Here are some of the points you’ll need to consider if you’re considering leasing or purchasing a WAV.

What’s a WAV?
Put simply, a ‘WAV’ is a ‘Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle’. The basics are that wheelchair users can’t always transfer efficiently or comfortably into a car seat and it may, therefore, be impractical for them to use an ordinary vehicle – even if it can be adapted. What they need is a vehicle that enables them to drive or ride as a passenger without the rigmarole of moving out of their wheelchair.

Disabled people and their carers will already be aware that ‘accessible’ can mean many different shapes, sizes and solutions. It’s definitely the case with WAVs, so it’s well worth starting out by noting down any particulars you’ll need and thinking about how you’ll use your WAV.

Getting in and out
At the top of the list of considerations should be getting in and getting out. There are a number of different ways that different conversion companies deal with this. The important factors you’ll need to think about are: whether you’ll drive it yourself and where you’ll be parking it in relation to your home. Not everyone has a broad driveway that lends itself to entering and exiting from the side of the vehicle. If you park on the road, you might choose to enter through the back.

The two main options are ramps and lifts. Ramps usually slide out mechanically or automatically (via a hand control) from underneath the vehicle. You’ll need to note that the ramp will need space to deploy and further space for you to roll off.

A lift usually folds up behind the vehicle, raising and lowering wheelchair and/or powerchair users from ground to the point where they can roll in to the vehicle.

Efficient and comfortable.
Thinking about getting in and getting out again – and other issues, such as securing the wheelchair or how comfortable you’ll be during the journey is also really important. WAVs are ‘big ticket’ items and in order to get your money’s worth they’ll need to be efficient, comfortable, easy and safe to use. If they aren’t, you’ll find yourself shying away from bothering, which would be a shame.

Drive from
For disabled people that want to remain mobile, the major advantage of a WAV is that they can stay seated in their wheelchair – which is carefully secured with tie-downs, in the place where there might otherwise be a seat. This arrangement also means that disabled people have the opportunity to elect to ‘drive from’ their wheelchair – and plenty do.

People that have acquired disability in later life, perhaps already with driving experience, find that this keeps them mobile and independent. All that’s needed is the right conversion – usually entailing a specially lowered floor channel that enables the driver to roll up to the driver’s position.

The options for non-driving wheelchair users are to use a similar system to sit up front, in the passenger’s spot or to sit in the rear of the vehicle, possibly between other standard seats or as the sole occupant of the rear space. (These options are likely to depend largely on the wheelchair user themselves and the type of wheelchair, powerchair or mobility scooter they’re using.)

Driving it
A test drive or home demonstration is crucial. Firstly, a WAV is likely to be a new driving experience for whoever is driving it and they need to decide if they like it or not. There are other considerations that can be tested on a demonstration as well, such as if it will be easy to park – and further to that, how things like tie-downs or folding seats operate etc. The aim should be to get it right first time since it’s quicker, easier and cheaper than taking delivery and then having to go back to the dealer to ask for changes.

Ordinary stuff
If you’re going to be taking around other family members or kit or shopping and so on, you’ll need to ensure that it can accommodate everyone and everything you need. (Think also about costs – including those needed to run quite a large vehicle.)

Nearly new options
Purchasing a used WAV can be a very sound option. Even Motability has a dedicated scheme in place to help people to save money by leasing a nearly new WAV.

Lots of the broader adaptations made in vehicles can suit a wide variety of people and there are certain advantages regarding delivery times. Warranty and aftersales details will vary between dealerships.

Most WAV users would advise purchasing a wheelchair before getting a WAV since it’s easier to work around the wheelchair user than the other way around. You also need to consider how your condition might change and possibly how your wheelchair needs might develop – or if the WAV is needed for a young person, how they’ll grow.

Motability and charitable grants
WAVs can be purchased through a lease agreement via the renowned Motability scheme. However, Motability is also a national charity, which can provide charitable grants to scheme customers who would otherwise struggle to afford the mobility solution they need. Motability takes into account a wide range of factors, including, how your disability impacts your mobility, household circumstances and financial means. Visit: www.motability.co.uk (Other charitable organisations also provide grants.)

Key Tips
• Think carefully about your needs.

• Tap into the dealerships knowledge and experience. (Write a list of questions to ask them.)

• Try before you buy.

Driving Mobility Centres
If you’re considering your driving options, such as leasing an adaptive car or a WAV, get in touch with a Driving Mobility centre where they can assess your needs and offer advice to help you achieve or retain independence through motoring. They also have a range of equipment available for you to try during your assessment, from small items like swivel seats up to person hoists and even wheelchair accessible vehicles.

Tel: 01872 672520