping for the conversion or adaptive mobility equipment. Not all vehicles can be converted.

For example, If you purchase a minivan from a traditional car dealership you can hit a roadblock if it doesn’t meet specific requirements to have the floor lowered for a rear- or side-entry conversion.

Q: What are some good questions to ask a dealer or manufacturer?

A: Although buying a modified vehicle can be “a daunting experience,” says VMI’s Monique McGivney, it also can be “exciting and fun when you walk in armed with good questions and information.”

Prior to getting an assessment from a mobility dealer, evaluate your needs and try answering the following questions:

  • What vehicle will fit in my garage?
  • What kind of parking issues will I encounter where I live?
  • What is the size and weight of my wheelchair?
  • What is my seated height in the wheelchair?
  • How many people will ride in the vehicle?
  • In what part of the vehicle do I want to sit?
  • Will I be able to drive with hand controls?
  • Do I want a full-size van, minivan or alternative vehicle?
  • Do I want manual or power equipment?
  • Will an in-floor ramp or fold-out ramp meet my needs?
  • What is my budget, and do I have access to supplemental funding?

The first question mobility dealers usually ask a client is: “What is your seated height in the wheelchair?” From there, the dealer can advise whether a full-size or minivan is appropriate, and what kind of conversion is needed.

Be sure to ask the dealer about the warranty and how the vehicle can be serviced.

Q: Which is better: rear entry or side entry?

A: The most important difference between a rear- and side-entry conversion is that with a rear entry, wheelchair users can’t drive from their wheelchairs nor can they ride in the front passenger seat. From there, the choice comes down to personal preference and budget.

In recent years, because of quality, convenience and cost, there’s been a shift toward side entry vehicles. Rear entry is more of a frugal modification, involves a less of conversion process and is typically a little less expensive than a side-entry conversion.

Many people prefer side entry with a in-floor conversion for many safety reasons additionally because they can park almost anywhere and not worry deploying the ramp out into traffic. Also, side entry allows the consumer to ride in the passengers front position along with maintain the rear seats in a minivan because the conversion doesn’t affect that area.

Rear entry is harder to get out of compared to a side-entry.

Anyway you look at it side-entry vehicles are more versatile. For example, side entry allows someone with a progressively worsening condition to use the vehicle for a longer period of time. A wheelchair user can start out driving from his or her chair, and then move to several other positions in the vehicle when no longer able to drive.

Side-entry conversions typically are a little more expensive than rear-entry because they’re more intrusive and labor intensive. For example, with a minivan, the entire floor and frame must be removed and replaced with a lowered floor and new frame.

Q: What’s the difference between a fold-out ramp and in-floor ramp?

A: This decision comes down to safety, aesthetics, convenience and cost.

A fold-out ramp folds up into the vehicle, takes up valuable space in the passengers front area and must be deployed whenever the door is opened.

The in-floor ramp slides under the floor, so it safer for anyone seated in the passengers front position, mid-ship position, there’s no obstruction to the door, and other passengers can enter and exit without deploying the ramp. In-floor ramps only are currently only available for side-entry minivan conversions, and there is even a manual (unpowered) option.

In-floor ramps in addition to being safer will generally provide more room in the vehicle because there’s nothing blocking the doorway. The ramp is “out of sight, out of mind and may last longer because it doesn’t have to be deployed each time the side passenger door opens.

Fold-out ramps generally cost a little less than in-floor, and consumers can select from manual and power versions; a power fold-out ramp still costs less than an in-floor ramp.

If an in-floor ramp system breaks down or the vehicle loses power, VMI’s in-floor ramp systems have a backup system (sure-deploy) that bypasses the vehicle’s battery.

A lot of people just feel more secure knowing there isn’t a fold-out ramp next to them in the event of a accident.

Q: I use a wheelchair, but a van or minivan just isn’t “me.” Are they my only options?

A: You have some choices.

Lowered-floor conversions with fold-out ramps can be done on the Honda Element, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Toyota Scion. The conversions are small and don’t fit as many people.

Due to them being built on a much smaller scale, the ones we have seen have not been built with the same level of quality of mini van conversion. Parts availability and repairs have been a problem, some of the companies that converted them are out of business and or have no support for “something they used to build”

For those who prefer to keep their standard car rather than purchasing a modified vehicle — and who can make the transfer from a wheelchair to a car seat — the answer may be as simple as a set of hand controls or a left foot gas pedal

Turning seats can be used in a wide range of vehicles, from sedans to SUVs and pickup trucks. A way to transport the wheelchair (like a rear lift) also is needed.

The rate at which your disease symptoms are worsening is one thing to consider when looking at turning seats — is it likely you’ll be able to transfer and ride in a car seat for many more years? Also, be sure to check with a mobility dealer to determine if your vehicle can accommodate a turning seat and a wheelchair lift.

