Accessing a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) requires a ramp or lift and as both options have their own benefits it’s a decision which requires considerable thought.
To install a wheelchair ramp, the vehicle must be modified. The floor is lowered which provides a lower angle of ascent so that there is more interior headroom available for the wheelchair user. However, the WAV must still allow enough ground clearance for the user’s usual routes and also allow for unavoidable obstacles such as speedbumps. It is sometimes assumed that a ramp is cheaper than a lift, but this isn’t necessarily the case.
Whether to have a standard power-operated ramp or a spring-loaded manual ramp are other decisions to be made when installing a wheelchair ramp, as is location – either at the back of the van or side entry. Storage options for ramps are either to fold up or to recede beneath the floor.
The general benefits of a ramp are its lightweight mass, its relatively low need for maintenance, its versatility and the fact that it can be installed in various types of vehicles, not just vans.
Heavier and bulkier than a ramp, wheelchair lifts are nevertheless popular because they offer more convenient exit and entry access points to the WAV than a ramp. Always powered, they are usually operated by using a wired or wireless control panel.
Lifts come in various types depending on whether they use electricity or hydraulics, how they’re operated and shaped, whether they swing out or fold up and how they are stored.
The size of a wheelchair lift means that it’s more demanding on the van and requires more maintenance and upkeep than a ramp. However, drive-from-wheelchair WAVs can have lifts that deploy automatically when the vehicle is unlocked thus removing the need to reverse down a slope.
Whether to buy a WAV with a lift or ramp is an important decision. A specialist wheelchair accessible vehicle supplier will have skill and experience necessary to help customers choose the best option for their needs and wishes.