Wheelchair-accessible Vans for Children with Cerebral Palsy
This article has been fact checked by a Board Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Sources of information for the article are listed at the bottom.
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Wheelchair-accessible vans and other modified conversion vehicles can be quite costly. On average, these types of vehicles can cost anywhere from $5,000 on the low end to around $60,000 or more on the high end.
Children with special needs should have access to safe transportation for numerous reasons, including, medical appointments, therapy, and school, in addition to simply getting from place to place for daily life. For families in need of wheelchair-accessible transportation, each state has various grants and programs that can potentially help caregivers and families of children with cerebral palsy obtain safe transportation.
What is a Wheelchair-accessible Van?
A wheelchair-accessible van, also known as a “conversion van” or a “lift van,” is a modified vehicle that typically has an increased interior for the purpose of allowing children or disabled adults in wheelchairs to have easier access into the vehicle, and plenty of room while traveling.
In general, the van’s flooring is lowered to make wheelchair entry more accessible. Seats are also modified to accommodate wheelchairs. In some instances, seats are completely removed so that wheelchairs can be seated instead. This is known as “transfer seating.”
Sometimes the side doors of wheelchair-accessible vans are configured to include a ramp for a wheelchair to enter the vehicle from the side. Some vans have a rear entry for wheelchairs, which is easier than a side-entry because no extra room modification is required. Maintenance is said to be easier for rear-entry vans.
Ramps on wheelchair-accessible vans are either motorized or manual. The ramps typically come in two styles, which include fold-up or in-floor. Fold-up ramps are stowed in the upright position close to the van’s entry (side or rear). Fold-up ramps are ideal for wheelchairs because of their strength and durability.
In-floor ramps are stowed as the name suggests, on the floor of the van. This will create extra room within the van and helps to keep the interior less cluttered.
How Can I Get a Wheelchair-Accessible Van?
There are a wealth of resources in most states in the U.S. that people with disabled children can apply for. If you have a child with cerebral palsy and need a wheelchair-accessible van, feel free to apply to as many programs or grants as possible.
There is no rule that indicates you can only apply for one program, and since there are usually no guarantees as to which, if any, program will approve you, it’s advisable to apply to as many programs and grants as possible.
Check with your state’s Vocational Rehabilitation Department for available funds for van modifications.
County social services organizations, such as human services or families and children departments may offer assistance in financing a wheelchair-assisted van. Rules and requirements for qualifying will vary according to each state.
There are numerous grassroots organizations in different states that help people with disabilities by locating services and disability grants. Keep in mind that most grassroots organizations do not offer vans, but instead, help people find the programs and services that do.
In some instances, Medicare or Medicaid insurance will help fund adaptive equipment for vehicles. Medicare does not, however, provide funds for the van itself.
Grant money is the most common way families can obtain a wheelchair-assisted van and adaptive equipment. Grant money used for vehicles intended for the disabled does not need to be paid back, making it one of the most preferred ways of obtaining transportation for children with cerebral palsy.
Contact a grassroots organization in your state or contact your state vocational rehabilitation agency.
Special Kids Fund
Special Kids Fund is a national organization that helps low socioeconomic families in need of a wheelchair-accessible van. According to its official website, requests for a handicapped adapted vehicle can be for both children or adults who are disabled.
In order to qualify, families must show proof that they cannot afford to purchase the vehicle on their own. Recipients of a van must also have a way to pick the vehicle up from the donor’s location. Recipients are responsible for the vehicle’s insurance and registration.
Rebate programs are sometimes offered by vehicle manufacturers. For instance, the Toyota Mobility Assistance Program offers “cash reimbursement of up to $1,000 of the cost of any aftermarket adaptive equipment or conversion,” according to its official website.
The Honda Customer Mobility Assistance Program also provides $1,000 reimbursement for expenses incurred when buying or installing qualified adaptive vehicle equipment on eligible Honda vehicles.
Ford, Acura, ChryslerDaimer and numerous other vehicle manufacturers offer similar rebate programs.
Although rebate programs do not offer a wheelchair-assisted vehicle free of charge, it does offer ways to save cash when other options have been exhausted.
Government Loan Program for Assistive Technology
Several states offer loan programs to help families purchase a wheelchair-accessible van and/or adaptive equipment. Most of these programs offer below-market interest rates and flexible repayment options.
Check with your state to determine what’s available in your area.
Do Your Research
Keep in mind that not all wheelchair-accessible vans are created equally. Once you obtain funding for one, take your time when choosing the vehicle that’s right for you and your family.
For example, families with only one child will make a better match for a minivan when compared to a larger family, who would probably fare better with a full-sized van.
You also need to keep parking areas in mind. If you have a narrow garage or driveway, a side-entry van may not be the best option. If you’ll need to parallel park, a rear-entry van will probably not be ideal.
It’s a good idea to get together as much information as possible before you get your van. There are options to have a professional help if you need assistance, such as a qualified rehabilitation specialist.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, qualified driver rehabilitation specialists can help you decide which vehicle and equipment would best fit your needs. The specialists also offer “advice on compatibility and transportation safety issues for passengers with special needs.”
To find a driver rehabilitation specialist, visit the “Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists” (ADED) and the “American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.” (AOTA) in your area.