Minivans are actually some of the most straightforward vehicles when it comes to making it handicapped-friendly and wheelchair-accessible. However, there are some things to consider and measure before doing the conversion. Whether it’s a side-entry or a rear-entry minivan, conversion is usually a fairly straightforward process. Done properly, a wheelchair-conversion can make life a lot easier overall in terms of transportation. Otherwise, poor planning and judgment can make the process far more cumbersome than it needs to be.
If you are looking to convert a minivan, here are the basic steps you need to go through. While more elaborate conversions are possible (based on the needs of the user) at a professional level, a basic manual conversion can be done with a wheelchair ramp and through the addition of hooks to secure the back of the wheelchair while in the vehicle as well as prevent shaking.
Check the Height of the Minivan’s Interior
A wheelchair minivan needs additional height to be prepared (at least 57 inches) to ensure that the wheelchair can be accommodated. If your minivan doesn’t have this vertical space, this can be changed by dropping the floor, something which can be done by a professional in wheelchair conversions.
Determining the Type of Installation
There are two types of minivan installation: side-entry installation, which is the most common, and rear-entry installation. In determining where the wheelchair will be situated, seats are to be removed accordingly. For a side-entry installation, the center seats should be removed while in the case of its rear-entry counterpart, the rear seats are the ones to go. Most minivans have some sort of mechanism which allows easy removal of the seats. It’s best to review your vehicle owner’s manual for information on how to remove the seating accordingly if you’re uncertain.
Establishing How the Wheelchair Will Fit in the Van
The easiest way to establish how the wheelchair will fit is to make use of the wheelchair itself. Placing it inside and measuring the position of the wheels relative to the space of the vehicle floor will make it easier to install the tie-downs and latches to secure the wheelchair in place. The tie-downs secure the wheelchair, so it’s extremely important that these are fastened securely.
Installing the Wheelchair Ramp
Once the interior has been figured out, it’s time to install the wheelchair ramp. Most prefabricated wheelchair ramps use standard sizes, so it’s important to measure the entrance width. Once that’s done and the correct wheelchair ramp is chosen, installation is dependent on the type of ramp purchased. Most ramps work by connecting to the eye hooks placed towards the edge of the door to lock the ramp in place. A typical ramp comes with installation instructions, so most of the tools needed for installation are already there.
As can be seen above, minivan conversions, at their most basic, are fairly straightforward. For more complex ramps and other features, however, it’s a good idea to talk to a conversion specialist in making your minivan handicap accessible.