Whether you’re looking to add accessible products to a car you already own or want to buy a new vehicle, driving with a disability is more attainable than you might think. Here are 10 useful wheelchair tips to help you achieve mobility independence.
Make Lemons Out of Lemonade
Transportation is one obstacle wheelchair users face daily. If you don’t own your own vehicle or have one that is breaking down frequently, asking for help can often leave you wondering: “Is it worth my while doing that?” Owning a wheelchair van means having the freedom to be able to go anywhere, any time. You can operate the car independently and live as full of a life as you would like.
The first step towards gaining your mobility independence is purchasing an accessible vehicle. Your local Ability Center Dealer offers a wide selection of new and used wheelchair vans for sale from top brands like Toyota, Honda, and Chrysler. Our Mobility Specialists will work with you to find the perfect vehicle that fits your needs.
Protect Your Wheelchair Rain or Shine
Protect your powerchair on a rainy day with the following tips:
- Cover the hand control with a plastic bag, but make sure to exercise caution when using a joystick with a covering on it.
- Protect the drive motor by avoiding puddles that might splash or submerge the motor.
- Sitting in a powerchair in the pouring rain waiting for a bus is not a good idea; however, rain should not stop you from attending to life’s daily activities such as going to work or a doctor’s appointment.
Getting to and from appointments is simple under any weather circumstances with the purchase of a wheelchair accessible van. Wheelchair vans come in many different colors, makes, and have many different conversions available to add on to personalize your vehicle.
Get in Your Comfort Zone
No matter what wheelchair vehicle model you’re interested in, it’s essential to have comfortable seating. Consider a trackless transfer seat base if you plan to drive the van for the ultimate adjustability and comfort. The trackless design provides 180° of swivel room, 20” of travel, and easy-to-use switch controls. You can add this type of seating to full-size vans and minivans, so it’s well worth testing it out for yourself!
Another factor to take into consideration is vehicle height. There are many new models of wheelchair vans out there that have a 10-inch lowered floor. This is the perfect amount of space for most people, but exceptions can often be made for taller individuals.
Additionally, you can make your second- or third-row seats more comfortable by choosing a vehicle with sunshades. Vans like the Honda Odyssey offer this feature, so it’s worth looking into if you have kids or plan to be a passenger in your wheelchair van.
Safety is a top priority when a wheelchair user rides in an accessible van. If the wheelchair slides in the vehicle, both the user and other passengers could be hurt. Securely strapping the wheelchair into the car minimizes the chance of the wheelchair moving while in the van. There are many types of wheelchair restraints that range from manual to automatic wheelchair tie-downs. They are built directly into the floor of the van and lock down the chair, which keeps the passenger safe while riding in it. Our Mobility Specialists can help you find the best wheelchair tie-down based on your needs and preferences.
Other important safety tips for wheelchair securement in vehicles include:
- The wheelchair and user should always be positioned facing forward.
- Floor anchor points for rear tie-downs should be directly behind the rear securement points on the wheelchair.
- Floor anchor points for the front tie-down straps should be spaced slightly wider than the chair itself.
There are a wide variety of available options for choosing the right mobility solutions for your wheelchair vehicle. One decision you will have to make is whether to choose a ramp or a lift to enter into your mobility vehicle. Wheelchair ramps are available as a side- or rear-entry ramp design. They can also be power or manual operation or as an in-floor or foldout designs. A variety of options means you can find one that works best for your needs.
Lifts are ideal for independent individuals who cannot comfortably enter a vehicle with a ramp due to the angle of the incline. A wheelchair lift platform allows the operator to remain upright and level at all times. This mobility solution can be installed on a variety of full-size van options. Reach out to a Mobility Specialist to help you determine which option is best for you and your needs.
Check the Fit
Some wheelchairs are larger and require more room to maneuver. When looking at wheelchair vans, important measurements to consider are the ramp’s width, entrance height, and wheelchair position total space. It’s best to try the van in person with the wheelchair to ensure it’s a proper fit for the chair. Your local Ability Center dealer has a wide selection of options for you to choose from. Our fleet of wheelchair vehicles is available for short-term or long-term rent, allowing you to experience the van first-hand.
On the Road Again? Plan Accordingly.
Before you hit the road, make sure that your wheelchair vehicle is in good working order. Schedule an appointment with your local Ability Center dealer to service your wheelchair van and mobility equipment to prevent any issues that could take you off the road. In addition to general maintenance, like an oil change or tire inspection, special wheelchair van maintenance procedures are recommended before your vacation. This includes:
- Ensuring the lower door tracks are free of debris or anything that could make the door stop working.
- Spraying your van’s ramp with a silicon- or Teflon-based lubricant to ensure it slides easily.
- Lubricating the kneeling chain and the hand controls — your wheelchair vehicle’s manual should explain how to do this maintenance.
- Checking tie-down straps and securements to make sure there are no rips.
- Tightening your 6-way power seat and make sure it’s clear of debris.
Find What’s Best for You
Nobody ever said it was going to be easy being disabled. Learning to cope with the mountain of little obstacles that are so frustrating is a major step in the right direction. If you have diminished hand strength and function, use a hand control or driving aid to get behind the wheel with ease. Hand controls can be installed in vehicles with an automatic transmission, as well as power steering and breaks. Using levers that are mounted below the steering wheel, they allow you to operate the gas and brake pedals. Electronic driving aids are specially designed for those who are quadriplegic or cannot move no more than two extremities. The devices integrate into the vehicle’s electronic system and allow you to operate the car.
At Ability Center, we offer a full line of hand controls and electronic driving aids to help you achieve mobility independence. Our technicians are trained to work on several types of mobility equipment and products.
Play it Safe
Preventative maintenance is essential for extending the life of your accessible vehicle. Service your van every six months or 5,000 miles, whichever comes first, if you use your van every day. Exposure to severe weather conditions like the snow may require more frequent vehicle maintenance than vans kept in drier conditions. When repairs or services are needed, the most common items addressed include the ramp or lift, the ramp door, and the kneeling system.
Our Ability Center technicians will address all the major components of your vehicle’s ramp system to ensure they are performing optimally during a standard maintenance appointment. By maintaining a routine maintenance schedule with your local Ability Center dealer, you are extending the continued trouble-free operation of your accessible vehicle. Contact a Mobility Specialist today to schedule a service appointment.
Live and Learn
Become a self-advocate. Being a self-advocate simply means that you understand your own disability. You know your weaknesses and strengths, and you can convey this to others. So, how do you get started? Write it all down; your weaknesses, strengths, identify your disability, and what you need to do to participate in the things you enjoy or need. Find out your rights — The American Disabilities Act will spell them out for you. Now comes the hard part for some. Assert yourself, ask for what you need. What do you have to lose? And finally, follow up, and make the change happen.
Living with a disability and being in a wheelchair means that you have had to make changes and adjustments to your lifestyle, but you can still stay active and enjoy your life. With the above wheelchair tips and a positive attitude, you can learn to thrive with your disability instead of letting it manage you!
Did you find these wheelchair tips helpful? If you are ready to purchase an assessable vehicle, reach out to your local Ability Center dealer. Our team of Mobility Specialists is available in all 15 of our locations across the country and ready to help you find your mobility independence.