If you are in the market for a handicap minivan, you need to think carefully if you want to drive the minivan around or if you want to be the passenger. Most handicap minivans are designed to either allow the handicapped individual to be the passenger or to be the driver, not both. It is rare to find a handicap minivan that is equipped for the handicapped individual to fill both roles. There are a few major differences between handicap minivans that are set up for one to be the driver or the passenger.
Driver of a Handicap Minivan
If you want to transport yourself around, and you use a wheelchair, a handicap minivan that has been specifically set-up to allow you to drive is your best option. With these types of vans, the van is modified in ways that make it possible for you to safely operate a vehicle and work around your physical limitations.
You can purchase a handicap minivan that has a seat removed and has a wheelchair lift located at the driver side door. This will allow you to put your wheelchair in place behind the wheel and lock your wheelchair in so that it doesn't move while you are driving. These types of vans are generally set up so that you can operate the gas and brakes of the van using special equipment that allows you to use your hands instead of your feet to operate the van.
You can also purchase a handicap minivan that has the seat intact. With these types of minivans, you have to transfer your body into the chair. You can generally roll your chair up in a row behind the driver's seats and then get into the driver's seat. These vans can be set up so that you can use the pedals if you have the use of your feet, or you can use a hand control device.
Passenger handicap minivans have different modifications. The driver's seat and set-up are left alone. Instead, modifications are made to the passenger areas of the vehicle.
The access to the minivan can be set up a few different ways. The back of the minivan can be set up so that when it opens, a ramp is extended downward that you can then drive your wheelchair up onto the ramp and into the van. Or a lift can be installed on the side of the minivan so that once you open the sliding door, a lift extends out of the van that will lift your wheelchair up and into the van.
Once you are inside the van, devices will be installed in order to secure your wheelchair so that you are as safe as possible while on the road.
Handicap minivans that are set up for you to operate as the driver are generally a little more expensive than those that are set up to accommodate your wheelchair as the passenger as more modifications are made to the van. The key is to choose a form of transportation that works for your lifestyle and your budget.