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Wheelchair Van Shopping: A Guide For Parents

First, a cautionary tale--a true story, conveyed by a grateful father to the company that sold the wheelchair van to his family...

His wife and young daughter, who is in a wheelchair, were headed back in the family wheelchair van to their Texas home after a church mission trip when the unthinkable happened. While traveling at highway speed, his wife changed lanes to pass a slower car. At the same time, another driver recklessly passed her at about 90 mph. She swerved right to avoid the faster vehicle, and the over-correction flipped the wheelchair van three times. When the dust settled, the handicap van landed right-side-up on the shoulder of the road. The wheelchair (which was secured with a superior-quality restraint system) didn't budge. He was very pleased to tell us that "everyone made it home alive." There were a few bumps and bruises, and his wife suffered a broken tailbone. He believes it was the attention to detail in the restraint system's design that saved his little girl's life. Thanks to the safety of the van, his daughter was able to start her freshman year at Dallas Baptist University the following fall.

Minivans and full-size vans become the ultimate wheelchair accessible transportation through wheelchair van conversions. Conversion designs, which have improved over several decades, now make accessible vans safer, more reliable, more convenient, and easier to use than family-wheelchair-vanever before. The most innovative conversion designs have given rise to an expanding market of surprisingly affordable handicap accessible minivans--great news for the parent of a child with disabilities that require a wheelchair. If you're pondering the purchase of an adapted van, the information below should prove helpful:

  • Eyes on the Size

While it's best to work with a mobility consultant at a trustworthy online or local mobility dealership, you should know what to look for, ask about, and expect when you begin your search. The consultant should begin by gathering crucial information before presenting a van for your consideration.

Typically, a wheelchair accessible minivan should be of sufficient size for a child in a juvenile wheelchair and a teenager in a standard wheelchair. That said, certain sizes do matter when choosing the ideal van for your family.

Speaking of family, that's the first "size" that matters. If you have an especially large family (5-7 children), you'll need a van with seating to accommodate everyone (possibly including additional friends and extended family.) In this instance, a full-size van might be the better choice. An accessible minivan can easily accommodate a family of five with one or even two wheelchair passengers. Here's where the access point becomes critical.

Your child's condition and wheelchair size help determine the access point on the van. If your child's disability requires a ventilator, feeding tube, or other equipment like an IV pole, a rear entry handicap van, may serve you better. Rear entry access allows you to push the wheelchair van and peripheral equipment up the ramp directly to the tie-downs or docking system, where the wheelchair is positioned directly behind the driver and front-passenger seats. Because of its wider, higher opening, rear entry access may also work better for your tall, brawny teenage son with a sports injury and a larger wheelchair.

Side entry conversions work best for children in wheelchairs that can be maneuvered into position behind the front seats--or even into the front-passenger position (only if the child meets the requirements for that particular seating position. More on this later.)

  • Your Seating Scheme

When you determine the best wheelchair position for your child (in back of the van, in the middle of the van, in the front-passenger seat), you can then consider the seating configuration for the rest of your van. Will a parent or caretaker need to be seated next to the child? Where should your other children sit to best interact with the guest of honor while traveling?

Adaptive seating allows for a variety of seat locations, which you should discuss with your mobility consultant. Standard vehicle seating and additional jump seats can be secured strategically in the van to accommodate your needs. A portable/removable front-passenger seat with a wheelchair docking system gives that prized position wheelchair access, though, as mentioned earlier, your child's size and condition matters. Several states have laws restricting the size of a child who can ride in the front-passenger seat. Fifty pounds or more is most often recommended, but the child with disabilities in that position must be able to withstand the force of a deployed airbag. If your child’s physical condition is frail or sensitive, the safest location is mid-cabin. Stay informed--take time to go over your state’s seat belt laws for wheelchair passengers.

  • Prepare for Tomorrow Today

Children grow. Conditions change. As you shop wheelchair vans for sale, keep an eye toward the future. If possible, equip the wheelchair van for years of suitability and accessibility when you buy it, so your child can grow into it with minimum--if any--modifications.

