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How-to Make a Van Handicap Accessible

There are many struggles facing those who are mobility inhibited in today's world. Of course, there have also been many innovations and more and more people are becoming aware and grasping a better understanding of the legitimate needs of the mobile-impaired community. To that end, there is a growing abundance of information available to those looking for better options when it comes to their transportation needs. Whether equipped with a wheelchair, electric scooter, or another mobility device, these tips will help you turn your vehicle into a more comfortable and efficient ride.

Careful Considerations

Conversion Worthiness

The make, model, year, and mileage of your vehicle will be the determining factors in deciding whether or not the vehicle is fit to be converted into a handicap accessible vehicle. Many unmodified minivans are perfect candidates for conversion of this sort. Check your vehicle's information. If you're unsure or don't know where to find it, call the manufacturer or dealership and ask for their records from the bill of sale. This initial information is vital and may determine the difference between conversion and a possible, typically more expensive, trade in or purchase option.

Side vs Rear Entry Options

An increasing number of handicap accessible vehicle on the market today are made with side-entry access functionalities. The many benefits of side-entry access vehicles are as follows:

  1. Some vehicles with side-entry access allow for handicap able people to drive themselves.
  2. Provides a more natural and efficient entering and exiting process.
  3. Allows for closer interactions with driver and other passengers.
  4. Allows for more space to include more able-bodied passengers.
  5. Powered ramps offer different angles to increase comfort and support.
  6. Wheelchair Lifts vs. Ramps on Accessible Vehicles
Aside from the benefits listed above, many who have made use of side-entry and rear-entry vehicles have noted the side-entry method provides a great sense of comfort and relief as there is less 'spectacle' surrounding them.

There are, of course, advantages to rear-entry accessibility, as well. Those being:

  1. Of the two, generally speaking, this is the much more affordable option.
  2. Vehicle conversion process is simpler (removal of rear bench and addition of ramp installation).
  3. Side-entry access limits available parking spaces. With rear-entry accessibility, all parking spaces are able to be utilized.
  4. High ground clearance as the center of mass in the vehicle is raised. This decreases the chances of the vehicle's chassis scraping pavement on uneven roads.
Regardless of which style of entry you choose, keeping in mind the wants and needs of the rider in question is essential to ensure a successful vehicle conversion- the first time around.

Power Transfer Seat Base

Utilizing a transfer seat is not only more efficient but also allows for better comfort. A quality power transfer seat base will provide easy access for the rider to switch between seats, including from passenger to driver. Other benefits of installing a power transfer seat base include:
  1. Increased safety
  2. Enhanced comfort
  3. Better functionality
  4. More aesthetically pleasing
  5. Ability to retain original factory seat functions
  6. Adjustability for use by multiple drivers
The design specifications and safety engineering involved in the manufacturing and installation of a power transfer seat base are by far one of the best conversion decisions you will make for your vehicle.

Staying Secure

Safety is, of course, the number one concern when it comes to anything regarding vehicles, but most especially when converting a vehicle to be used in a new way. Further compounding the need for extra security measures is the precious and fragile cargo on board. Taking precautions by installing the very best in quality and reliability will ensure peace of mind wherever your travels may take you.

Whether you choose to go with a strap or docking system, always do the research before purchasing any parts or products online to ensure: A.) It is the correct product B.) It meets all of your vehicles specifications- if you are unsure, contact the seller and C.) The seller is a legitimate manufacturer or reseller of the product. Sadly, as with any industry these days, there are scammers and those who take advantage of others. Safety, in this aspect, refers not only to the physical well-being of the driver and passengers of the vehicle in question but also to the process of gathering the proper components for a successful conversion as well.

