Understanding your options for wheelchair accessible vehicle features and adaptations
There are a wide range of ways that a vehicle can be made more accessible, both for a driver and for a passenger. With the right modifications, a car or van can be tailored exactly to your needs.
There are three main different types of adaptations, broadly speaking – those that improve access for someone in a wheelchair, those that improve storage for wheelchairs or scooters, and those that provide driving assistance for someone with limited mobility.
In this blog, we’ll quickly run through the main types of adaptation that can be used to make a vehicle more accessible.
Vehicle access adaptations
Designed to help either a passenger or driver get in and out of a vehicle, access adaptations can completely transform your experience with your vehicle.
Ramps and lifts
These are the most common adaptations installed for helping a passenger in a wheelchair in and out of a vehicle without having to transfer from a chair to another seat, common in minibuses and wheelchair taxis. They can also be installed into personal vehicles.
There are pros and cons to each. Lifts are generally a more expensive option, while ramps tend to require more clearance around a vehicle, relying on the rest of the driving public to park respectfully – a tall order, as we’re sure you’ll know!
Both manual and powered ramps are available – for the latter, a powered winch assists with loading the wheelchair into the vehicle.
As the name suggests, these adaptations convert car seats so that they rotate 90º, making it much easier to transfer to and from a wheelchair. Different designs offer different features, such as electric or manual operation, and mechanisms that lower the seat closer to the ground.
The advantage to a rotating seat is that it can be installed anywhere in the vehicle – either sides of a backseat, the front passenger seat, or even the driving seat.
The Carony system is a truly unique option – a rotating seat that slides onto a separate wheelchair chassis, meaning there is no need to transfer from one chair to another, and no need to adjust your seat on entering or leaving the vehicle.
Wheelchair storage adaptations
Stowage adaptations are typically designed to provide additional space for a wheelchair or scooter when not in use – essential if you’re transferring to a rotating seat.
There are a number of hoists and lifts available, designed to handle different levels of weight – some up to 181kg, ideal for a larger mobility scooter. Hoists are typically powered, to make lifting mobility equipment in and out of the vehicle as safe and straightforward as possible.
If you don’t want to sacrifice the rear seating and boot space, there are also roof rack storage options that feature an integrated hoist, lifting a folded wheelchair from the ground to a rooftop compartment.
Mobility and driving adaptations
There are a wide range of driving adaptation options available to assist drivers with different mobility needs.
Steering wheel adaptations
Adapting a steering wheel with an additional grip means it can be safely operated with just one hand, or by drivers with impaired hand function. The most common variety is as ball grip that can be easily removed to allow for changing drivers. Additional rings that control accelerating and braking from the wheel are also available.
These adaptations convert different vehicle functions into controls that can be operated by hand – such as moving the accelerator or brake to an ergonomic handle. These can be floor-mounted or added to the steering wheel. Lights, indicators and windscreen wipers can also be controlled through a variety of keypads, handles and buttons.
Pedal extensions can be used to make it easier to operate both pedals with one foot, or to make pedals easier to reach – pedal guards are also available to prevent pedals from being pressed accidentally.