Wheelchair Accessible Vans

The Wheelchair Accessible Vans section spotlights wheelchair vans in the news. We’ll explain the handicap vehicle laws and regulations behind handicap parking placards, handicap parking spaces, handicap parking permits, and other topics pertaining to accessible vans and their users. Look for illumination on new wheelchair vans, used accessible vans and information about converting existing vans into handicap accessible vans.

woman in a wheelchair being pushed in an airport

Tips for Airline Travel With a Wheelchair This Holiday Season

The holiday season is almost upon us – and for many, that means some holiday travel. If you or a loved one uses a wheelchair and plan on airline travel, it’s helpful to know what to expect. To make your experience easier and more enjoyable, keep these tips in mind.

Preparation and Packing Tips

Managing Luggage

While it’s important to be prepared, the least amount of luggage you’re able to travel with, the easier things will be – especially if you’re traveling independently. Suitcases with wheels can be pushed by a wheelchair user (similar to a shopping cart) or “towed” behind the chair with some sort of strap or bungee cord. A duffle bag can also be a good option when carried in the lap or secured to the front of the legs with a strap.

Pro Tip: You can bring all the medical supplies you need on your trip, which, unfortunately, can increase the amount of luggage you’ll need to bring along. If you’re forced to check a bag or bring an additional suitcase for medical supplies, be sure to let the agent know when you’re checking your bag. Some airlines will wave the bag fee!!

Come Prepared

Plan to bring a carry-on, such as a backpack, with essential items. Pack your carry-on with anything you may need for the flight, including snacks and drinks (which must be purchased in the airport, after going through security), medication, and entertainment. If you get cold easily, bringing a small blanket or wrap along can come in handy, as it can sometimes get chilly on the plane. Remember that you’ll be first to board and last to disembark, so books and phone games can help pass the time while you wait.

It’s easy to get dehydrated in flight, so be sure to hydrate in the days leading up to the trip. Also, keep in mind that using the restroom on the plane can be pretty challenging, so try to use the restroom before boarding.

mom in wheelchair and daughter with a suitcase inside van

Arrival and Boarding Tips

Arrive Early

Using a wheelchair can make your airport experience take a little longer than usual, so it’s best to plan ahead and arrive at least 1.5 to 2 hours early. This gives you time to find wheelchair accessible parking (which can be extremely limited), get through security, use the restroom, manage logistics, and arrive at your gate in time for early boarding. If you’re not familiar with the airport you’re flying out of, even more extra time is recommended.

The TSA gives some information about disability and security screening procedures here: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures 

Request an Aisle Chair if Needed

It’s pretty rare for even a small wheelchair to fit down the aisles of the airplane, so if you aren’t able to walk on to the airplane, you’ll need to request a “transport chair” or an “aisle chair.” You’ll transfer to a narrow chair and airport agents will assist you on to the plane and into your seat. One of these is stored on the plane, too, in case the restroom is needed in flight.

Be sure to ask for the aisle chair when you check-in and get your tickets. Then, ask again at the gate if the chair is ready because sometimes the request can be overlooked. If the aisle chair and agents aren’t on hand to assist when preboarding starts, you’ll have to wait until last to board, which can be awkward with a plane full of passengers.

Prepare Your Chair

When you trasnfer to the aisle chair to board the plane, your personal wheelchair will be stowed under the plane with the luggage. Don’t forget to grab your seat cushion, armrests, bags, and any fragile or removable accessories so they aren’t broken or lost on the trip. Also, consider taking a photo of your wheelchair before they take it away to use as a reference in case there is damage done during the flight.

airplane being loaded with luggage

Throughout the Trip Tips

Communicate Your Needs

Every step of the way, be prepared to be vocal about your needs and comfort level. If at any time you aren’t able to do what an agent asks, you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, just say so in a clear and respectful manner. When going through security, for example, passengers that aren’t able to walk through the metal detector will have to have a physical pat-down by a TSA agent. They should offer you a private screening as well as avoid any sensitive areas on your body during the inspection, however, if they don’t offer those things, it’s perfectly within your rights to ask.

