Wheelchair Accessible Mini Vans

Written by Norene Anderson
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Wheelchair accessible mini vans are a product of much labor and redesign of the standard mini van. The floor must be flat to facilitate easy maneuvering with a wheelchair. For some models, this means taking out the floor hump that houses the fuel tank and system. Some companies use plastic gas tanks that are designed to fit in place without the hump. Plastic tanks are less expensive than redesigning a metal tank.

There are two basic methods of entry into wheelchair accessible mini vans, ramps and lifts. Ramps are an incline made of flat steel extending from the passenger side door. This makes it easy to enter and leave the van. The slope is about 15 degrees and is operated manually. Kneeling options can be added to the van and this lessens the slope to 10 degrees and lowers the entry height. There is an option of a power ramp for those individuals with more restricted mobility.

Options in Wheelchair Accessible Mini Vans

Lifts are another means of entry. Most lifts require full size vans. There are some available for entry into wheelchair accessible mini vans. A lift is an electro-hydraulic system that lowers to ground level. The individual in the wheelchair can maneuver onto the lift, raise the lift to van floor level, and enter the van. The controls may be a mounted switch or a hand held device. The size of the lift requires plenty of storage room and not all minivans are spacious enough to handle this type of system.

Wheelchair accessible mini vans can be equipped with the same luxuries available for any other mini van. TV or a DVD player is available with headphones. Video games can be set up, utilizing the TV. The flooring is made with safety in mind and uses anti-skid protection. The interior is available in leather for long-lasting comfort and wear.

Plenty of Room

Some wheelchair accessible mini vans have an entry ramp with a 10-inch or an 11-inch lowered floor. The 11-inch gives more headroom and this is important if the individual is tall. A 54-inch door height gives plenty of room, no matter how tall one might be. With a lowered floor, the ramp angle can be reduced. It is easier to exit the van directly onto the curb. The width of the ramp varies with designer, but a 30-inch width is common.

Sometimes it is necessary to modify the rear suspension allowing for plenty of ground clearance. This usually does not affect the geometry of the original suspension. Most often, there is no need for adjustment to the front suspension. Standard equipment will include some type of stability mechanism for the wheelchair. This will be a tie-down system to keep the chair from movement during travel.

Wheelchair Accessible Mini Vans in the Driver's Seat

If the individual in the wheelchair is going to be driving the van, many more changes are required in the design of wheelchair accessible mini vans. The accelerator, brakes, signals, lights, and all other controls must be adapted to the convenience of the driver. The standard driver's seat is adapted with measures employed to accommodate the limits of the driver.

Vans in a variety of models and designs are available to serve the needs of any handicapped individual. There are new and used vans with all the latest technology to make it easier than ever for those confined to a wheelchair to be mobile and independent. Many companies offer van conversions to meet specific needs or requirements. This can be rear entry or side entry. This can be automatic or manual operation of lifts and ramps. The options are many for offering access to the handicapped.

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