Hand Controls

Another innovative option for those considering converting their vehicle into a handicap accessible one is the integration of hand controls. If one's lower mobility is limited, hand controls can allow them to drive flawlessly. It is imperative to understand the full abilities and limitations of the driver in question to ensure the safest experience for those within and without the vehicle. Taking precautions is a necessary step. Having safeguards in place does not undermine the driver's ability, rather gives them the tools necessary to perform at their best should they need them. This not only serves to empower the driver and instills confidence in them and those around them but also provides further safety measures to ensure the well-being of others who may be unaware of the capabilities or lack thereof the driver may or may not possess. Hand controls for those with limited lower mobility is a worthwhile investment of time and resources.

Remote Operation Abilities

With so many technological innovations throughout the world in just the past few decades, it is interesting- and beneficial- to note all the new technologies in each industry. When it comes to those looking to convert their vehicles into handicap-accessible vehicles, they will notice the improvements in this corner of the market as well. Many electric ramps now come equipped with technological advancements which allow for remote operations. The days of struggling to lift and maneuver a bulky, heavy metal ramp into position and back again are long gone. Even surpassing the simple button-lift technology, remote operations allow for hand-off access at a distance. Allowing for busy parents, caregivers, and handicapable people to more efficiently manage their time when coming and going. A seemingly small detail, this is one fairly affordable investment that is definitely worth it.

Conversion Kits

There are many well-qualified companies which will convert your vehicle for you. There are also services which provide do-it-yourself style conversion 'kits'. Some of these kits come pre-stocked with parts according to the specifications of your vehicle. Others offer the ability to customize your conversion kit. Do a bit of comparison shopping before making a final decision. Read on for further last minute tips before you begin your search.

Handicapable Hints

There are many routes to choose when deciding how best to convert your vehicle into a handicap-accessible ride. But whichever option you pick, there are a few key pieces of advice to remember before going through with any purchase. Make a list of the driver and/or passenger in question's wants and needs.

Prioritize this list and keep it as a guideline to use when comparison shopping.

  • Understand and accept any limitations put forth by the handicapped individual. There is a time to push the limits- behind the wheel or inside a motor vehicle is not one of them (unless directly approved by the appropriate authorities and/or medical professionals).
  • Safety is the number one priority. Read reviews and cross-check every business or person before purchasing anything, especially when dealing strictly online and/or revealing sensitive information (such as banking or personal address information).
  • Always, always ask questions if there is something you don't understand. It is much better to ask a million seemingly silly questions until you grasp the concept or figure out the issue than to push on and purchase the wrong component, thus putting your life and the lives of others in jeopardy.
  • If something feels wrong- don't go through with it. Whether is finalizing a purchase or the actual installation of a part- if you feel there is risk involved, stop and take the time to tackle the issue. It is really not worth the risk and the ramifications if you press on could be potentially fatal, or, at the very least, monetarily devastating.

Conversion Conversation

The benefits of a handicapped person having access to a handicap-accessible vehicle are endless. Many have asserted before they had access to a vehicle which allowed room for them, they were confined to the bare minimum of travel opportunities. Such activities as a simple trip to church or the grocery store can be daunting to an individual experiencing limited mobility issues.

The range of issues afflicting those bound to a wheelchair or electric scooter to get around spread from congenital diseases to car accidents and anything and everything in between. Whether the immobility is permanent or temporary, the individual's quality of life will be drastically affected, as will the lives of those closest to them. There is a slew of information available and support groups for those who may need them, but eliminating stressors in the first place is a great place to start to ensure a peaceful experience. Patience, empathy, and genuine concern will go a long way in creating the most positive environment possible. Conducive to a pleasant atmosphere is an attempt to deliver the best performance and ease of access abilities as possible. Whether buying for yourself, a loved one, or a client, the parts and pieces which go into your converted vehicle will not only affect the vehicle's performance but, in the grander scheme of things, that of the relationships which develop within as well.

Converting a vehicle which is currently being used has the added benefits of 'feeling like home', rather than purchasing a- typically much more expensive- new handicap-accessible vehicle. With the advent of conversion kits and innovative technologies, the ability of the layman to produce an effective and safe end result has drastically increased. It is not necessary to be a mechanic or engineer to be able to compose the vehicle to your discretions. Simply taking the time to educate yourself and take the necessary precautions before moving forward with finalizing any purchase can, and will, provide an advantageous outcome.

