Adding a wheelchair lift to your van — or buying a mobility van with a wheelchair lift pre-installed — unlocks new opportunities for accessibility and participation. Use this buyer’s guide to learn how to shop for this critical piece of mobility equipment.
The wheelchair lift is a fully-powered device designed to elevate a wheelchair and its occupant above a vertical plane in homes or vehicles. This lift has been a requirement on all mass transit vehicles since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
There are a couple of different styles of wheelchair lifts in several sizes, depending on the make and model of the vehicle being converted. The following buyer’s guide outlines the primary considerations for purchasing a mobility van with wheelchair lift installed or selecting a particular lift to add to your existing vehicle.
Van with wheelchair lift type: Single-arm versus dual-arm
A mobility van with wheelchair lift has two specific style options: single-arm and dual-arm — referencing the number of stabilizers, as the name implies. Each option has various pros and cons that should be weighed before selecting a conversion style.
Single-arm wheelchair lift. This style is typically used only in side-entry wheelchair accessible vans
- Requires less interior space and leaves the passenger entry open
- Has less lifting capacity than its dual-arm counterpart
- Not available for people with larger or oversized wheelchairs
Dual-arm wheelchair lift. This style boasts two arm stabilizers for better weight distribution
- Increased stability for lifting heavier individuals and wheelchairs
- Most models feature a lifting capacity of up to 800 pounds
- Takes up more interior room, which blocks a side entrance
- Reduces the mobility of passengers in the front seat
It’s important to note that a dual-arm wheelchair lift can be — and routinely is — mounted in the rear of the vehicle to help mitigate some of the negative aspects of its size.The ultimate buyer’s guide for a #mobility van with #wheelchairlift #wheelchairlife Click To Tweet
Mount type: Internal mount or under-vehicle mount
The location of the mount for a mobility van with wheelchair lift is another consideration that can affect vehicle layout, operation, and price. Some wheelchair van makes require either an internal or under-vehicle mount depending on the model. For those with an option, here are some of the mount considerations to take into account.
Internal wheelchair lift mount. This mounting process situates the lift within the confines of the vehicle itself
- Typically less expensive for operation and maintenance
- Generally more accessible for operation and maintenance
- Almost all models take up more space within the layout
- Some models can block the side entrance entirely
Under-vehicle wheelchair lift mount. Typically a more expensive conversion, but with several unique benefits
- Takes up no interior space and is completely out of the way
- Does not block the entranceways to the vehicle whatsoever
- Heavier weight capacity for passengers with larger or oversized wheelchairs
Some owners are concerned about the ground clearance of under-vehicle lifts (UVLs) — however, the addition of a special cartridge can protect it from scraping and the elements.
Safety devices and wheelchair lift controls
Because safety is always a concern of converted vehicles, most mobility vans with wheelchair lift feature a variety of special safety devices that secure the lift and wheelchair-using passengers inside of it. Some of these devices come standard (as mandated by the NHTSA), while some are add-ons depending on your particular needs.
- Safety lift interlock. Prevents the operation of the wheelchair van or lift in unsafe situations by preventing the ‘drive’ gear from engaging during use
- Proximity sensors and alarms. Creates an alert if the lift is out during driving or whenever a wheelchair is not at the vehicle level during the lift process
- Lift control pendants. Handheld devices that allow for automatic lifting/lowering and deploying/stowing of your wheelchair lift
The dealer/manufacturer who completes your conversion should ensure that all of your safety features are aligned with each other to provide multiple layers of protection during operation.
Let the mobility experts at AMS Vans turn you into a smarter shopper for accessible vehicles. We’ll give you the insight you need to weigh your options and choose the new or used wheelchair accessible van conversion that fits your needs.
About AMS Vans
America’s Mobility Superstore is a national wheelchair accessible van dealer and manufacturer with a mission to deliver the industry’s best wheelchair accessible vans and adapted mobility equipment that meets the unique needs of our specially-abled customers at a price they can afford. With over 20 years of dedicated service to helping thousands of amazing people realize true mobility freedom, the AMS Vans nationwide family is growing every day.