Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

Wheelchair accessible vehicles are a significant step in getting back to normal independent life routines after disability. Regaining transportation freedom on the West Coast is something R&J Mobility certified experts handle daily. Whether you are looking to rent, purchase, or convert a vehicle, contact the experts at the mobility center to see how they can help.

Public transportation is an option but offers limited convenience. Paratransit services provide fixed route transportation but with pre-designated stops or routes, limiting flexibility and convenience. Taxicabs generally don’t offer wheelchair accessibility making both scarce and more expensive than other options. The most flexible option for mobility needs are wheelchair accessible vehicles with customizable options giving you the freedom to come and go on your own schedule.

A wheelchair accessible vehicle is about more than mobility; it is about independence. Consider your options and work with a certified modification expert to have a safe and effective new ride.

Please note that getting an evaluation from a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist is highly recommended.

At R&J Mobility Service, we offer lowered floor minivan conversions by the industry’s top manufacturers:

  • The Braun Corporation (BraunAbility)
  • Vantage Mobility International (VMI)

You can choose from these minivans with several different conversion options from BraunAbility and VMI:

Chrysler Town & Country

Dodge Grand Caravan

Honda Odyssey

Toyota Sienna

Chrysler Pacifica


Independence Considerations

Determine what you need in a wheelchair accessible vehicle and your goals with improving personal transportation options. There is a big difference between a wheelchair accessible vehicle designed for a driver and one for a passenger. Mobility choices will also be dictated whether you are using the wheelchair as an occupied passenger or unoccupied.

All these little details direct whether or not wheelchair access is done from the side or back. It also defines whether it will be locked in place at a passenger’s location during transit or gets stored elsewhere in the vehicle.


Point of Entry Options

Wheelchair accessible vehicles have two options for entry. Rear entry vehicles provide access for rear position seating and storage. The side entrance position allows for access to the front of the car, including the driver seat position.

Side Entry

Vehicles that grant entry through the side door position are the preferred option for drivers with accessibility needs. Side entrances are the only option to access a front vehicle seating position, meaning if you are the driver this is the only system to meet your needs. Side door access allows installation of a ramp or a left driver’s side lift.

Rear Entry

Modifications for rear entry wheelchair accessibility are less expensive than the side entrance. These modifications provide increased flexibility when parking. Rear access points allow you to bypass side entrance space requirements. If you park in limited handicap space parking lots or where objects block side entrances, consider a rear a rear entry car.  

However, an important consideration is whether or not unloading through the rear access will place you in danger or passing cars. The ramp extends beyond the parking space and may put an occupant in a precarious position where cars are driving by.


Height and Width Requirements

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sets forth guidelines to ensure disabilities do not limit opportunities available to everyone else and provide guidance when selecting a wheelchair accessible vehicle. The interior height should be at least 56 inches allowing a wheelchair passenger to enter independently with sufficient headroom. A minimum width of 30 inches is required for vehicles being modified with a ramp or lift.

Additional Requirements

Both the wheelchair and the passenger must be properly secured in the car when it is in transit. ADA and NHTSA regulations require that restraints are designed to keep wheelchairs from moving; wheelchairs with brakes are not exempt from this. Additionally, harness systems must keep the passenger secured in the seat in the event of sudden acceleration, deceleration or impact.

Proper lighting within the van aids in safely securing the wheelchair to the vehicle. ADA compliant interior lighting provides one square foot of light per source. Inquire if the vehicle you are considering meets these requirements.


Choosing the Right Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

The options for accessibility vehicles allow the opportunity to find a car specifically designed for the wheelchair, either as a passenger or driver. The first of many possibilities is whether a rental or purchased car will work best for you. Some people may only have a limited need while dealing with a short-term disability or a visitor staying for a finite period of time. There are solutions available for all needs.

Public Transportation

Public transportation comes in the form of buses, hired rides or paratransit vehicles. A taxi or uber, while an easy option for those not wheelchair reliant, is not always handicap accessible. Paratransit services such as Handivans are an option when wheelchairs are a part of a day to day life because the rider is able to get to many locations within a set route. However, Paratransit revolves around public transit routes and has limitations regarding the area of service.

Rental Service

You can book rental services for wheelchair accessible vans for a day, week or month. Special events, vacations, and doctor’s appointments often require more flexibility than paratransit services provide. This is where rental options provide great benefits over public systems.

R&J Mobility certified experts train you on how driving the rental vehicle. Demonstrations include equipment operation and anything needed to get you driving the rental wheelchair accessible vehicle quickly and safely.


