We are beginning the journey into purchasing a vehicle that is wheelchair accessible. I would appreciate it if anyone who has already made this journey would share their insight and input. Some of the information I would like to know:

Type of vehicle
Purchase it from car dealer or from the conversion company
what conversion company
maker of conversion
side loading or rear loading
must have accessories
hindsight on what you would have done differently
general comments

I am in Texas and would love to hear from other Texans on any special programs you may have used. Or anything in particular to Texas.

Thanks to everyone on their help and hopefully it will be useful to others. :) Kristi

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We have also just started this journey. We are looking at a full size Ford van because we just felt that the minivans were just too small for the five of us. We are kind of in a holding pattern right now because my husband will be traveling to Tucson and Seattle over the next three weeks. It has been kind of confusing and a bit overwhelming, but some of that is just my husband and the way he does things. He is an engineer and has to know every little detail and exactly how it works. We are working with the fleet manager at one of the local Ford dealers and right now we have it narrowed down to Nor Cal Vans or VMI/Tuscany. We are looking at getting a lowered floor and maybe a raised top. that is still up for debate. We are also looking at a side entry. We are still researching some of the options, like what kind of lift to get.

Not much help, but thought I would share,
Susan
We just have began our journey into searching for accessible van also van also. We had a wheelchair evaluation and it was brought up that we would need to get a vehicle to transport it home in the next few weeks. work has been very slow this year and finances are definately not there for a new vehicle. Has anyone purchased something used, or have any insight into the search?
Hi Kristi,

We just got ours, took ALL summer to put the deal thru. It's a 2010 Toyota Sienna XLE. Toyota will do the finance package for the van as well as handicapped conversions but you must follow their protocol. This includes installing things the way they deem best (probably safest for their vehicles in order to avoid lawsuits) and using conversion installers they recommend. They use certain ones who follow their rules I guess. We ended up taking out the seats in the furthest back of the van and installing a Bruno lift for our son's scooter. It has 3 seat belt attachments to anchor the scooter. Then Bruno also makes a small lift attached to a passinger seat so the seat actually exits a side door so people can get in and out that way, we got that too. The "lift seat" actually matches the rest of the seats so everything is the same inside.

So far this toyota works great, has sonar to keep me from hitting something and a back-up display screen to let me see what/who is back there. I am pleased with the van and lift systems, however, not with the terrible lengthy process. I guess most toyota sales reps don't see much of this type of sale/financing so we got to "train" ours. Turns out he is a really nice guy, just needed LOTS of time with this one. I did file a complaint with Toyota Corp for what-ever good that will do.

You can go to toyota.com and see what they offer. We were looking at obtaining a "London Taxi" at first since they fabricated their cars with a ramp already installed. They are hard to come by here in the states and probably not the best engine for getting on freeways, so we chickened out on that one.
GM has a program that will reimburse you up to $1000 for eligible mobility equipment installed on their vehicles. Website for the GM Mobility program here.

The full size GMC and Chevy "mobility" vans show a $1200 reimbursement for equipment. Webpage here.

Another webpage here gives a bunch of resources related to mobility.

My wife and I both work at GM and can also offer any PPMD family a discount through one of our employee programs. Send me a message if interested.
Hi, Most wheel chairs do come apart for transporting. It is a pain but it can be done. I live in Pa. I found a way to get funds for a wheel chair van. It all started with one of my aides that works for me. She knew a member of the lions club. I set up an account trust for my son. The lions club member sent out letters asking for donations for my van. The money went right into my son's account. I also talked to Variety Club on the go. They gave us $5,000. I also received a donation of $1,000 from a music fund that my son's independent supports cooridinator found for me. They also found me funds for a adjustble bed at some point and a shower that we installed ourselves but was completely handicapped accessible. I then found more funds throu this company i am somewhat connected to through some work i did as mental health specialist. I do not have a lot of money. I married four years ago and lost all resources. It has been a tough ride but i have gone places by research and letters from my pediatrician, A letter or necessity helps with the small things. I hope this helps you. When the Lion's club member presented his letter to his team and charities. I also wrote a letter about my son's life and what a need it was for our family. My son weighs over 140 or dead weight you really have to express your needs. Just know, that most wheelchairs especially while the child is young. Will break down and ride in most trunks.

good luck.
marcie

DanielsDad said:
We just have began our journey into searching for accessible van also van also. We had a wheelchair evaluation and it was brought up that we would need to get a vehicle to transport it home in the next few weeks. work has been very slow this year and finances are definately not there for a new vehicle. Has anyone purchased something used, or have any insight into the search?
As far as getting the wheelchair home for the first time--our vendor actually delivered Jon's chair to our house. Maybe you could ask them about bringing it to you. This also had the advantage that the vendor could see our house and see if there were any changes that needed to be made for the environment that the chair would be used in.

Susan

DanielsDad said:
We just have began our journey into searching for accessible van also van also. We had a wheelchair evaluation and it was brought up that we would need to get a vehicle to transport it home in the next few weeks. work has been very slow this year and finances are definately not there for a new vehicle. Has anyone purchased something used, or have any insight into the search?
It sounds like your son is still ambulatory. Justin is ambulatory but is getting very difficult for him to get into our car. Justin has a Elite go-go and does minmal walking. I am wondering what the best way to do this is. Do it as you have mentioned with your van or get a car that he can get in easily? If not mistaken, you have to know what kind of wheelchair you are having in order to know what to get in a conversion. What have others done when your son has gotten to this point?
Hi Kristi,

It's very difficult for us parents to look at what is happening to our sons and forcast into their future needs. So when we had to change vehicles we did a year of research to determine the best kind of car to get. For quite sometime we wanted to purchase a used London Taxi since they are fabricated with accessiblity (has extra room, a ramp & tiedowns) issues already met. There was a dealer out of Chicago we were working with but decided to not buy used. Our son has a scooter (Elite gogo), purchased before the van to make sure things would work together. But realistically the Toyota van and Braun lifts (chair & Scooter) work much better than our previous cars with Alexander getting in and out. The Braun chair lift comes right out of the van & should will work well when he is no longer able to transfer himself. Heck, I used it for my 79 year old dad when he was recovering from a stroke and couldn't transfer.

I worry Alexander's future needs for a power chair won't work with what we just purchased but figure we will work that out when the time comes. Unfortunately we can only look so far into the future since DMD progress is different for each boy.



Kristi Koop said:
It sounds like your son is still ambulatory. Justin is ambulatory but is getting very difficult for him to get into our car. Justin has a Elite go-go and does minmal walking. I am wondering what the best way to do this is. Do it as you have mentioned with your van or get a car that he can get in easily? If not mistaken, you have to know what kind of wheelchair you are having in order to know what to get in a conversion. What have others done when your son has gotten to this point?
We just got our new van a couple of weeks ago.We started with a new vehicle and had it modified. We went through a company here in California Nor-Cal Vans for the conversion of a Ford E250 RV Converter (The RV converter is essentially a shell with no interior). They lowered the mid section of the floor 6 inches and put in the interior and windows. A local Long Beach company -- Mac' Lift Gate put in the Braun Vangater 2 lift. We basically went through Mac's for the whole thing, they handled all the paperwork. Since Nor-Cal Vans had an inventory of vans, but no license to sell them Mac's found a Ford dealer (ended up being in Illinois to handle the sale. Our local Ford agency backed out at the last minute, their loss!). After an almost year long process we decided that the full size van was the most practical for our family and Jon's chair. Height wise he is 53" in his chair. There are pictures of our van on my page.

If you look on the Nor Cal Vans home page you can see the crash test results for the brand new Ford Transit they just modified.

Susan

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