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What advice can you give about wheelchair-converted minivans?
March 10, 2014 8:41 AM   Subscribe

I need to acquire a minivan converted with a ramp to accommodate my father in an electric wheelchair. I know I want a side-entry ramp, and I know I want a used Chrysler Town & Country, something after model year 2008. Everything else is negotiable. I am open to buying a van and having it converted, or buying an already-converted van. I am open to doing business with any one of the many companies who do this kind of thing. Do any MeFites have personal experience with this and knowledge/advice to share? Many thanks!
posted by mccxxiii to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total)
 
Are you looking for a van your father can drive or just one he can get into and be a passenger? If he wants to drive it becomes more difficult to find a "pre-converted" van because of varying accommodation needs. Safety, his and others', requires that the van specifically address his abilities and limitations.

If he is going to be a passenger you need to decide between a simple ramp arrangement and a side lift gate, which is obviously more complex, expensive and heavy. In either event it is extremely important that the van is adapted to securely hold the wheel chair (and father).

As a side note, be sure to check that Dad, in his chair, fits into the side door (height and width). Less critical, but important, is the ability to comfortably see outside the van when sitting in the wheel chair. Having to only look downward at the "moving" ground can be troublesome.
posted by uncaken at 9:56 AM on March 10


He'll just ride -- he cannot drive. I'm looking for the simple ramp style. Wondering especially if there are any good or bad companies to do business with ...
posted by mccxxiii at 10:17 AM on March 10


My experience was only in assisting a friend in purchasing several custom vans which he could drive using hand controls. I would suggest contacting a medical supply company in your area (probably the one which supplied the wheel chair) and/or the medical provider that is treating your dad for their local recommendations.
posted by uncaken at 10:30 AM on March 10


You probably have a particular use in mind, but I'll offer one word of warning about a side-loading setup: very difficult to park this reliably almost anywhere, as it's impossible to ensure that no one will park in the spot (or two) next to your loading door if you're in a parking lot somewhere. Electric chairs in particular need some space to move in and other vehicles are almost always too close for the ramp, chair, turning radius, etc. On-street parking is also a challenge for similar reasons.

I have a Grand Caravan modified with manual rear-loading ramp for my son's manual wheelchair and have found it just about perfect. I'm in Canada, however, so I probably can't offer a useful recommendation on where to shop.
posted by danwalker at 11:25 AM on March 10


As this question over at Wheelchairjunkie.com. The knowledgeable people there will have plenty of opinions and experience about vans and dealers in your area. Be sure to ask for recommendations otherwise you'll just get irritated Let Me Google That For You results.

We've had three accessible vans, two Toyotas and one Town and Country all with side mounted fold down ramps. They've been fine and get better and better with each iteration. Your dealer will make sure your dad in his chair can get in comfortably and that he can transfer easily to the passenger seat or be safely secured in his chair.

We park in van accessible handicapped spots and have no trouble with access as long as people don't park in the adjacent blue hash marks. Street parking is possible with a bit of searching round. It's difficult in snowy weather because ploughs tend to dump snow in the hash marks or next to the curb. I've never considered a rear entry van because the thought of decanting into parking lot traffic gives me the willies. I have on occasion parked diagonally across two parking spots to ensure ramp access when there are no accessible spots.

I've never thought about buying a van and having it converted. We've bought Braun vans. They support their products and work hard to make sure the darned thing works and keeps working. A good dealer is a precious thing to have.
posted by firstdrop at 12:23 PM on March 10


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