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Choosing a wheelchair accessible vehicle

Today I have a friend sharing her experience choosing a wheelchair accessible vehicle. This is such a big purchase I think it is valuable to hear another person’s experience if you are still in the throws of deciding. So, over to my friend for her thoughts.

Choosing a wheelchair accessible vehicle

Choosing a wheelchair accessible vehicle can be a long and confusing process. There are so many variables, from the size of your family to the size of the wheelchair, that often the choice of the vehicle is dictated by these needs. While you might get to choose the colour, I’m betting there are very few people who actually would have chosen that same car if they didn’t need to either transport a wheelchair or have a self-drive option for themselves.
Choosing a wheelchair accessible car
When I bought my first wheelchair accessible car, I went the safe route. I bought the new vehicle already modified. While this car has been a relatively faithful friend (we won’t talk about the Ryde Bridge incident here), one of the things that has become evident over the years is that the modification was actually costlier than the vehicle. The car, a Renault Kangoo, is actually a cargo van rather than a passenger vehicle and as the years have gone on, the fact that it is a very basic car has become more apparent. It also is quite a unique looking car. There is nothing wrong with that, but sometimes it is nice to blend into the crowd and not be recognised everywhere you go, especially when wearing track pants.
Choosing a wheelchair accessible car
So when we went looking this time I did my homework. I knew I wanted a car that looked like a family car, and one that still fit under the height restrictions for parking stations. As we are a small family I only wanted a small car and looked at cars such as the Kia Soul or Toyota Rukus for conversion. These cars just have the 2 front seats and the back is space for the wheelchair. While we fit inside comfortably, it was a very close shave coming in through the door. A slight head rest adjustment on the wheelchair, and it would no longer have been able to safely pass through the door.
Choosing a wheelchair accessible car
This led us to the Honda Odyssey. It had a lot of headroom to spare and it had the flexibility to have a full row of seats with the wheelchair behind it, 2 seats and the wheelchair between it or even just a wheelchair if that’s what you wanted.
Choosing a wheelchair accessible car
The car itself is a lovely car to look at and to drive and we were sold. Best of all, the car was worth more than the conversion, another win in my books. It’s a bit smaller than the larger vehicles for modification and seemed to tick all the boxes for us.
Choosing a wheelchair accessible car
I chose to purchase my own car and send it for modification. It meant that I could get a 2016 plated car, rather than a 2015. There was around a 4 month wait at the time to get the car in for modification, and once the car was there the process took around 6-7 weeks. While the actual modification time has remained the same, I believe the waiting time is now a lot longer due to the demand for accessible cars.
Choosing a wheelchair accessible car
After much consideration, we decided on one passenger seat in the back. This gave us plenty of room for all the bits and pieces we carry when we go on road trips, and meant there were no scratched knuckles from being too close to the door. We also chose to add a docking system into the floor of the car. A plate is attached to the base of the wheelchair which locks into place, making it easier to load and unload the wheelchair. There are also standard tie downs, so if, like in our case, you have 2 different chairs, you don’t need docking plates for both. It also means that you have flexibility in placing the wheelchair further back if required.
Choosing a wheelchair accessible car
The car has been everything I hoped for and more. The sunroof is a hit with everyone, and it drives like a real family car. It has all the things that the more commercial type vehicles lack, reverse sensors and camera, a great sound system and bluetooth. The back of the car doesn’t look much different to other Odysseys and it is just a pleasure to drive.
Our Facebook community has shared photos of their cars, vans and the pros and cons of their choice in a comprehensive blog post here.
If you are buying a modified vehicle you may find the blog I recently wrote about car insurance of interest. You can find it here.



2 thoughts on “Choosing a wheelchair accessible vehicle”

  1. Thanks for the information. I knew the Honda Odyssey had good reviews but never knew it would be a good fit for a wheelchair. I bet if Honda would promote this feature, they would get even more sales. I’ll make sure to keep this info. under my hat for future reference.

    Reply

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