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How to use a WAV safely

What is a WAV vehicle and why is this important?

A WAV is a wheelchair accessible vehicle.

WAVs are vehicles specifically converted to allow them to accommodate a wheelchair so that disabled people can travel without having to get in and out of their wheelchair. WAVs allow wheelchair users to enter the vehicle using a foldable access ramp or powered lift that will have been fitted from either the back door or the side door. The wheelchair is then secured to the floor of the vehicle using the supplied restraints for the duration of the journey.

This is important because, in order for a wheelchair accessible vehicle to achieve its purpose of being useful and accessible for wheelchair users, it has to be safe to use – and making it safe to use should be easy and straightforward. Safe practice is essential when using a WAV to avoid injury and protect all passengers as much as possible in the event of an accident.

Of course, you should familiarise yourself with the loading and securing protocol of your specific WAV to make sure you’re doing it correctly and safely. But, to improve awareness about safe use, here are some general tips to follow when loading and securing a wheelchair to a WAV:

How to load a wheelchair into a car safely (and unload it again)
  • Ensure your WAV is parked (with the ignition off and handbrake on) somewhere flat and level with enough space to safely open the doors and lower your ramp or lift. If you’re in a car park or by a road, consider the other vehicles around you and whether you have sufficient room to load the wheelchair without risking an accident – be it injury or scratches to paintwork.
  • To load: lower your ramp or lift and check that it is flat and even on the floor. Line up your wheelchair with the lift or ramp so you won’t have to adjust your position too much while the wheelchair is being loaded. Attach any appropriate restraints for loading and, when loading and unloading, take extra care not to rush so you don’t risk the wheelchair user falling. Any time the wheelchair is stationary, apply the brakes.
  • Check that your lift or ramp is properly stowed before closing the doors, and make sure your doors are firmly shut before driving away. And, of course, check your wheelchair is properly secured – find out more below.

How to secure a wheelchair in a vehicle safely
  • It is important that you find out what specifications you have for your WAV and know what straps and restraints you’ll be using before attempting to travel with a wheelchair user in your WAV. Find out if your tie-downs are retractable, manual, or powered – and that you know exactly how they work.
  • Never forget to secure the wheelchair user in their seat with a passenger seat belt – ensuring the lap strap is over the passenger’s lap and the shoulder strap is over their shoulder. This is extremely important in protecting the wheelchair user as much as possible in the event of an accident.
  • Ensure that the wheelchair brakes are applied, and all tie-downs are properly secured around the wheelchair. Follow your restraint system instructions closely. Double check everything is secured before setting off. If any problems arise in transit, pull over and resolve them as soon as is safe to do so before continuing your journey.
  • The first time you go for a substantial drive with a wheelchair user in the car, it may be a good idea to find a safe place to pull over 10 to 15 minutes into the journey, just to double check that everything is still in place.

So, you’re ready to set off on your WAV adventures (safely and in style)

Here are some blogs you might find useful along the way:

At Cartwright Mobility, we care about getting you set up with a WAV that meets your specific needs and budget because we believe everyone, regardless of their ability, should have access to the freedom and independence offered by a personal vehicle. We also carry out a full demonstration of how everything works, including how to load and secure a wheelchair safely. We want our customers to drive away in WAVs they feel safe and confident in using for years to come.

If you’re looking to purchase a WAV, read our guide ‘Buying a WAV as a Disabled Driver or Disabled Passenger’ and, if it’s your first time buying a WAV, read ‘The guide to buying a wheelchair-accessible vehicle for the first time’. If you’re interested in our range of wheelchair accessible vehicles and want to talk to someone to get more information, whether you’re a wheelchair user yourself or looking to accommodate a wheelchair-using passenger, contact us today and we’ll be more than happy to help you.

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