Ivan Nelson

Side Entry Choices for Dodge Caravan and Sprinter Wheelchair Vans

Written by Ivan Nelson. Filed in Disability Access Features

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There are three ways to enter and exit a wheelchair van. Wheelchair users may get in and out via the front seats. That’s usually effectuated via a special transfer lift seat or with assistance from a helper. It’s also possible to enter the van from the rear via a ramp or lift. The most popular means of entry is via the side of the vehicle. In full-sized vans, that can involve the use of a ramp or a lift. In smaller options, like minivans, one generally manages side entry and exit via a ramp.

Dodge wheelchair vans offer multiple side entry options. Let’s examine why side entry is so popular and how it works with Dodge vehicles.

Side entry is popular for a few reasons.

Front Seat Entry Issues To Consider

Side entry from the front of a Dodge wheelchair van

Side entry from the front passenger seat

Front seat entry suffers from a critical weakness–it almost invariably requires someone else to accompany and assist the wheelchair user. Even when the wheelchair user is physically able to make the transfer from his or her chair into the front of the vehicle, someone must then tend to the wheelchair itself. Additionally, many people feel uncomfortable with the transfer process, even when they’re using special lift seats.

Why Is Rear Entry More Difficult?

Rear entry poses a few significant challenges. In some situations, the wheelchair van’s owner’s parking needs won’t be compatible with rear entry. Someone who lives in a situation where parallel parking is de rigueur, for instance, won’t want a rear entry vehicle.

A fully extended rear access can be troublesome with parking and exiting

A fully extended rear entry Dodge wheelchair van can limit parking choices

Additionally, many rear entry configurations only allow the wheelchair user to be a passenger in the vehicle. That’s obvious unacceptable for those who’d prefer to drive themselves. In order to make rear entry work for wheelchair-bound drivers, it’s necessary to clear a path to the front of the vehicle, which can often have a negative impact on passenger space and seating arrangement.

Rear entry proves more difficult in most cases

Rear entry proves more difficult in most cases

Safe and Easy Side Entry

Side entry is a good way to provide access for independent wheelchair users who want to be able to enter, exit and drive a vehicle without reliance on anyone else. Side entry puts them in the immediate vicinity of the driving area and, when combined with all appropriate modifications, side entry doesn’t require any assistance. Power ramps and power doors can be extended, retracted, opened and closed by the wheelchair user.

Dodge Sprinter with side entry wheelchair lift

Dodge Sprinter with side entry wheelchair lift

How Does Side Entry Work?

So, how do Dodge wheelchair vans handle side entry? It depends upon the vehicle in question.

The full-sized Dodge sprinter can provide side entry access with either a ramp or a lift. It’s capable of that flexibility by virtue of its size. Dodge Grand Caravan minivans and Caravan minivans allow side entry and exit via the use of a ramp. While spacious, they’re not large enough to support a side lift option.

Side entry lift on a Dodge Caravan wheelchair van

Side entry lift on a Dodge Caravan wheelchair van

In most cases, the ramps are motorized and retractable. Foldout power ramps will store under the vehicle, out of the way. Providing side access to a Dodge minivan requires more than a ramp, though. Other conversions are essential to making this configuration work. We’ve already mentioned the importance of power sliding doors. Additionally, dropping the floor to improve clearance and interior headroom is important.

Dropped floor of Dodge wheelchair van

Dropped floor allows easier side entry with Dodge wheelchair vans

Finally, most Dodge wheelchair vans featuring side entry utilize a vehicle kneel system. These allow the wheelchair van to “dip” when parked. That decreases the slope of the ramp, making it easier and safer to go in and out.

If you’re interested in a side entry wheelchair van, any Dodge option will work for you. The full-sized Sprinter, the Grand Caravan and the Caravan are all up to the task.

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About Ivan Nelson

Ivan Nelson

Ivan is a true hero to countless men and women with disabilities who have been asking Ivan for years on ways and methods to overcome their disabilities and propelling their way to a new and fulfilled life. Ivan's expertise in disability rehabilitation for over 15 years is solid and his knowledge is always fresh from a different perspective.

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