Motoring is an all-but essential part of everyday life. A wheelchair accessible vehicle can make motoring for disabled people and their carers so much easier.
Advantages for carers
The two primary advantages for carers are ease and efficiency. Caring for someone is difficult enough without struggling with either a wriggling (or growing) child,or heavy adult to manoeuvre into a vehicle through an ordinary car door. The risk of injury to either one of you is very real. A WAV enables a wheelchair user to be rolled up a ramp or lifted into the vehicle via a lift.
Advantages for wheelchair users
The advantages for wheelchair users are very similar to those enjoyed by carers. There’s no awkward transfer process where they’ll need to leave their wheelchair – which can also take a frustratingly long time. Secondly, some disabled people rely on a specific wheelchair to provide postural support or pressure relief. As soon as they transfer out of their seat, they lose those benefits.
Whilst most mainstream vehicles are built around the driver, a WAV is designed around the ‘wheelchair user’ – be they driver or passenger. The first part of this is to assess the wheelchair user’s needs and indeed, the specific wheelchair they’re using – which will need to fit properly in position and be safe to use in a WAV.
Getting in and out – easily
As already mentioned, WAVs avoid the need for wheelchair users to transfer out of their seat. Even better is that carers without the necessary strength to ‘push’ wheelchair users up the WAV’s ramp can utilise automated systems such as winches to do any heavy work. (It’s important to think about manual back-up just the same.)
What sort of WAV?
Plenty of conversions exist whereby a wheelchair user can wheel themselves in and drive away. Even so, there are a variety of passenger WAV options to consider, from MPV conversions right up to those based on a van.
Your choice can be influenced by several factors; such as where the (passenger) wheelchair user would like to be positioned. They may not like to travel in the back for instance or want better visibility through windows or to be able to speak easily with the driver and other passengers. In all cases, the wheelchair user should have plenty of room to sit upright comfortably and without risk of banging their head if the vehicle hits a bump. (Think about the risks of other bumps caused by the wheelchair user’s uncontrolled movements.)
Carers should also be able to reach and assist the wheelchair user in the event of an incident or emergency.
Other considerations include how other passengers will use the vehicle since the original seating plan (pre-conversion) will need to be altered – with seats either removed or replaced with folding seats, for example.
A Motability lease for a WAV is five years so you’ll want to know that it suits all of your needs properly. Be sure that it will fit on your driveway or in the garage – this might also sway your thinking regarding whether you have space to enter and exit it from the back or side.
Try before you buy
Most reputable WAV dealerships will give you an opportunity to try out a WAV for yourself, pre-purchase. This is a valuable opportunity to find out if it’s really for you and is especially useful, if for example, you’ve never driven such a large vehicle before.
Pick a good one
The Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Converters’ Association (WAVCA) will deal with complaints about their members; make sure the dealership you do business with is accredited by them.
Motability and Carers
Very often carers deal with membership of the Motability scheme on behalf of the person they care for. An appointee, as they are known by Motability, may be needed when the disabled person is under 16 years old or unable to look after their own affairs.
According to the Motability website, “Appointees are solely responsible for collecting state benefits for the disabled person and for deciding how they are used. They are assigned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and are usually a family member.
As an appointee, you would be the hirer of the Motability Scheme vehicle and legally responsible for the lease agreement, on behalf of the disabled person. It’s therefore your responsibility to ensure that the Scheme car is used for the right purpose and that the disabled person has full access to it. You also take full responsibility for any outstanding monies for the Scheme lease agreement.”
Some disabled people might rely on a corporate appointee. The corporate appointee is an organisation (again, that is solely responsible for the collection and use of state benefits for the disabled person). They are assigned by the DWP and may be social services or a charity, for example.
For further information, call Motability on: 03457 123456 or visit: www.motability.co.uk