Choosing a vehicle to suit your disability or circumstances can be difficult as there are many factors to consider. Some people may find it easier than others, but it’s very important to try and think long term. This is especially important if, like me, your disability or wheelchair is likely to change over a few years. I’ve had many wheelchair accessible vehicles throughout my life so I thought I’d share my top tips on how to choose the best wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV).
What Is A WAV?
A WAV, short for wheelchair accessible vehicle, is an adapted vehicle designed to allow a passenger to remain in their wheelchair. There are different types of WAVs to suit various needs and circumstances. For example, I have a Ford Connect Freedom™ WAV (shown in the photos below) with a ramp at the rear of the vehicle which allows me to sit in the back in my wheelchair. Other WAVs allow passengers to sit up front next to the driver or allow the driver to remain in their wheelchair.
How To Choose The Best Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV)
There are so many things to consider when choosing a WAV. As much as they are important factors there really is more to think about than what make and colour to get. Don’t get me wrong picking a colour and sticking with it was so difficult for me. I changed my mind every hour for weeks until I finally made my mind up. I blame my extreme indecisiveness.
We’re made to believe that size doesn’t matter, but when it comes to choosing a WAV, size really does matter. Do you need a small or large van? You are likely to have the WAV for at least 5 years (through Motability Scheme) so it’s got to be right and suit your needs now and a few years down the line. So consider possible changes in your needs and disability in order to size up the best option for you.
2. Are You A Backseat Passenger?
As I mentioned earlier, there are different types of WAVs and some allow the wheelchair user to either sit in the back or up front next to the driver or be the actual driver. You have to decide which option you’d prefer as not all WAVs have both options available for the same make of car. For example, there might only be one make of car that offers a WAV with the option to sit up front in your wheelchair. This option may also cost hundreds more. Of course, there is also the option of a drive from wheelchair WAV. Figure out where you would prefer to sit and take it from there.
Do you need hand controls to allow you to drive from your wheelchair? How are you going to drive your wheelchair into your wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV)? You will need to decide between a ramp or lift as each has different functions as well as pros and cons. Ramps can be operated either manually or by a winch. Lifts are operated electronically so this may be suitable for larger vans. My wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) has a ramp as well as a winch if needed and this setup suits my needs perfectly.
4. Karaoke Carpooling
When choosing a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) it’s important to consider who will be travelling with you. Do you travel with your friends or family on a regular basis? Do you have a carer who often accompanies you on journeys? Are solo car journeys your thing or do you love a bit of karaoke carpooling with friends and family? You will need to consider the minimum number of seats you will need. We had the option of three seats in the back, but two of them would have to be folded down when I was in the vehicle. This just wasn’t a practical option for us as well as costing more money, which we couldn’t justify. In the end, we went for one passenger seat in the back which is only used by my nephew anyway.
5. What Do You Need To Take With You?
This one comes back to the size of WAV you need. If you need other equipment with you or if you like going on weekend breaks and road trips with lots of luggage then you are going to need lots of space. Our WAV has space in the back for luggage and equipment we need to take away with us on trips as well as space for a passenger in the back with me as well as the front passenger. Sometimes it can be a tight squeeze, but we get there in the end.
6. Motability Or Private Purchase?
You have to weigh up the pros and cons for each, but the decision ultimately comes down to your personal preference and circumstances. We decided to go for a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) through the Motability scheme as this was the most suitable option for us. Motability provide security and cover things like insurance, servicing, MOT and repairs. We had to cover the advance payment and then only fuel costs. Every 5 years we can renew our lease and get a new vehicle. In order to get a vehicle from Motability, you must be willing to give up the mobility component of your DLA or PIP. Buying a WAV privately can be a lot more expensive. However, that may suit you better especially if you need one urgently or do not receive any qualifying benefits. By purchasing a WAV privately you will be responsible for all costs including insurance, service, MOT etc.
Please leave some of your tips on how to choose the best wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) in the comments below.
This post is in collaboration with WAV Compare but, as always, all content and opinions are my own.