Have Your Airline’s Disability Number On-Hand

Just in case the airline staff aren’t prepared or don’t know how to help, call up the airline. Most airlines have a number dedicated to travelers with disabilities, so having this number on hand is very useful. Often the wait times for this number are much, much less than the general phone number. Also, if you have a bad experience with your airline, be sure to reach out to them after the trip to report the incident. Some airlines will compensate travelers with points or vouchers to keep their business.

Airline travel in a wheelchair may not always be easy, but it can be done. If you are prepared and know what to expect, the experience can be far more like an adventure then a hassle! Whether you’re traveling to the next state or across an ocean, your holiday airline travel can be made much smoother by keeping these tips in mind. Don’t miss out on all the awesome things this world has in store to see and do!

view from a person's seat on an airplane of passengers and flight attendant

Renting a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle for Your Holiday

Don’t forget about accessible ground transportation when you arrive at your destination! If you’re traveling by airplane, that means you left your wheelchair accessible vehicle at home. At AMS Vans, we offer short- and long-term wheelchair accessible vehicle rentals. Plus, if you happen to be in the market for a mobility vehicle, spending some time in a specific model can help you determine if it’s a good fit!

Learn more here or call 800-775-8267 to reserve. 

road through fall leaves

Maintenance Tips to Keep Your Accessible Vehicle Cruising into Fall 

Fall has arrived and that means cooler temperatures are on the way. Due to the changing weather, it’s a good time to do some maintenance on your wheelchair accessible vehicle. Below we look at a regular maintenance schedule that will keep your wheelchair accessible vehicle running smoothly providing you with dependable, accessible transportation.

Tires close up of car tire

When it comes to safety, tires are one of the most important components of the vehicle to maintain. Motorized wheelchairs can add as much as 300 pounds (136.08 kg) of weight to your vehicle, increasing the weight on your tires causing them to wear out faster. Schedule a regular rotation schedule, for example, every time you change your oil.  Be sure to have the tire pressure and tread checked regularly and replace the tires as needed.

Battery

When seasons change, it’s a great reminder to have your vehicle’s battery checked. Make sure terminals and cables are snug and clean. If your battery has removable caps, you’ll also want to check the water level periodically, and refill with distilled water as needed.

Windshield Wipers

Whether you get rain or snow where you live, chances are, you’ll see some wet weather over the winter. That’s why it’s a good idea this time of year to check your wiper blades to make sure they’re ready when you need them. As a general rule of thumb for a vehicle that is used daily is that wipers should be changes once or twice a year. Don’t forget to check your wiper fluid, too!

Heating and Cooling

With unpredictable weather ahead, you’ll also want to check your HVAC system to make sure it’s functioning properly. It’s not only important for interior comfort and safety when you need heat, but defrosting, too.

Headlights

Days will keep getting shorter and shorter as we approach winter, so good headlights are really important. Bulbs tend to last a couple years, and when one goes out, you can be sure the other is not far behind. That’s why it’s best to replace them in pairs to avoid losing a headlight at night. Also, as a vehicle ages, headlight covers can become cloudy, which significantly reduces visibility. There are some cleaning solutions that can remove a lot of the film or you can look for some covers in better condition at a wrecking yard.

Brakes

Another component of the vehicle that needs to be maintained to keep you safe are your brakes. Be sure to have brake pads inspected and replaced as needed so you’re able to stop effectively, especially in inclement weather.

mechanice tuning brakes

Ramps & Adaptive Equipment

Just like any other part of your vehicle, the ramp mechanism, hand controls and other adaptive driving equipment needs to be maintained to get the best performance and lifespan. Be sure to perform regular inspections and cleaning of the ramp or lift, door tracks, as well as tie down tracks.

NMEDA‘s recommended schedule for an accessible vehicle maintenance service call is twice a year. During this service call, the tech inspects all the electrical components, ramp motors, kneeling mechanism and other adaptive equipment. They will also lubricate and clean all the cables, door tracks, and support wheels. .

When Getting Service, Find Someone You Trust

fall leaves with blurry vehicle in backgroundBeing treated with respect and dignity, receiving excellent service, and having all your questions addressed is important. Finding and working with the right people who will give you the time and attention you deserve is just as important as service itself. At AMS Vans, we understand the importance of good customer service and we really care.

