Tag Archives: Seating

How To Choose An Accessible Vehicle For A Child

Wheelchair vans are often needed by families who have children with disAbilities. Vehicles with special features are available and/or can be converted to accommodate them. The most important step is to start with an appointment with a mobility specialist.

Here are a few facts needed to help determine which accessible option best fits the needs of your child and your family.

The Child’s Size
A mobility consultant should be incredibly thorough in compiling the details such as wheelchair width and height, your child’s height while seated in the wheelchair, and other essential information, which should help identify the perfect van for your family.

Your child’s age and size are factors, too. If your child is young/small the vehicle that they easily fit into now could possibly be out grown. It is important to not only think of their needs now, but also to keep in mind that their needs may change in the future.

The Family’s Size
Consider the size of your family. A big family (5-7 children) might need the extra room provided by a full-size van. For smaller families, an adapted minivan should work nicely, and both vehicle styles can be equipped for wheelchair accessibility. Keep in mind that even an only child will have friends who will join you for an occasional outing.

The Child’s Condition
Along with wheelchair size, your child’s condition has tremendous bearing on vehicle selection. When a child with limited mobility travels with a ventilator or feeding tube, the vehicle must accommodate it. In such situations, rear entry access is often the better option.

Side entry vans require the wheelchair user to maneuver into position; an operating ventilator or feeding tube on an independent portable stand can easily make positioning awkward. Rear entry access eliminates the need to maneuver–the wheelchair and ancillary equipment roll directly into position from the back of the van.

If you or a caretaker needs to assist your child, it would be helpful to have a seat right next to the wheelchair, as the front passenger seat can make interaction awkward.

Now is a good time to talk about the front-passenger seat, which can be adapted for portability, so you can remove it completely. With a wheelchair docking system installed, the coveted front-passenger position is wheelchair-ready.

That said, size definitely matters here. The laws in some states restrict the size of a child riding in that position, with a typical recommendation of 50 lbs.+ and the ability to tolerate the force of a deployed airbag. A child with a frail or sensitive physical condition should be seated in the middle of the vehicle for safety. Make sure to familiarize yourself with your state’s seat-belt laws for wheelchair passengers.

When there are several passengers in the van, middle seating in the vehicle would put your child at the center of attention and always part of the fun. The side entry accessible van has an array of configuration possibilities, including jump seats and the potential for passenger seating in front, alongside, and behind the wheelchair user in any accessible van.

Focus on the Future
When you find the accessible vehicle that fits the needs of you, your child and family now but are concerned about the changes that may come over time, discuss them with your mobility consultant. Future you has a few options. Keep in mind that additional modifications can be made to your vehicle to better fit you and your family. Another option future you will have is to trade in your vehicle for a newer one that will fit your needs better.

Mobility Seating and Restraints

Power Seat Bases
There are two popular power seat bases available for conversions; the four-way and six-way power seat bases.

  1. The four-way power seat base has a motorized action for the back and forth adjustment. This aids in transferring from or two the wheelchair or the van seat and it provides motorized rotation and forward or back movement. Some seat bases even provide up and down movement for height adjustment.
  2. The six-way power seat base includes all of the functions of the four-way power seat base, plus a motorized swivel. This seat base is used by individuals with limited muscle control in the upper extremities.

Removable Seat Base
This is a detachable seat, usually mounted on wheels or coasters.  It allows for easy conversion of the driver’s station for a wheelchair driver.  It stores in the rear of the van when not in use.

Power Pan
The power pan is designed to accommodate the disabled driver who cannot transfer from wheelchair to seat without assistance and must drive from a wheelchair.  It allows the driver who sits high in his or her wheelchair to lower the line of vision 2 ½ – 6″ (6 – 15 cm) by automatically lowering the vehicle floor in the driver’s station.

Wheel Wells
These channels are installed in a vehicle floor to lower the wheelchair driver thereby correcting visibility problems caused by excess height of the wheelchair when placed on the normal floorboard of the vehicle.

There are two types of restraints that can be used to transport a wheelchair, manual and electric:

  1. Manual Restraint (“Tie-Down”)
    A system that cannot be operated from a wheelchair – it is operated by an attendant. When purchasing a tie-down, it is recommended that safety be considered. The most popular manual tie-down systems are the four point tie-downs; which are secured at four points of the wheelchair, thus making it a safer restraint.
  2. Electric Restraint (or Power Restraint)
    Designed for individual who are unable to fasten the manual systems, the electric system has one device mounted on the floor of the van and one mounted on the bottom of the wheelchair. When the device on the wheelchair is properly fitted into the one on the floor there is an audible click. This means that the chair is safely locked in place. The electric models also have a buzzer and/or light to indicate safe locking.

Torso Restraints
When driving a van from a wheelchair, chest harness and/or lateral trunk supports may be used together with lap belts and wheelchair restraints for those with diminished trunk musculature and balance.

Note: A seat belt and/or shoulder restraint should always be used with any tie-down system. Never depend on wheelchair locks (brakes) alone for safety when driving or being transported!