|Disability Cars Buyer’s Guide|
If the mention of disability cars conjures up images of the three-wheeled invalid car, once a fairly common sight on Britain's roads, then likely you don't belong to today's modern Twitter and Facebook generation. Not that you're past it, or anything like that, but the three-wheeled Invacar ain't been seen for decades. In fact, the smart people carrier overtaking you on the road these days might just be driven by a disabled driver. And you wouldn't even know it - which tells you how much the disability car has changed.
Disability cars have changed for the better not only because of where they start from nowadays, but also because there are so many models to choose from - thousands, to be exact. In the jargon of today, they're known as wheelchair accessible vehicles, or WAVs for short. Each WAV starts life as a 'base' car, which is identical to the car any able-bodied motorist might buy from their local car showroom. There's no difference between a WAV and its able-bodied equivalent on the outside. But there certainly is on the inside.
For starters, the wheelchair driver or wheelchair passenger must have easy access to the inside of the WAV, and to that end a ramp is usually fitted at the back of the vehicle which can be quickly deployed. The angle of the ramp is usually fairly shallow to allow the disabled wheelchair driver or passenger to be pushed up or down it easily. An electric winch can be fitted if necessary and attached to the wheelchair to make the process easier.
A strengthened and lowered floor is usually necessary as part of the conversion process from base vehicle to WAV. This also helps reduce the angle of the ramp and gives the disabled person sitting in a wheelchair enough headroom so every journey can be made in complete comfort. However, with some vehicle models, it is necessary to raise the height of the roof. If that's the case, make sure if you intend keeping it in your garage the roof is high enough when you drive it in!
Since safety is of paramount importance, every WAV comes complete with a means of securely locking the wheelchair in place. And a lap and diagonal seatbelt is always fitted, too. Seating is another important area to consider and a moment or two thinking about your own particular habits and circumstances is time well spent. For example, who is going to drive the WAV, you or someone else? If it's you, how many passengers are you likely to carry at any one time? If wheelchair passenger, how much seating will you need? Is it just you and your carer travelling in the back, or you and other members of your family, too? The model of WAV you eventually choose may well depend on the answers to such questions.
And who better to answer any concerns or questions than the charity Motability? They are responsible for the Motability Car Scheme, run day-to-day by Motability Operations. Anyone in receipt of either the higher rate mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or the war pensioners' Mobility Supplement can buy or lease one of the thousands of disability cars available through the scheme.