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Seniors and Driving III: 10 Factors to Consider Before Purchasing a Wheelchair Van


Established in 1995, Adaptive Driving Access (ADA) has 5 locations in South Texas-Houston, Pasadena, Bryan-College Station, Corpus Christi, and McAllen.  We are excited about our expansion plans to grow into more locations in 2019.  We specialize in wheelchair accessible vehicles and equipment for the physically challenged community. Furthermore, we understand there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to our client’s mobility. Our trained, dedicated staff works side-by-side with every client to find the perfect vehicle for them and their family. Unfortunately, individualized service is not always found in the mobility industry. Many online sellers care only about cashing in on a sale, leaving inexperienced customers with a vehicle or equipment that doesn’t fit their needs, meet safety regulations, and isn’t backed with local and national service support. This is where ADA is different.


Our fully certified staff provides specialized sales and service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  There are multiple mobility options available in today’s market. To meet these needs, ADA has put together a team of Certified Mobility Specialists that meet with clients at one of our 5 showroom offices or in the convenience of their own home.  Together with the individual and family members, if available, we take a “snapshot” of their needs, lifestyle and long-term goals.


This initial consultation is what ADA calls the Mobility Solutions Guide Consultation.  It helps answer many questions that aid our trained staff in finding the right solution for our clients. Questions like, “will the wheelchair user be the driver, or will it be a caregiver?”  This question is the most important, because while all wheelchair accessible vehicles may appear to be designed to transport a client, they are not all designed for a person to drive them from a transfer seat or from their wheelchair.  Through our initial consultation, we help determine if the client would prefer to drive from their wheelchair or transfer into the driver’s seat. Other important considerations include:


  • What is the wheelchair user’s particular dimensions while seated in the manual wheelchair, power chair or scooter? This is a key question in providing a wheelchair accessible van solution for our clients.
  •    What is the weight of the person and the wheelchair combined;
  • The seated height of the person in their mobility device, as measured from the ground to the top of their head;
  • The overall width of the wheelchair or scooter at its widest point;
  • The overall length of the wheelchair or scooter, often times the wheelchair or scooter has extensions for the legs or additional equipment that is carried in the back of the mobility device;
  • What is the eye ellipse height of the wheelchair user, while seated in the wheelchair? This is asked particularly if they are going to be a driver, driving from their wheelchair.  We want to insure they can see over the dash properly.


Because wheelchair accessible vehicles have different depths of floor lowering, rear and side entry ramp systems, manual and power ramp systems and, lastly, fold-out or in-floor ramp systems these measurements quickly become important.


Side entry vs. rear entry ramp systems impact the van in two ways. Impacted is the ability to park in certain situations, and   providing room for additional passengers as needed. This helps us make sure the vehicle has adequate space and load carrying capacity for other family members and cargo. Side entry vans, which account for approximately 70% of wheelchair vans, allow entering and exiting curbside. Rear entry vehicles comprise the remaining 30%, and because no extra room is necessary the ramp can be used almost anywhere.


Ramp design, fold out ramps or in-floor ramps, largely depends on the client’s preference.  Some like “out of sight” (stows and deploys from under the floor) in-floor ramps. Others prefer the fold out ramp- that has 2” side rail guides, helping to prevent the wheelchair or scooter user from going off the side of the ramp when entering or exiting.


Power and manual ramps are up for selection as well.  Independent use will always call for the “power” system.  With the touch of a button, the power door opens, the van kneels to the ground and the power ramp unfolds/deploys, allowing an entrance or exit.

Manual ramps are most often used when there is a caregiver involved, but we often see that in this situation, the selection will be a full power system. Again, freedom of choice.


While the floor lowering is available in 10”, 12”, 14” and 16” options, the ADA specialist is there to educate the client and help determine which measurement of lowered floor will work best.


Next, we discuss features on the vehicle itself: “Are there any features on the vehicle that are an important “must have?”  Navigation, leather, sunroof, touch screen systems, etc. are equally important as our clients may need or want additional features that will allow them to maintain their comfort and convenience while driving or being chauffeured.


Further discussion takes place about other equipment that is available, including primary driving equipment.  Examples are left foot accelerators, hand controls, transfer seating and the ever-popular scooter and wheelchair lifts. ADA carries the full line of these products. Our certified technicians work closely with every client to fit the correct driving equipment to the selected vehicle.  Driving any vehicle with hand controls should be done only by those who have had sufficient training by a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS).


The client’s budget is also a very important part of the decision process. Are they a veteran? Do they qualify for 3rd party assistance? Fortunately, ADA has finance options. These are provided by BraunAbility Finance, the proven experts in financing wheelchair accessible vehicles and equipment.  They know and understand the challenges our clients face each and every day, which is why BraunAbility, the largest manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vehicles in the world, created this resource.


Some clients may not qualify for the finance option. If this is indeed the case, we are able to determine if they are eligible for 3rd party financial assistance.  These programs are designed to help families on a limited income, and have children or other family members who are physically challenged. Programs offering this assistance include The Bureau of Worker’s Compensation, Vocational Rehabilitation and Medicare/Medicaid.


For our Veterans, the Veterans Administration has many programs allowing Veterans to purchase a wheelchair accessible vehicle and equipment.  We proudly work with Veterans every day who are able to take advantage of these benefits. Personally, these are the clients I enjoy working with the most. It is an honor to hear the many stories of sacrifice that have made the United States the great country it is today.


ADA offers new and pre-owned wheelchair accessible vans and equipment for every budgets.  With over 150 vehicles in inventory, we are guaranteed to find a match that will work for each individual client and family.


Our company knows how important the wheelchair accessible van and equipment is to our clients.  Our fully certified technicians are able to install and service any product in the mobility industry today.  We are proud of our technical staff that have been with us since our first day of business in 1995.  As ADA has grown over the years, they have shared their knowledge with our next generation of technicians, who carry on the tradition of caring for our clients.  Our extensive inventory allows us to perform same day service for the most common repairs, and with five locations we are able to keep you on the road.


One more note before this brief education is complete:  My personal advice from being in this industry since I was 18: DO NOT PURCHASE ON THE INTERNET.  I say that with my outside voice.   This industry holds a personal place in my life, and our clients are our extended family.  Saving a few dollars by purchasing a wheelchair accessible vehicle or mobility equipment online, sight unseen, could cost you more in the long run.

Additionally, the resale value of such vehicles and equipment could result in a greater financial loss.  Most of those who sell solely on the internet, do not invest in brick and mortar facilities, or in the technical staff and equipment. Adaptive Driving Access provides not only professional consultation but also professional installation and service, done right the first time.  What is owed you to and your family, is to get the very best product, the most reliable product, the best engineered product, for the best value, by the best company – Adaptive Driving Access.  Give us a call today, 713-874-9100, or refer us to a friend or family member, you will both be glad you did