Here is something different for you all. In my job as a Community Care Aid, I have from time to time, seen various physically disabled individuals make use of a wheelchair lift system that has been custom installed in their vehicles. In most cases, the people that I have seen using a lift have been van owners which makes sense considering the space needed within the vehicle to properly accommodate the lift. If you are going to use a mechanical lift for a vehicle, then you need a good amount of space in the vehicle for the lift to bring you up and in to. As well, it is likely that anyone needing the use of a lift to access the interior of their vehicle with the intention of then manually transferring them self over to the drivers seat area would be capable enough of getting into a car without any need for a lift so close to the ground. So, having established some of the obvious parameters of when and where the lift might be needed, let's take a further look at some of the nuts and bolts of the wheelchair lift systems that are out there. Is there more than one system? Until I started working in healthcare I didn't know the answer to that question but I since learned a thing or two.
There are several different types of wheelchair lifts for vehicles that you can use. Which one you should buy depends on what type of vehicle you are trying to equip with the wheelchair lift. Also, you need to take into account whether or not the person in the wheelchair will be driving the vehicle or will just be a passenger.
As I kind of hinted at before, the minivan is the most easily reconfigured type of vehicle to install a wheelchair lift in since it gives you several options for how you would like to do this. It also is smaller and therefore easier to handle than a full-sized van. I have listed below the various configurations that can be installed in a minivan.
With rear entry, the wheelchair lift is installed at the back of the minivan. This allows for straight line access to the inside of the van without any turning required. which is beneficial for larger type wheelchairs. It also allows for loading in small spaces, like garages that do not have ample space to be loaded in a side door. This configuration also helps to eliminate the problem of people parking too close to a van in a handicapped parking area which effectively blocks the entry to that of a side entry vehicle. This entry option however does not allow for much maneuverability of the wheelchair once you are inside the van. It also re-configures most of the inside of the van including the back storage compartment and the rear seats leaving little space for other passengers and/or storage.
Side Door Entry - Fold Out Ramp
This option allows for much more maneuverability inside the van and can be configured with two different ramp options. The first option comes with a folding ramp which folds in half and is stored once the van side door is closed. It is easily stored next to the sliding door and does not block any of the windows. This is especially useful for those people that will be traveling in a wheelchair alone. If the ramp ever malfunctions, it allows easy manual deployment to enter or exit the van if needed, especially in an emergency.
Side Door Entry - In Floor Ramp
This side door entry option comes with a ramp that is stored below the floor of the van and slides automatically in and out of the built in floor pocket. This option is not recommended for those in a wheelchair who will be traveling alone since if it ever were to malfunction or there was an emergency, the backup system is not as easy to deploy as the fold out ramp.
Once a configuration is selected for how you want to enter/exit the minivan, the entire vehicle is lowered 10 - 12 inches to provide enough headroom for the person in the wheelchair. Other interior modifications are also made along with the installation of the proper wheelchair lift. When the lift has been installed, you can also make any other modifications that you might need depending on whether or not the person in the wheelchair will be driving the vehicle. If they are, the seats will need to be removed from the front of the vehicle so the wheelchair can be safely maneuvered into and out of the driver’s position.
Special ground effects can be added to the vehicle so that no one will know the minivan also includes a wheelchair ramp. Also note that these changes will not have any effect on being able to store the car in an average sized garage. Huh, with a few years of work experience and a little reading, it is amazing what you can learn along the way.
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