Buying a new or used wheelchair van conversion from AMS Vans isn’t the end of a process — but rather, the beginning of a meaningful relationship. And when it comes to servicing your vehicle, we give you options to fit your lifestyle. For our local customers situated near Atlanta, Houston or Phoenix, we offer a team of experienced, certified mechanics operating in our high-tech service facilities performing every conceivable adjustment — from system repairs to installations and more.

Did you know? AMS Vans customers also have exclusive access to VMI Assurance, which includes At-Home Service™ provided by Wrench, Inc. Through this program, Wrench, Inc. mobile mechanics will provide the convenience of certified automotive technicians dispatched to the customer’s home, office or other location to complete the maintenance or repairs and get their vehicle back on the road again. 

flat tire with jack

Items to Keep in Your Vehicle in Case of an Emergency

We can’t always predict what is going to happen, but we can take some steps to prepare for an emergency or unexpected situation. While you might already have your vehicle’s owner’s manual and insurance information available, adding a few more essential items in your vehicle goes a long way in making an emergency manageable, safer and more comfortable for all involved.

Let’s look at a few of those essential items you should always keep in your vehicle to be safe:

First Aid Kit

You can either purchase a prepackaged one or assemble your own first aid kit. If you choose to assemble your own kit, make sure you include bandages in various sizes, sanitary gloves, antibiotic cream, pain relievers, gauze, cotton swabs, as well as a hand sanitizer. Also, consider including a thermometer, heating pad, and medications you feel you might need.

Warning Devices

In case you are stuck on a busy road or in traffic, having an emergency signal or road flare will warn other motorists that your car is stalled. While some are foldable and can fit in your glove box, avoid storing your flares there or in any part of your car that gets very warm. It might also help to read up on the proper and safe way of lighting a road flare.

Map

Most people are so comfortable these days relying on their phones for navigation, that they don’t think to keep a map in their vehicle. It’s a good idea though, so you can find your way if your phone or other GPS device fails.

map

 

Spare Tire and Jumper Cables

They both can provide makeshift solutions to the most common issues you will experience with your vehicle. If you can find room in your vehicle, the spare tire will be useful when replacing a flat, while the jumper cables can be utilized to jump-start your vehicle in case of a dead battery. Even if you’re not able to use these things, having them handy will still help if a fellow motorists stops to lend a hand.

Tire Iron, Jack, and Tire Wedges

Having the proper tools to fix a flat tire is also a good idea. Whether it will be someone else changing the flat tire or you will be the one doing it yourself, having the right tools is the first key step. The tire wedges help keep your vehicle from rolling.

Flashlight

Though you might be tempted to use your phone as a source of light, it is best to save your battery, especially if you won’t be able to charge your phone. A flashlight is a better option – and offers brighter light, too. It will make it possible for you to analyze the extent of the emergency at night, and even signal someone for help. Remember always to have spare batteries.

Warm Clothes and Blanket

Keeping warm clothes and a blanket is essential, especially when temperatures drop, and your heater doesn’t work. Consider storing a thermal sleeping bag or a fleece blanket. Clothes like gloves, hats, and an extra sweater will be sure to keep you warm if you get stranded in cold places. Even during warmer months, temperatures can drop at night.

desert road

Food and Water

Store a few bottles of drinking water for drinking, and extra jugs for cooling your engine, in your trunk. Consider keeping some packets of electrolyte powered to add to your water to help you stay hydrated. Non-perishable food items and high-protein snack foods are also good to keep on hand in case you become stranded for a lengthy period of time. Energy bars are a great choice and last a while.

Chargers

Our phones play an important role in our lives, from communication to telling the time to our navigation. So, if your phone dies, your emergency situation could get more challenging. To be proactive, try to keep an extra phone charger in your vehicle at all times.

If you use a power wheelchair or another medical device that requires power, be sure to carry extra chargers for those in your vehicle, as well.

Towel and/or Cleaning Wipes

Depending on the type of situation you find yourself in, a towel or cleaning wipes may come in handy. You could need to clean up a spill in the vehicle or wipe your hands off.

These are just a few items that could go along way to making your unfortunate situation a little easier. So, grab a duffle bag or plastic storage tub and keep all these items somewhere accessible for a rainy day!

