Jason Dion

What Are Your Access Options With Dodge Wheelchair Vans?

Written by Jason Dion. Filed in Disability Access Features

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Before any disabled individual can drive a Grand Caravan or Sprinter, he or she needs to get behind the wheel. What different methods can wheelchair users utilize to gain access to a Dodge wheelchair van? Let’s examine some common choices and their relative popularity.

1. Wheelchair Lifts

2007 Dodge Sprinter with Braun UVL Series Commercial Lifts

2007 Dodge Sprinter with Braun UVL Series Commercial Lifts

Lifts: A wheelchair lift consists of a platform that can be elevated via an electric motor or hydraulic system up to the van’s point of entry. From there, the wheelchair user can easily enter the van. Good lifts are remarkably strong and sturdy. They are a great way of providing access and, when combined with the right interior modifications, they allow wheelchair users to travel independently. Lifts can be installed at the side of a vehicle or at its rear.

Unfortunately, lifts can be cost-prohibitive. Some vehicles aren’t ideally suited for their use, either. For instance, a lift can produce great results on a Sprinter, but may be too large or awkward to be used on the side of a Grand Caravan. Additionally, drivers limit their choices in terms of parking when they rely on a lift. They need to be certain that they’re not putting themselves in a situation where their access may become blocked.

Dodge Caravan with side wheelchair lift can possibly block access in emergencies

Dodge Caravan with side wheelchair lift can possibly block access in emergencies

2. Wheelchair Ramps

Ramps suffer from that same problem. They also require some fairly significant vehicle modifications (lowered floors and auto kneel systems are commonly part of a ramp conversion). However, they can be used with any Dodge wheelchair van and they provide a chance for real travel independence.

The idea of a ramp is simple. It extends from the vehicle to the ground, creating a manageable slope the wheelchair user can navigate to get in or out of the van. They can be set up for side or rear entry and many automatic ramp systems will deploy at the push of a button. Ramps are available in a variety of styles, sizes and structures. They all serve the same function, but the range of builds makes it possible for a wheelchair van user to choose the perfect option to suit his or her individual needs.

2011 Dodge Caravan wheelchair van with push button side wheelchair ramp

2011 Dodge Caravan wheelchair van with push button side wheelchair ramp

3. Transfer Seats

Transfer seats also provide that kind of motorized deployment. A transfer seat is basically a seat within the vehicle that, when activated, pivots out the door and lowers to wheelchair height. The person in the wheelchair can then make the short move from chair to seat. Some do that alone, others rely on assistance. In most cases, the wheelchair user must be accompanied because someone must secure the wheelchair after its owner transfers out of it.

Transfer seats with power seat bases

Transfer seats with power seat bases are popular for easy access and transfer to wheelchairs or scooters

Transfer seats don’t require significant vehicle modification prior to installation. They’re relatively inexpensive and they don’t interfere with parking options. However, they don’t provide maximum independence and many Dodge wheelchair van users can’t easily manage the transition.

4. Assisted Access

Some wheelchair users get in and out of their van by relying on the support and assistance of a friend or helper. It’s easy to spot the advantages of this technique. It’s expense-free and it doesn’t interfere with parking. However, it doesn’t provide maximum independence. Additionally, it requires an overall level of dexterity and strength that some disabled individuals may lack.

Relying on assistance can save the high price of conversion

Relying on assistance can save the high price of conversion

When it comes to Dodge wheelchair vans, ramps are clearly the most popular means of access. You’ll find ramps on Sprinters and Grand Caravans alike. That’s because they work well, provide maximum independence and are substantially less expensive than are lifts.

Side Entry Proves Most Popular Today

Side-entry configurations are more common than rear access arrangements. Part of that is due to space considerations, particularly when the conversion involves the Grand Caravan. Additionally, side-entry usually provides an easier and more efficient route to the driver’s area than rear-entry does.

Side entry ramp is the most popular access method today

Side entry ramp is the most popular access method today

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About Jason Dion

Jason Dion

Jason was a professional test-driver is his last life and is now a full time Nurse in Seattle, WA and follows the changing landscape of Disability Rights and Advocacy. He is keen to assist in developing useful disability information and advice from his real-life perspective working with people with disabilities. Jason is an automotive guru and covers a broad range of topics, including disability automotive, health conditions and lifestyle advice.

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