Purchasing an Accessible Van

Consider whether you would prefer a converted vehicle or to select a vehicle suitable for conversion. Both options have pros and cons depending on your position. Certified mobility specialists explain the regulations, develop a proper plan based on prescriptions and teach you to use modifications with all wheelchair accessible modifications.

Pre-Modified Vans: Converted and Ready to Go

Converted wheelchair accessible vehicles are already modified and ready to drive home today. Dealers sit with you to do driver’s ed helping you adjust to using different types of controls and features.

The pros of a converted wheelchair van include:

  • Convenience: Conversions are installed to dealer specifications ready to take home leaving you to just choose your favorite color.  
  • Experience: Get hands-on experience with installed adaptive equipment to see what does and doesn’t work including test driving and renting vehicles.
The cons of a converted wheelchair van include:
  • Selection: Vehicle option types are limited to stock on hand. The most popular is the minivan that dominates most wheelchair accessible dealership showrooms.
  • Cost: The cost of the pre-modified van may be over your budget simply because modifications were implemented to meet several different handicap needs you don’t necessarily need.

Converting Your Existing Van

Pre-existing vehicles give you the option of converting a car you are already comfortable in and have a vested financial interest in. You already know it will work for your lifestyle as long as it is modified for your mobility needs.

The pros of converting your own van for wheelchair accessibility include:

  • Customizability: Your vehicle is customized specifically to your needs and will not include features you don’t need or want.
  • Selection: A variety of vehicles which suit your lifestyle are available for customization.  Your accessibility needs will be met in a vehicle that fits your style.
The cons of converting your own van for wheelchair accessibility include:
  • Inconvenience and Wait Time: Lead time between purchase and driving keeps you from driving your vehicle home immediately.
  • Experience: The best experience is the hands-on experience.  Selecting the conversion process means you will choose accessibility features before testing them out in person.

Helping you assess the balance between all the pros and cons is what certified mobility specialists do. You aren’t in this alone when you work with certified dealers. If converting an existing vehicle makes sense, the staff will work with you, your doctors and mobility device manufacturers to get the right systems in place as quickly as possible.  

Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles

When researching dealers, inquire if they offer certified pre-owned vehicles.  This option can get the vehicle you need quickly without paying top dollar for a brand-new conversion van. Talk to your certified dealer about addition modifications required in a retrofit addressing any specific needs you have that aren’t already in the pre-owned vehicle.

Convert with Driver Aids and Mobility Devices

R&J Mobility offers a large block of driver aids for wheelchair users looking to regain independence. Mobility aids help customize driving controls in a variety of ways improving vehicle accessibility.

Handicap driving aids and mobility devices include:

  • Hand Controls: Aids are available to allow braking and accelerating by hand.
  • Steering Devices: A variety of steering aids assist drivers requiring handicap modifications for single hand vehicle operation.
  • High Tech Driving Systems: High tech devices are used to control vehicle functions or driving controls.
  • Left Foot Accelerators: Drivers with limited or no use of the right foot benefit from left foot accelerators such as the 3545 and MPS quick release.
  • Other Driving Aids: A variety of additional aids are available dependent on your needs. Options include extensions for various knobs, shifts, and pedals.

Adaptive equipment installation requires documentation regarding the wheelchair person’s current medical status and functional requirements. Documentation is usually a prescription that discusses the right options with mobility experts and health insurance coverage. Then an assessment report from a qualified driver rehabilitation specialist is completed to satisfy driver’s license requirements with approval and any pertinent restriction.

Which Vehicle Is Right for You

Selecting the right vehicle is a balancing act based on someone’s medical mobility prescription, wheelchair accessibility, budget and general personal preferences for vehicles. Accessibility needs for a driver differ from those of a passenger. Identify common passenger needs such as a spouse or other family members. The certified mobility consultants at R&J Mobility can help you move forward with the option that is right for you.

Minivan: Most Popular Wheelchair Choice

The standard vehicle for accessibility is the minivan because it provides many convenient features that allow for easy modification and use. Certified dealerships such as R&J Mobility offer a variety of minivans, such as the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Toyota Sienna throughout their West Coast. Minivan modifications with The Braun Corporation, ElDorado National, and Vantage Mobility International lowered floor conversions are done meeting all ADA compliance standards of excellence.  

Trucks and SUVs: A Lifestyle

While minivans are the most popular, there are many reasons to consider converting a truck or SUV. Tow capacity and the ability to navigate various road conditions are key consideration for trucks and SUV owners. Those whose lifestyle include more than just commuting in the city may want to consider conversions a truck or SUV.

