Wheelchair Van or Handicap Van: A Clash of Titles

AbilityVoice: a blog about mobility topics

Who will win, Wheelchair Van or Handicap Van?

As a writer, I work and play with words all day long. The English language is a fun language to write with because the definitions of words can be malleable and flexible, allowing for some fun wordplay. However, sometimes only one word will work, and that one word must be decided upon. This is such the case with the popular Wheelchair Van or Handicap Van debate.

When I joined the BraunAbility staff a year ago, I came in using the term wheelchair van exclusively, but as I talked to people across the country, this phrase caused some contention.

"It isn't a wheelchair van! It is a handicap van!" they would lecture. It was surprising to me how often I would hear this.

So what is it? Is it a wheelchair van, or is it a handicapped van? What about the other titles used to refer to our mobility products, such as lift vans, conversion vans, accessible vans and mobility vans? I have even heard the terms Magic Carpet and space ship used before.

But we've never made a handicapped van. Phrasing it that way implies that the van is handicapped. Our conversions actually do the opposite, they enable our customers.

The heart of the matter lies in the language. A majority of our customers do not like the word 'handicapped.' The word is believed to be derived from the phrase "cap in hand" like a beggar would use. Snopes.com, however, points out the more likely derivation is from a 17th century game called "hand in cap," which makes more sense.

Andrew Imparato, President and CEO of the American Association of Persons with Disabilities (AAPD), one of the country's largest advocacy groups, noted, "There is a strong consensus among the disabled community that 'disabled' should be used."

We prefer the term wheelchair van here at BraunAbility, but we will occasionally use the term handicap van. Our research has indicated that many people who are unfamiliar with our vans use this term when searching for our products on the internet. We hope we can draw these people in and show them the enabling power of freedom that our products bring. We think this can be a positive result to a somewhat negative term.

Just like the "Pop or Soda" debate, there will never be a clear-cut winner, so we would like to know what you think. Please leave us a comment below and explain who should win: wheelchair van, handicap van, or another term!

To see a full listing of the wheelchair vans we have available, please click here.

Micah Christensen is a freelance writer for BraunAbility and is enjoying telling the stories of our customers and writing to help them get the most out of their BraunAbility experience.