Shop wheelchair vans with confidence, knowing that you can now make an informed decision as you work with a mobility consultant to select the ideal accessible transportation for your family.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

2016 Used 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT Wheelchair Van

USED Dodge Grand Caravan SXT
NEW AMS Edge II Conversion

$33,495 $33,995


  • Stock #: 180968T
  • Mileage: 39,677 Miles
  • Ramp/Lift: Rear Entry Long
  • Features: 3YR/36K Conv Wrty, Driver Pwr. Seat Base, ADA Compliant
2012 Used 2012 Volkswagen Routan SE Wheelchair Van

USED Volkswagen Routan SE
NEW AMS Legend Conversion

$29,995 $31,495


  • Stock #: 293753
  • Mileage: 92,040 Miles
  • Ramp/Lift: Side Entry Bi-Fold Pwr
  • Features: 3YR/36K Conv Wrty
2013 Used 2013 Honda Odyssey EX-L w/DVD Wheelchair Van

USED Honda Odyssey EX-L w/DVD
NEW AMS Legend H Conversion

$41,495 $41,995


  • Stock #: 008640
  • Mileage: 74,244 Miles
  • Ramp/Lift: Side Entry Bi-Fold Pwr
  • Features: 3YR/36K Conv Wrty

Vehicle Exterior


Exterior Appearance Inspection

  • Panel alignment/fit
  • Headlamp, taillamp/lens condition
  • Windshield/glass condition
  • Paint chips and scratches
  • Body damage/dents/dings
  • Trim and moldings

Vehicle Identification

  • In place and matching
  • Inspect certification label (federal requirement)
  • Check VIN label to paperwork
  • Check for non-completed recalls

Exterior Lights Function Properly and Illuminate as Designed

  • Headlights hi/low (including aim)
  • Parking lights/fog lights
  • License plate lights
  • Side marker lights
  • Tail lights / backup lights
  • Turn signal and cornering lights
  • Brake and high-mount stoplights
  • Emergency Flashers

Keys

  • Vehicle has 2 master key with remote entry (if applicable) and 2 valet key, flat key
  • Programmed to immobilizer

Door Lock System

  • Door opens/closes smoothly using interior and exterior door handles
  • Doors cannot be opened when lock button is in lock position
  • 2-turn unlock feature functions properly
  • Remote entry system operates properly
  • Theft-deterrent system functions properly
  • Child safety locks
  • Wireless door lock operation

Vehicle Interior


Interior Appearance Inspection

  • Seats: front/rear
  • Steering wheel/airbags
  • Armrests/door handles
  • Lower door and sill plates
  • Gearshift selection handle
  • Radio/AC control markings
  • Headliners/sun visors

Seat Belts

  • Extend/retract smoothly
  • Free of twists, cuts or signs of wear
  • Buckles lock securely

Seat Operation

  • Lumbar support operation
  • Memory control operates properly*
  • Headrest functions properly
  • Heaters function properly*
  • Seat cushion angle and height adjustment
  • Seatback angle adjustment

Power Windows / Locks

  • Function Properly

Trunk/Fuel Lid Release

  • Functions Properly (interior)

Glove Compartment

  • Contains portfolio, owner's manual, supplement

Steering Wheel

  • Tilt/telescopic functionability
  • Horn functions properly
  • Steering wheel controls
  • Steering wheel locks
  • Warning chime (key in -- door open)

Windshield Wiper

  • Functions in hi/low/intermittent
  • Wiper blades clean properly
  • Rain sensing wipers*

Dashboard Lights Illuminate as Designed

  • Turn signal: left/right
  • High beam indicator
  • Emergency flashers
  • Instrument panel control knob
  • Waring lights: oil pressure, brake, fuel, charge, seatbelt, open door, engine check, rear light failure, ABS, SRS
  • Check operation of guages

Rear Defogger

  • Functions properly

Air Conditioner / Heater

  • Climate control system functions properly for both heating and cooling

Interior Lights

  • Dome/map/vanity mirror/courtesy lamps/foot function properly

Audio/Navigation System

  • Power/volume switch functions properly
  • Preset station indicator
  • Cassette/CD function (scan, seek, rewind, fast forward) operates properly
  • Navigation system operates properly*
  • Speakers sound clear
  • CD cartridge (if applicable)