Hybrid Vehicles: Gas Mileage Friendly

Hybrids are newer option many people looking for a conversion van don’t always consider. A hybrid offers considerable savings when it comes to gas mileage. Options include the Chrysler Hybrid Rear Entry minivan that meets many mobility needs.  Accessible hybrid vehicles are especially attractive for environmentally conscious consumers not comfortable with the gas guzzling of traditional wheelchair accessible vehicles.

Cargo Vans: The Space Option

When minivans meet your accessibility needs but fail to provide adequate space consider a full-size van. Van lines, such as the Ford Econoline, accommodate mobility equipment modifications and still provide ample space. Large vans provide the width and height required for a power wheelchair passenger to move about inside the vehicle. Whether you are transporting family, friends, or equipment for your band, a large van can return you to your independent lifestyle.

Low-Speed Vehicle: Easily Accessible

Low-speed vehicles are street legal versions of golf carts or off-road utility vehicles. The low-speed vehicle has a unique trait; it allows driver side access from a rear loading entrance position. These are good options for running local errands and other short trips in a small community radius.

Financing Your Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Mobility vehicles costs are a significant roadblock for most consumers considering a new vehicle. When you form a relationship with R&J Mobility, you benefit from their many years of experience with various programs and options for financing. They know the ins and outs of financing your wheelchair accessible vehicle.

Find Your Assistance Program

A variety of assistance programs available to offset the cost include:

  • State Agencies: Each state has an Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. These offices have funded programs aimed at assisting people with disabilities to obtain transportation for work. Contact your local state office to determine if this is an option for you.
  • Veterans Administration: Qualified Veterans receive financial assistance for mobility equipment through two main programs.
    • The Auto Allowance program provides a one-time offer of financial assistance for the purchase of new mobility vehicles.
    • If you are looking to modify a vehicle, the Auto Adaptive program contributes funds for equipment necessary to modify a car. R&J Mobility lists additional details for Veterans Assistance.
  • Mobility Rebate Program: Rebates are available from numerous vehicle manufacturers to assist in funding mobility modifications.
  • Social Security/State Disability: Government funded assistance includes an application process that will take some time but often provides the most benefits.
  • Grants: Research organizations addressing specific conditions like multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy offer grants that aid with conversion van needs.
  • Insurance: workers’ compensation and health insurance may pay for part of the conversion depending on the circumstances. This varies depending on insurance plans and how the disability occurred.
Finance Options

Most conversion vans and wheelchair accessible vehicle purchases will still need to explore some financing options. After pursuing financial assistance and grants, consider the financing options to help pay the balance. Financing is often broken into two parts, the actual vehicle purchase and the conversion. R&J Mobility offers quotes and financing options for driving and transportation equipment with no charge or obligation.

Why Should I Pick R&J Mobility

R&J Mobility provides independence and accessibility to consumers from California to Washington. Their customer service and one-stop shop model are keystones for convenience when selecting a wheelchair accessible vehicle. R&J Mobility is the answer to the many questions worth asking when evaluating a mobility equipment center.

NMEDA and QAP Membership

National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) members work together to ensure improved mobility transportation options. R&J Mobility is a member of NMEDA and is a part of the Quality Assurance Program (QAP). They are leaders of excellence up and down the entire West Coast.

QAP is a nationally recognized accreditation program indicating a dealer’s modifications consistently meet industry standards. QAP membership provides assurance that dealers focus on customer satisfaction while maintaining compliance within industry and regulatory standards. Consumers working with QAP accredited dealers can rest assured that they are receiving state-of-the-art service that meets all modern conversion standards.


Industry Experience for Security

Purchasing a wheelchair accessible vehicle is a big decision with both financial and lifestyle consequences. Finding the right dealership, such as R&J Mobility, takes some of the stress away by giving consumers a trusted resource with one concern: getting you into a safe vehicle that meets your needs.

R&J Mobility has been in business for over 40 years giving it a wealth of experience assessing needs, installing accessibility modifications, and servicing wheelchair accessible vehicles. Their industry-specific knowledge couples with experience navigating assistance programs and financing options offering you an overall experience that sets your mind at ease.

Let the experienced team at R&J Mobility help get you back the freedom to which you are entitled.


Book A Consultation Today

Whether you know exactly what you need or are looking for guidance navigating the extensive options call R&J Mobility. Contact the West Coast’s top mobility advisors today to schedule an appointment with a certified mobility consultant to inquire about obtaining the vehicle that meets your need.

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