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Driving a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) in the UK | AD

AD – This post is sponsored by Paddock Automotive


If you’re a wheelchair user and you’re looking into driving in the UK, there are some different options that you should consider. In this article, we’ll cover the different types of vehicle set-up that could work for you and take a look at how to choose the type of vehicle that will be the best fit for your particular lifestyle.

Emma in her powerchair sitting upfront in the driving space of her wheelchair accessisble vehicle when she was learning to drive.
Emma sitting in her wheelchair upfront in her WAV when she was learning to drive.

What are my driving options as a wheelchair user?

Within the general category of wheelchair accessible vehicles (or just WAV, for short) there is the option to either drive from your wheelchair, or the option to drive from a specially adapted car seat.

If you want to drive from your wheelchair, this is referred to as the Drive from Wheelchair set-up. It’s a simple name that’s easy enough to remember, but when you’re shopping around you should also be aware that you’ll often find it abbreviated to just DFW.

If the idea of driving from an ordinary car seat that has been adapted to suit you sounds a bit more appealing, then this is what’s known as the Internal Transfer set-up. It gets its name from the fact that you transfer from your wheelchair to the car seat internally – when you are inside the vehicle itself.

As with DFW, this is often shortened to IT on commercial websites and in official literature.

How do I choose between a DFW and an IT?

The independence that having your own car provides you with can make all the difference to your day-to-day life. So when you’re browsing the WAV showroom looking for new and used vehicles, how do you actually choose between a DFW and an IT? Well, this really all comes down to the individual, to your needs and your preferences.

What size is your wheelchair?

Firstly, you should think about the particular sort of wheelchair that you use. What is its size? How much does it weigh? How high is it and, indeed, how tall are you when you’re actually sat in your wheelchair? As you may already know from being a passenger in a wheelchair accessible vehicle, there is a range of WAVs on the market, all with different heights and different means of access.

If you have a large wheelchair then you’ll probably find a large vehicle with the DFW set-up to be the most convenient option. This is because manoeuvring a wheelchair and manoeuvring yourself in a confined space can obviously be challenging. If you have a smaller wheelchair then you might want to go with a correspondingly smaller vehicle and go for the IT option.

Will you be driving passengers around too?

Another big consideration is whether or not you will be taking passengers and if so, how many? Can you see yourself driving around friends or family in your WAV? Will you be doing a school run in the mornings and afternoons? Obviously, the way a car gets used might well vary quite a lot from day to day so this question isn’t always easy to answer.

A good idea is just to try and work out who will be in the car on an average week, or month, in your life and to go from there. Once you’ve worked this out, think about whether it would be best to have a DFW so you can just wheel your chair right into the vehicle and go, or if you’d have room for the wheelchair and any potential passengers once you’ve transferred yourself to your adapted car seat.

Conclusion

So if you’re currently considering getting behind the wheel in a WAV, think over your options carefully before you make the investment. Go over everything, from your wheelchair’s weight and dimensions to your driving preferences and the number of passengers you’d ideally like to take with you on a regular basis.

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Meet Emma

Meet Emma

Hello I’m Emma. My mission is to show you the possibilities of accessible travel through my travel guides, tips and reviews. I also share personal stories, live event reviews and more.

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2 Responses

    1. Hi Sarah. I took driving lessons, but never sat a driving test as I realised driving wasn’t for me. I passed my theory though 🙂

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