To start with, I would like to pinpoint few main features that a car for a person on a wheelchair should have:
- Keyless ignition system
- Automatic transmission
- Easy-to-see controls
- Automatic windows and locks
- Remote start
- Adjustable pedals
Adaptive equipment is a necessity in this predicament and all the changes might be very costly. Good news that the government has programs that cover some percentage of these modifications so you should look into that as well prior to buying a vehicle.
What would be the MOST important things to keep in mind when actually approaching a wheelchair accessible vehicle?
- Height of the cabin is critical so that the person has enough room
- Removable front seat for extra room to be closer to the steering column
- If you do not have a foldable wheelchair, you need reliable anchor point to tie down the wheelchair to prevent it from moving.
For your information, there are certification standards for all the installed adaptive equipment that varies in each country.
Let’s narrow down our choices.
We will start from Honda Odyssey – an award-winning vehicle that is affordable and reliable. It is a perfect vehicle on the market right now to be modify and provide comfort for its driver. What we love about it is the “Step & Roll” front seats, that let the wheelchair be places at the front if need be. There are also VMI Northstar Odyssey and the Summit Edition with the same features, but the Summit Edition boasts its fold-out ramp that makes storing and access super easy. The only downfall is that rebate program that I mentioned before is not that great as other companies might offer. This might affect your warranty so you should look into it before you make a final decision.
Another winner is Chevrolet Silverado, featuring a wheelchair lift and hinge doors. GM offers up to a thousand dollars reimbursement for permanently handicapped people. There are other perks for the handicapped people, choosing this make, but stay tuned as they are all offered for a limited time.
Next on the list is a Ford Mustang. In addition to being a flashy sports car, it features lifts, carriers, parking brakes, hand controls, power assist seats, etc. As it is a smaller vehicle, you won’t be able to have door openers and restraints though. Just like GM, Ford also offers reimbursement up to 1000 dollars within a year of a vehicle purchase.
Our next choice is Scion xB with a generous reimbursement program in place too. The vehicle can be adapted to accommodate the wheelchair lift, swivel seats, restraints, hand controls, steering devices, and even a left foot accelerator.
If you are still planning to conquer the off-roading trails and routes, you might also take into consideration an EcoDiesel option that gives you lots of torque. In this case our top choice is Jeep Grand Cherokee with Chrysler Group’s reimbursement program.
But sometimes you will need a vehicle, built specifically for the people on a wheelchair. MV-1 is a first purpose-built wheelchair accessible vehicle. It features the ramp that automatically deploys, safety lights, the steel-reinforced bumpers, side-impact beams and many other options that are inevitable for comfortable ride in the wheelchair accessible vehicle.