Getting involved in local communities with similar goals and interest also has proven benefits. Besides finding likeminded individuals who are facing the same issues as you, there are likely to be others who are either more knowledgeable in any given area and/or may provide resources otherwise unavailable to you. Check local group listings on Facebook or Meetups or another similar site and start asking questions and introducing yourself. You may be surprised at the bevy on information and tips which is laid at your door.

If you are still a bit apprehensive about jumping into the do-it-yourself conversion process, there are many informative videos on YouTube and all across the web. Many professionals understand the complexities of living in certain lifestyles and have made the choice to reach out and show others the best ways to ensure quality results. Find the professionals who specialize in the areas in which you're seeking information and glean all you can from them. The many do-it-yourself videos available on YouTube, itself, are also a viable option. The only danger there is ascertaining whether or not the individual in question is qualified and knowledgeable. That information is fairly easy to find, though, so one can rest easy once they know they have a sure-fire path to success.

Once you have your checklist and a deeper understanding of your vehicle and its specifications and any driver and/or passenger limitations, finding the right parts for your vehicle conversion project will be a breeze. The anxiety surrounding much of the conversion process stems from the uncertainty of the person manipulating the changes involved. Having a strong support system and an openness to asking questions and receiving advice can mean the difference between a failed project and wasted time, resources, and money, and making a trip to your family's for the holidays. There is always a better way, so if you find yourself struggling, reach out. Chances are someone- probably more than one person- has had the same issue and may know how to get around it or have a better way.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

2018 Commercial Wheelchair Vans for Sale - 2018 Ford Transit Wagon 350 XLT-HD 15 ADA Compliant Vehicle VIN: 1FBVU4XM3JKA26595

Ford Transit Wagon 350 XLT-HD 15
AMS Vans Ford Transit Rear Lift Conversion

$52,499 $53,499


  • Stock #: A26595
  • Mileage: 12,282 Miles
  • Ramp/Lift: Rear Entry Lift
  • Location: Call for Details
  • Features: Backup Camera, 3YR/36K Conv Wrty, Parking Sensors, ADA Compliant
2016 Handicap Van for Sale - 2016 Nissan NV Cargo 2500 HD S Wheelchair Accessible Van VIN: 1N6AF0LY5GN802042

Nissan NV Cargo 2500 HD S
Braun Other Side Lift Conversion

$31,999 $32,999


  • Stock #: 802042
  • Mileage: 29,191 Miles
  • Ramp/Lift: Side Entry Lift Pwr
  • Location: Call for Details
  • Features: Parking Sensors
2017 Handicap Van for Sale - 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT Wheelchair Accessible Van VIN: 2C4RDGCG3HR581377

Dodge Grand Caravan SXT
AMS Vans Legend II Conversion

$35,999 $36,999


  • Stock #: 581377
  • Mileage: 49,209 Miles
  • Ramp/Lift: Side Entry Bi-Fold Pwr
  • Location: Call for Details
  • Features: Bluetooth, Leather, 3YR/36K Conv Wrty, Remote Start, Driver Pwr. Seat Base, Kneeling, Lowered Floor
2017 Commercial Wheelchair Vans for Sale - 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT ADA Compliant Vehicle VIN: 2C4RDGCG3HR574204

Dodge Grand Caravan SXT
AMS Vans Edge Conversion

$29,499 $29,999


  • Stock #: 574204
  • Mileage: 50,739 Miles
  • Ramp/Lift: Rear Entry Short
  • Location: Call for Details
  • Features: Backup Camera, Bluetooth, Leather, 3YR/36K Conv Wrty, Driver Pwr. Seat Base, Lowered Floor, ADA Compliant

Wheelchair van exterior and interior quality inspection

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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