Q: Why are modified vehicles so darned expensive?

A: A vehicle conversion can cost consumers upwards of $27,000 — and that’s just the cost for the conversion, not the vehicle. The total package can run between $45,000 and $80,000 — or more.

Besides the cost of the components, the reason it’s so pricey is that basically there is a lot of work involved to build a quality vehicle.

Modified vehicles from certified manufacturers and dealers must meet NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). That means all modified vehicles must be properly crash tested. (To learn more, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.)

It’s quite a labor-intensive process because of the customization. When you make structural modifications to a vehicle, you have to go through all of the crash testing, and you have to show that the vehicle is compliant again, and those tests are very expensive.

Most of the time lowering the floor in a minivan requires replacing or moving the fuel tank. Once the conversion is finished, the vehicle still has to meet the original requirements for evaporative emissions, in addition to NHTSA requirements.

Q: How can I pay less?

A: Consumers have some options.

Many consumers cut costs by purchasing pre-owned vehicles with new conversions, typically saving around $10,000 to $12,000.

The previous van owner already has absorbed the depreciation hit on a new van, which essentially occurs right after you’ve driven off the dealer’s lot.

Buying used can be beneficial for first-time buyers who want to try out a vehicle for a few years before buying new.

But if you plan to buy used, do some research and make sure the vehicle is structurally sound including the conversion. Ask for a vehicle history (CARFAX) report, and get the vehicle inspected by a mobility dealer to ensure it’s in good shape and was well taken care of.

Q: How do people manage to pay for it?

A: Many consumers used home equity loans to purchase a vehicle and adaptive equipment. But with home values decreasing.

Many dealers and manufacturers work with lending institutions that offer extended-term financing, including 10-year loans, allowing consumers to make lower, more affordable monthly payments. The downside is that consumers are locked into the vehicle for 10 years, and end up paying more in interest.

If you finance for 10 years, and you’re not going to keep the vehicle for that amount of time, you’re going to lose money when you try to sell or trade it because you haven’t paid off much of the balance.

When you buy a new vehicle, many car manufacturers offer mobility reimbursement programs (up to $1,000) to help offset the cost for the purchase and installation of adaptive equipment.

NMEDA Announces New Vehicle Winners for the Second Annual Mobility Awareness Month Campaign

NMEDA Announces New Vehicle Winners for the Second Annual Mobility Awareness Month Campaign

2013 NMEDA Whinners

Three “Local Heroes” win wheelchair accessible vehicles

Bridgewater, MA.–(Mobility Buzz)–June 08, 2013–

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) yesterday announced the three winners of the 2013 National Mobility Awareness Month campaign. The National Mobility Awareness Month movement educates seniors, veterans, caregivers, and people with disabilities about wheelchair accessible vehicles and adaptive mobility equipment options available to them to live an active and mobile lifestyle.

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) yesterday announced the three winners of the 2013 National Mobility Awareness Month campaign. The National Mobility Awareness Month movement educates seniors, veterans, caregivers, and people with disabilities about wheelchair accessible vehicles and adaptive mobility equipment options available to them to live an active and mobile lifestyle.

NMEDA is once again awarding three deserving “Local Heroes” with a wheelchair accessible vehicle tailored to meet their needs through an online contest. Sponsors, Chrysler Automobility, SanTan Honda and Toyota Mobility, are providing the vehicles, which will be customized by NMEDA manufacturers — BraunAbility and Vantage Mobility International (VMI).

This year’s winners are:

   -- Abigail Carter from Lexington, KY 

   -- Jeff Scott from Victoria, BC 

   -- Steve Herbst from Palatine, IL

To qualify as a “Local Hero”, entrants submitted either written or videotaped stories of how they are triumphing over their mobility issues through their academic and career ambitions, as well as their family and local community contributions. Caregivers, friends, and family members were also welcomed to submit entries.

“It has been another great year for Mobility Awareness Month,” said Dave Hubbard, executive director and CEO of NMEDA. “We made more than 1.2 billion impressions through the media and social media engagements throughout the campaign and hope that we’ve helped those in need of mobility solutions find necessary resources. We are equally excited about the 1,225 people entered into the Local Heroes campaign and look forward to how their lives are changed and specifically those of our three winners.”

About National Mobility Awareness Month

National Mobility Awareness Month is the annual celebration that encourages seniors, veterans, caregivers and people with disabilities to enjoy active, mobile lifestyles. Founded in 1989 as a not-for-profit trade association, the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) supports the awareness month with the assistance of approximately 600 mobility equipment dealers, manufacturers and driver rehabilitation specialists located in the United States and Canada dedicated to expanding opportunities for people with disabilities.

For updates, please visit VMiNewEngland.com

2013 Toyota Sienna Wheelchair Van VMI Summit 360 Conversion