Access to wheelchair vans can be life-changing for people with physical disabilities. The following tips will help you select a van that is comfortable, reliable and properly equipped to meet your needs.
Determining Your Van Requirements
Contact the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists at 866-672-9466 (toll free in the US and Canada) or a local rehabilitation center to find a qualified evaluator in your area.
An evaluator is trained to perform a comprehensive review of your situation and requirements. He or she will work with you to identify the type of equipment you need in your van.
The evaluator will assess your ability to drive with adaptive equipment, as well as determine reaction time, coordination, perceptual judgment, and other factors.
After the review is complete, you will receive a report containing specific vehicle modification recommendations. Evaluators also assess the compatibility of a vehicle for passengers with disabilities. They will determine the type of seating that passengers require, as well as what specialized equipment is necessary to ensure safe entry and exit.
Whether you are buying a new or used accessible van, begin by researching the reliability of various vans through consumer research magazines and online review. Then, look at a variety of models that have positive ratings and see what looks and feels right to you.
Examine the overall condition of the vehicle and its history, if available. Carefully examine the interior for loose carpet or panels, rust, or poor welding, Look at the interior spacing and the ease of operating the access ramp.
Test your ability to enter and exit the van. If you will be driving the van, ensure you can effortlessly access all steering controls, mirrors, lights, window and heating/cooling controls. And of course, take the van for a test drive or ride in it with your driver. This will allow you to determine if the van offers a smooth ride or if it rocks, makes noises, or seems otherwise troubling.
Check to be sure the van has a heavy duty electrical system to support any electrically operated accessories. The chassis also must be built to handle the extra weight of a lift system, if you require one.
All wheelchair vans must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. An excellent resource on safety is the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA). The web site is www.nmeda.com.
Before finalizing your purchase, ask to see the warranty information, research the reliability of the make and model, and ask about vehicle servicing requirements and locations.
As you begin your search process, contact the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation in your state, non-profit organizations that advocate for people with disabilities, and your insurance carrier to determine if you qualify for any available financial assistance.
If you receive a prescription from your doctor to use a modified van, your state may waive sales tax for the purchase of a modified van. You should also consult a tax professional to find out if you qualify for a medical deduction.
In addition, see if there are special offers or financing arrangements available from wheelchair van dealers or manufacturers before you finalize your purchase decision.
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