Comparing Full-Size Handicap Vans with Wheelchair Vans

How Conversion Vans Became Fully-Integrated Accessible Vehicles

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Origin of Full-Size Handicap Vans 

Though you might not know it today, full-size handicap vans were once cutting-edge technology. Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, these large vans like the Chevrolet Astro and Dodge 2500 were the first of their kind and earned their nickname of
“people hauler.” People with large families particularly gravitated toward these mini-motorhomes because they could finally fit everyone comfortably in one vehicle. Today, you might see people transforming these into conversion vans in a different way – as a livable van with sleeping space, storage space, or even small kitchenettes. 

When Ralph Braun bought his first full-size van in the ‘80s, he wanted to create a vehicle that he could drive from his wheelchair and drive his family around with him. Once he proved his invention a success, it wasn’t long before many people wanted something similar for their own use. For a long time, full-size handicap vans were the main export of what was then known as The Braun Corporation.

It wasn’t until the release of what is now thought of as the modern-day minivan that full size wheelchair conversion vans were put on the backburner and a fully integrated wheelchair van was introduced to the market. Many customers preferred the sleek design of the conversion minivan because it blended into the roadway landscape and it fit in a standard garage comfortably. Unlike a full-size handicap van, a handicap accessible minivan had extensive engineering including a lowered floor, integrated key fob, and removable front seats.

Side-By-Side Comparison of Full-Size Conversion Vans and Integrated Conversion Vans

Though the rise of the wheelchair van has largely outpaced the full-size handicap van, BraunAbility still manufactures consumer lifts for installation in vehicles like the Ford Transit, RAM ProMaster, or Nissan NV Passenger vans.

Benefits of a Full-Size Handicap Van

Just like their early release, some customers still prefer the full-size conversion van for the amount of space you are afforded in the design. By taking some seats out of the vehicle and with a very large door opening, there is no risk of bumps or tight squeezes. Lifts are also our longest-running product line and some customers feel more comfortable with an established product that has been refined over years of research and optimizations.

Consumer lifts are heavy pieces of machinery, but they are tested to carry up to 1,000 lbs. and have a smooth operation in and out of the vehicle. They are operated with a pendant that hangs on the side and has intuitive large press buttons that can be operated independently or by an attendant. BraunAbility offers three consumer lift designs for full-size handicap van installation: the Century Series, the Millennium Series, and the Under Vehicle Lift (UVL). Some are able to be installed on the rear of the vehicle, are available in full or partial hydraulic operation, or can be installed under the vehicle to keep the cabin interior free of obstacles or debris.

Choosing Your Mobility Solution

After reading this article, you may be thinking you still aren’t sure which mobility solution, full-size conversion van or wheelchair van, is right for you. This is common, and this is why we recommend seeing our products in person so you can try before you buy.

You may be certain that a full-size van is right for you, but then find that you feel uncomfortable at the height you have to travel to get to the vehicle floor. Or alternately, you could decide that you want a streamlined vehicle in the form of a wheelchair van, but when you try it out, discover that the doorway isn’t wide enough for your wheelchair. Our BraunAbility Mobility Consultants are trained in the operation of all our products and can help you find the one that works best for you – even helping you to secure financing for some products. 

Maybe you aren’t ready for an in-person visit. That’s okay too. We have a support team ready to take your call and answer any other questions you have about full-size conversion vans or wheelchair vans.

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