A wheelchair van is designed to facilitate transportation of disabled people. Many vans available today can be modified to permanently support wheelchair access. Although wheelchair ramp and lift fittings are dependent on the make and model of the van, there are basically two types for which you must choose which is the most appropriate. They are minivan ramps and full size van ramps. Minivans can cope with most individual wheelchair users’ demands, but if the wheelchair-accessible vehicle is being used for organizations such as schools, hospitals, sporting clubs, etc. it is better to look into wheelchair-fitting a full size van.
Wheelchair vans can either be bought straight from the manufacturers or you could ask them to modify your existing van. For minivans, modification is usually done by lowering the floor rather than raising the ceiling, thus giving everybody inside the van the same line of sight. One of three ramp systems is usually used in these mini vans. The first wheelchair ramp system is made by IMS (Independent Mobility Systems Inc), the second by Ricon and the third by Vantage. All three of these manufacturers are specialists in wheel chair van conversions and modify virtually any recent-model minivan.
For larger vans, the industry standard for conversions uses the Liberty design. With this design, you can choose whether you want a rear or side access. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with both. All side entrances are on the right, therefore the sidewalk side of the van. In this way, wheelchair passengers can stay well away from traffic in the roadway. But occasionally, circumstances may dictate that a rear entrance and exit to the van is preferable, for instance if you are parking in a narrow parking space.
The price to convert a van or minivan to be wheelchair accessible varies by manufacturer and also depends on the model of van. For example, buying a new 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan with Vantage Northstar wheelchair lift conversion could cost roughly $19,000.
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