Sunroof

  • Tilt/slide operates properly

Clock/Cigarette Lighters/Ashtray/Cupholders

  • Function properly

Outside/Inside Rearview Mirrors

  • Power controls function properly

Luggage Compartment


Luggage Compartment

  • Spare tire size, sidewall condition, tread depth and air pressure
  • Spare tire and attaching hardware, cover, jack, jack tools and wheel lock (if applicable) are present, properly installed and secure
  • Manual fuel lid release operates

Under The Hood


Engine Hood Release

  • Interior release operates properly

The Following Fluid Levels Meet Industry Standard

  • Engine oil replaced and proper level
  • Automatic transmission fluid level
  • Brake fluid level
  • Power steering fluid level
  • Engine coolant fluid level
  • Washer fluid level

Engine Mechanical

  • Excessive fuel pump noise
  • Cooling system (radiator, overflow tank, hoses, coolant level)
  • Water pump (noise/leaks)
  • Air filter (replace as necessary)
  • Inspect oil for contaminants
  • Engine noise (knocks, rattles)
  • Transmission noise (whines, clunks)
  • Belts (wear or damage)
  • Check engine diagnostics

Battery

  • No damage or leakage and proper group size/amp rating
  • Tests to standards

Engine Fans

  • Function properly

Under the Vehicle

Tires (Minimum tread depth 5/32")

  • FL: _______/32"
  • RL: _______/32"
  • FR: _______/32"
  • RR: _______/32"
  • Sidewall condition
  • Proper size, type and match
  • Tire pressure

Wheels

  • Condition/size/fit
  • Check wheel lug-nut torque

Brake Inspection (Minimum 6mm of pad material required)

  • FL: _______mm
  • RL: _______mm
  • FR: _______mm
  • RR: _______mm
  • Rotors show no signs of excessive wear, warpage or heat damage
  • Calipers, lines, and hoses show no sign of excessive wear or leakage
  • Parking brake assemblies, cables, and attaching hardware show no sign of excessive wear or damage

Chassis Inspection (No sign of damage or excessive wear)

  • Frame rails and floor pan
  • Subframe
  • Engine mounts and oil pan for leaks
  • Brake lines and couplings
  • Transmission case/pan for leaks
  • Drive shaft boots and CV joints
  • Fuel lines, fuel tank, hoses and protectors
  • Steering rack, linkage, bushings, control arms and dust boots
  • Differential assembly, drive shaft and related components
  • Exhaust system (including leakage)
  • Transmission mounts
  • Tie rods, ball joints, idler arm
  • Catalytic converter
  • Struts/shocks for operation/leaks

Under Vehicle Fluid Levels

  • Differential lubricant level -- check for contaminants

Road Test (Vehicle Operation)


Engine

  • Start-up
  • Idles normally
  • While driving, engine performs normally
  • Starter system operates normally
  • Shift Lock

Brakes

  • Brake and parking brake function normally
  • Brake and clutch pedal height, free play and travel meet specs.

Indicator Lights

  • No warning lights illuminate during road test

Transmission

  • T/M shifts properly (both power/normal mode)
  • TRAC/VSC and ECT control functions and indicator lights function properly

Steering/Suspension

  • Steering operation is normal
  • Off-center psecifications meet standards
  • Handling, straight-line operations

Cruise Control

  • Functions properly

Noise or Vibration

  • None present

Squeaks or Rattles

  • None present

* -- If Applicable

Service Guarantee

AMS Vans promises to deliver the best wheelchair accessible van available on the market today..... simply put if you are not fully satisfied with your wheelchair accessible van upon delivery---you can refuse it at no cost to you.

With nearly two decades of experience; manufacturing, selling, and delivering over 12,000 vans nationwide, our dedicated team of certified technicians will not allow your van to leave our Atlanta facility until its right!

Please contact one of our experienced Mobility Specialists today and ask about our three step quality control process.

AMS Vans looks forward to serving your family by providing you with a van that is worthy of our own.

Contact AMS Vans



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