How One Man’s Wheelchair Vans Represent More Than Just Vehicles

“[My van is] phenomenal. I am certain I would not have the life I have today if I did not have my own transportation that I could [take care of] on my own.”

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If you ask Derrick Rice about his BraunAbility Chrysler Pacifica, he’ll instinctively start with the vehicle’s name: ‘Genevieve.’ A longtime BraunAbility customer, Rice has carefully chosen names for both of his BraunAbility vehicles. Each name was thoughtfully selected to complement the vehicle’s distinctive style, and of course, Rice’s personality. 

The First BraunAbility Wheelchair Van: Betsy 

Rice was going about 55 miles an hour on a highway when another driver over-corrected. While that driver walked away from the accident with only minor injuries, Derrick faced a new reality: paralysis. After 11 months of rehab, Rice went home, but due to medical complications, he had to wait another six months before he could get behind the wheel. Rice described being unable to drive saying, “I really didn't want to get out and go because I felt like it was a burden to do that.” At the time, Rice was relying on family for transportation, and he used a Hoyer lift to get in and out of his vehicle. 

“I was in [a] manual chair then because I was fresh out of rehab, and I was refusing to go into a power chair. When you're young, you have this preconceived notion of what someone in a wheelchair looks like. I was very much that way. So, I wanted to be in a manual wheelchair.” He continued, “I had not been released to drive yet, so everywhere we went, my family had to hoist me with the lift into the vehicle, lug my chair, and lug the Hoyer [in and out of the car].” 

After learning to drive with hand controls, Rice was eager to purchase his first wheelchair accessible vehicle, a BraunAbility Chrysler Town & Country, better known to him as ‘Betsy.’ 

“Betsy, she was the first one. That’s what I learned to drive on, and I tore her up. I still have her. I can't get rid of her,” he said.  

Rice describes ‘Betsy’ as being “old and faithful,” but over the years, he grew tired, and so did his vehicle. Being taller, Derrick wanted a vehicle he could get in and out of without having to crouch. More importantly, he started using a power wheelchair, and he was eager to find a vehicle that didn’t require him to transfer from his wheelchair into the driver’s seat. 

The BraunAbility Chrysler Pacifica Wheelchair Van: Genevieve 

Rice’s current vehicle, ‘Genevieve,’ is a BraunAbility Chrysler Pacifica XT. With this BraunAbility conversion, Rice is not only able to get from home, to work, and everywhere in between, but the vehicle also has features his previous vehicle did not. Rice is especially fond of the vehicle’s 56-inch doorway height, allowing him to enter and exit his vehicle without ducking. But what was most important to Rice, was having a Q’Straint wheelchair securement system. 

“That was the most important aspect for me when I bought Genevieve. I had to have the [securement system]. I didn’t [want] to transfer anymore because that was just so irritating.” He continued, “I work in the event sector, so I can be at work until two or three in the morning and the last thing I want to do is transfer, then have to drive home and transfer again,” he said. With his wheelchair securement system, Rice can drive from his wheelchair, and the spacious vehicle allows him to enter and exit with ease. 

Today, Rice drives ‘Genevieve’ primarily to work, home, and the local grocery store. He said, “I work with large groups of people all the time, so I don't even turn the radio on in Genevieve, it's just us and the quiet and we go home.”  

When he’s not working, Rice enjoys taking ‘Genevieve’ to the pier. “My parents live near the beach,” he said. “My absolute favorite place to be is late at night, I'm talking 11:00 PM, I drive down to the beach, and I sit on the pier and watch the moon. We do that as often as we can.” 

I had not been released to drive yet, so everywhere we went, my family had to hoist me with the lift into the vehicle, lug my chair, and lug the Hoyer [in and out of the car].

- Derrick Rice

Wheelchair Vans Change Lives 

Rice’s BraunAbility vans have played a significant role in allowing him to maintain independence. He said, “[My van is] phenomenal. I am certain I would not have the life I have today if I did not have my own transportation that I could [take care of] on my own."

He continued, “I wouldn't be in the career I'm in. I wouldn't be nearly as happy. Although I don't like to go all the time, when I get ready to go, I'm gonna go.” 

Rice’s advice for those looking to purchase a BraunAbility Chrysler Pacifica is simple: “Do it.” In his words, “You purchasing Genevieve? Do it. She's classy, she turned my life around. I was not okay at first with having to get a minivan, but now I can't see myself driving anything else.”  

He continued “It is just so smooth. So convenient. Hands down, if you're looking to buy that type of vehicle, you should buy it.” 

Want to hear from more BraunAbility customers? Like Rice, Lawson Sizemore has a BraunAbility Chrysler Pacifica- his is fitted with special 50th anniversary gold accents. And Tracie Ridgeway named her vehicle too. Learn about Tracie’s wheelchair accessible vehicle, named ‘Hope’ and find more customer stories in our library of testimonials.

Derrick is supported by BraunAbility and his dealer, Van Products Mobility in Wilmington, NC. When you purchase a mobility product from BraunAbility, you join a powerful community. 

Read Other Customer Stories

I would [tell others to] purchase a wheelchair van because it just allows you to feel like you're human. You're not held back from certain experiences and you don’t feel trapped inside.

Eric LeGrand, from New Jersey Read More

I love driving anywhere, so every trip is fun. The best part is if I ever want to go home or if I have somewhere to be, I could just go whenever I want because I have my car.

Lawson Sizemore, from Illinois Read More

I named it Hope because this van literally gave me hope...hope to get out, hope to live, hope to have freedom again, hope to explore and see and do things I otherwise would not do or see.

Tracie Ridgeway, from Indiana Read More