Peace of Mind with VMI Assurance

If you do find yourself on the side of the road, you won’t have to be there long with VMI Assurance. No one likes getting stranded in a broken-down vehicle, but we know that for a driver or passenger with mobility challenges, that situation can be much more than an inconvenience. Unfortunately, most roadside service or repair companies aren’t typically equipped to assist with getting accessible vehicles back on the road, and they’re especially not prepared to transport individuals with mobility challenges. Well, at VMI, we’re all about fixing problems for our customers. That’s why we partnered with Mobility Roadside Assistance™ (MRA) and At-Home Service™ provided by Wrench, Inc. to deliver the VMI Assurance program—an exclusive solution offered by VMI.

informative graphic about VMI Assurance program

Through our VMI Assurance program, we will provide one year of complimentary roadside assistance for customers who purchase a new or used vehicle with a new conversion from AMS Vans. What makes this different from other roadside services is that in addition to taking care of the vehicle, Mobility Roadside Assistance (MRA) will also assist the driver and passengers with paratransit service, ensuring they don’t end up stranded on the side of the road!

Contact us to learn more today!

road sign that says are you covered

Tips on Getting the Best Insurance Coverage for Your Accessible Vehicle

In case you are wondering if car insurance works differently for accessible vehicles, you are not alone. Luckily, we’re here to offer some tips on the process.

If you are a driver with a disability, the focus of your insurance is substantially similar to that of standard car insurance; accidents. The protection afforded to your wheelchair van mainly varies according to the coverage you select.

Points to Note hand holding a car in a bubble to represent car insurance

The only stipulation needed to drive in public is that you can drive safely, regardless of disability; and if you passed your driver’s test, then the state considers it safe for you to drive. Before looking at premiums, it helps to know what insurance companies base those premiums on.

Insurance companies are not allowed to base their premiums on a driver’s disability. They do, however; base their premiums on several other factors, including the following.

  • Risk analysis – Moody’s Risk Analysis is a tool some companies use to measure the level of risk among drivers and determine insurance rates.
  • Credit history – This helps companies determine whether the driver can pay their premiums on time while also estimate the likelihood of the driver dropping their policy.
  • Driving record – Your driving record is vital for determining your risk while on the road.
  • Marriage status – Your marital status might be another factor insurance companies look at while determining your rates.
  • Age – On average, people aged between 18 and 25 often have high rates, so if you are within this age bracket, don’t be surprised if your rates are a bit high.
  • Criminal record – Some companies might run a criminal background if they feel it necessary.

The best thing to do when getting insurance for your accessible vehicle is to research and compare options, and consult insurance representatives. It is not necessary for you to share your disability, but doing so gives them more information about your current status and might enable them to recommend better quotes for you.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act enacted in 1990, it is illegal for anyone to discriminate in any way, against persons with disabilities; this includes car insurance companies that charge higher rates due to disabilities. Click To Tweet

When Applying

When applying for insurance, be sure to disclose your vehicle’s modifications because different types of changes can differently affect your rates. Be sure you get coverage for the adaptive equipment so it’s covered in case of an accident.

It is crucial that you request the details regarding the coverage you intend to apply for. When applying, also try to be as thorough as possible and ask all the questions, including the following. calculator, a pen and a list of numbers on a paper

Tips for the Best Insurance

Keeping this in mind, here are a few tips that will be sure to help you get the best insurance provider for your accessible vehicle.

  1. Look into the minimum requirements for your state.
  2. Keep your financial situation in mind; get a premium that is affordable and one that gives you adequate coverage.
  3. Review your driving record.
  4. If you have coverage already, look at how much you are paying and what is covered.
  5. Make a list of companies that interests you and get quotes from their websites or representatives.
  6. Contact them for further details about the coverage they offer.
  7. Ask about possible discounts and consider using the same company to combine coverage on multiple items (home, boat, etc.).
  8. Evaluate their reliability; read reviews, visit the website of your state’s insurance department. You could also talk to friends and family.
  9. After the last step, you probably have a shorter list; make one final review and pick the policy best for you.
  10. If you were previously covered, don’t forget to cancel your old policy.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has been helpful and will make getting insurance for your wheelchair van a lot less stressful. For more on accessible vehicles, feel free to visit our website.

Did you know that AMS Vans now offers one year of complimentary roadside assistance (including paratransit service) with the purchase of a mobility vehicle?! Learn more!