It is relatively easy to carry a wheelchair using a commercially available wheelchair carrier. But it can be difficult to accommodate a friend or family member who needs to remain in a wheelchair when traveling by automobile. For those families or organizations with more than one member in a wheelchair it can be downright impossible to travel without some sort of specialized vehicle. Fortunately, it is easy to find van conversions designed specifically for special needs online.
When shopping for a wheelchair specific vehicle, the most important issue is obviously the ramp. A solid wheelchair ramp is the most important aspect of any wheelchair van conversion because access is one of the most difficult aspects of wheelchair travel. There are two primary types of ramps: side entry and rear entry.
As the names suggest, a wheelchair rear entry ramp folds out from the trunk of the van, in the rear, while a side entry ramp folds out of the vans side door area. An advantage of the rear entry ramp is easy ramp access in crowded parking lots. As long as there is ample space behind the trunk of the car, it is possible to access a rear entry ramp almost anywhere.
Some vans also come with hydraulic lifts rather than ramps. These lifts drop to ground level and then elevate to the van’s floor, allowing the wheelchair to roll into the van. Like rear-entry ramps, hydraulic lift van conversions are better suited to tight spaces, though a lift might still have trouble in an extremely packed parking lot.
These van conversions can be done on any full size van and most mini vans. Some vans will require a lowered floor to accommodate the height of the wheelchair, although this is often unnecessary on larger vans. Also, the vast majority of these vans will still provide ample seating for ambulatory passengers, both with and without a wheelchair passenger.