Handicap Vans

Written by Sierra Rein
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To most people, the existence of handicap vans does not register with them as an important part of their everyday life. However, for a small population of the world, the ability to buy or lease one of these equipped vans means ultimate mobility. These persons with disabilities rely on these types of converted vans to go to work, visit family members, plan vacations and do daily errands, all tasks that normally mobile people often take for granted.

By the time the 1970s rolled around, most households had at least one car in the garage. However, people with disabilities and those in wheelchairs were not included in the grand schemes of new car designs. Oftentimes, disabled people had to be driven around by their friends and family members and would have to be manually lifted out of their wheelchairs and into the passenger seats.

The Independent Mobility Movement Takes Flight

On the heels of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, advocacy groups for handicapped individuals began to take form. Soon, manufacturers of cars realized that they were discriminating against a large population of their public, and began looking into converting vans for wheelchairs. After the Americans With Disabilities Act was signed in 1990, public transportation such as busses, airplanes, van-pools, and trains had to include wheelchair accessible seats and loading ramps.

During this time, handicapped individuals began realizing that they could also purchase or lease their very own converted vans. These handicap vans were designed with side loading lifts and could be purchased with a variety of driving control options. Paraplegics who could not operate foot brakes could use hand brakes installed near the steering gear, while those who were not able to grasp the wheel properly could turn it using knob-controlled wheel devices.

Handicap Vans in the 21st Century

With modern convenience and technology on the rise, there are dozens of options and opportunities for persons with disabilities to drive themselves to and from work and to be able to pick up their own children from school. Companies such as Daimler Chrysler, Ford, and Dodge are creating new kinds of mini and full-sized vans, fitted for any sized wheelchair or mobility device. Many conversion companies are also able to custom design any car or van and transform it into a capable and safe mode of transportation.

Today's handicap vans feature many new options and styles for people with disabilities, including powered doors and lifts, enhanced suspension systems, and power tie downs capable of securing any wheelchair into the driver's seat. Most vans include multiple passenger seating for both ambulatory and wheelchair-bound guests. This is great news for parents, little league coaches, and individuals who wish to pack many people in for a road trip or family outing.

Assistance With Additional Funding for Handicap Vans

Because independent living is often expensive for people with disabilities, many State and County departments, particularly the Human Services branch, may offer financial funds for the purpose of buying, leasing, or converting handicap vans. Eligibility may depend on a number of factors, including employment, veteran status and past financial history. Individual companies specializing in selling handicap vans may have their own policies regarding financing options and trade-in services.

If you are interested in finding a handicap van for yourself or a loved one, a good idea is to write down all of the known information regarding your needs. Be specific about the nature of the disability, whether there will have to be any specialized wheel and brake controls installed, the physical requirements demanded by the wheelchair, and whether or not you will need extra headroom or lowered floor options. Take this information to the dealer of handicap vans of your choice and he should be able to help you find the best van for you.

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