Finding the Right Fit with Knowledge

Choosing a Conversion with the Right Fit

Side Entry Lowered Floor Wheelchair Van

Advantages
  • Entering Facing Forward, Exit Facing Forward Both. Being able to rotate 360 degrees with most wheelchairs
  • Caregiver Can Easily Access 4 Corners of the Wheelchair for Tie Down Purposes
  • The Wheelchair Passenger Can Sit Up Front – The Floor is Lowered all the Way to the Front.
  • Easily Accessed Seating Space for Other Passengers to sit on the Rear Bench
  • The ability to fit the driving area for adapted driving.
Best Uses
  • Power Wheelchairs
Possible Uses
  • Manual Wheelchairs
Specifications to Know
  1. Height – The entrance height and interior height vary on these vans. We recommend you get a yard stick and fix it at a particular height on a door to see how “low you can go” – comfortably that is. The entrance height is the most limiting so our focus here will be on that.
    • Chrysler/Dodge – Prior to 2008 Minivans Chrysler and Dodge had entrance heights between 52-53”.
    • Ford Minivans have a 51.5-52” entrance.
    • Honda and Toyota did not really enter the market until 2005. From 2005-2010 their entrance height ranges between 52.5-54”.
    • Pontiacs and Chevys swapped their ground clearance for entrance height to give them a 56”.
    • Chrysler & Dodge improved their numbers by 1” from 2008-2010 53-54”.
    • Beginning 2011, all the minivan manufactures still in the market – Dodge, Chrysler, Toyota and Honda made a marked difference in their entrance height by improving the rise of their kneel systems, lowering the floor up to 14 &3/4”. These minivans vans with a deeper drop also had a better entrance height – 54-57”. While VMI began to sell the deeper floor drop exclusively, Braun and Eldorado added their line of deep cuts to their line of build 10” cuts. By keeping the 10” cut conversion line Braun and Eldorado were able to provide those individuals 5’7” or less with better visibility.
  2. Weight – Some ramps have a maximum weight capacity of 600 lbs. If the combined weight of the wheelchair and the individual sitting in it is over 600lbs. a vehicle with a stronger ramp should be found. In floor ramps provide the strongest weight capacity.
  3. Width of Wheelchair – If the width of the wheelchair is more then 29.5”( including the hand bar attached to the wheel) than only one side entry van can accommodate them – an Eldorado Amerivan, beating the side entry charts in their weight capacity (800lbs for a fold out) and width (31”). Although no longer built, there are used Eldorado’s on the market.
  4. Manual Wheelchairs – Special consideration may be needed for those who are in manual chairs and their caregivers. If getting up a ramp is a hard job, make sure the vehicle has a kneel system. With a kneel system, the back end of the vehicle drop so the ramp angle is better
  5. • Circumstances where a Lowered Floor Side Entry Minivan is Not Recommended
    • Total Chair length exceeds 54”
    • The individual in the wheelchair does not fit under a 56” entrance easily
    • Added Midsection space is required to attend to the Chair User
Manual Side Entry Ramps – An Excellent Solution for some

Manual Side Entry Ramps are an excellent answer to cutting vehicle maintenance costs in half. If the following describe the person in the wheelchair, than the VMI Northstar E Conversion will be a great choice. Other manual ramp conversions will provide good solutions; but when it comes to the most convenience that is still cost effective, the Northstar E is our 1st recommendation.

  • Requirements for the person in the wheelchair.
    1. They do not drive.
    2. They have good balance – usually not recommended for amputees.
    3. They have a wheelchair/scooter with decent power and rear wheel size. In otherwords, the manual ramps have a 5-7% incline increase. Whether it is a power wheelchair or a manual one, the wheelchair has to be able to handle an incline. If a manual wheelchair is being used, a strong care giver is needed and the person in the wheelchair should not exceed 160lbs.

Rear Entry Lowered Floor Minivans

Advantages
  • The lowered floor channel gives a straight shot in and a straight shot out for wheelchairs. This is sometimes easier for the caregiver.
  • A long channel gives added length for wheelchair needs
Best Uses
  • Manual Chairs
  • Long Chairs (especially manual)
  • Those with Stiff Legs
Specifications to Know
  1. Height – If the clients height sitting in a wheelchair is over 52”, an ADA Door is needed which gives 54”of entrance height. Height can be a limiting factory.
  2. Width of Wheelchair - The rear entrance offers wheelchair width advantages – up to 34”. There are even a few 36” ones out there, but only in year models reaching back to about 2012. Even then, there is a variance in the widths, so don’t assume a rear entry you are looking at is wider than 30”.
Not Recommended if:
  1. The individual is in a wide Power Chair. The casters get stuck when switching directions.
  2. The person in the wheelchair is uneasy about going down a ramp backwards
  3. The person cannot fit under a 54” entrance easily while in their chair
  4. Two adults or larger youth will need to ride in the back with the person in the wheelchair.
ALS Usage

More and more who are diagnosed with ALS are finding that rear entries are more accommodating than side entries because of the progression of the disease and the length of the wheelchair. This is true even if they are in a power wheelchair. Contact MITS of Virginia to learn more.

Cautions with Rear Entries
  1. For most, backing out in a power wheelchair is a scary and frustrating experience. The wheel cambers get caught on the sides of the channel. Backing down a ramp backwards, not being able to see is an uneasy feeling.
  2. Backing a wheelchair out in a parking lot is not safe without a spotter or with out learning a few tricks. Please ask us at MITS how this can be done safely.

Full Size Lift Vans

Advantages
  • Increased Space and Accommodations in Midship Area
  • Lift has a Flat Platform requiring very little exertion for caregivers when pushing a wheelchair in
  • Lift accommodations accommodate larger individuals and wheelchairs (up to 33” wide, 54” long wheelchairs and scooters).
Best Uses
  • The vehicle will be driven in rough or bumpy terrain. These vans have markedly increased ground clearance.
  • The wheelchair is longer than 54”, especially if the person in the chair wants to tilt.
  • Those in a manual wheelchair who want the freedom to bring themselves in.
  • Those who get assistance from someone with average or less than average strength.
  • Instances where added height is required, over 56”.
  • Those that need midship space for added personal needs
  • Those who want added passenger space and comfort
Chassis Consideration - Nowadays a Bigger Bang for the Buck

For those not familiar with the term, the chassis is the vehicle before it has any adaptive equipment installed. It is the vehicle coming right from the manufacture.

When it comes to larger vehicles, the Ford Transit, the Ram Promaster and the Mercedes Sprinterare are all large vans that have tall door heights and spacious interiors. Interior height that gives a feeling of ease and comfort from the entrance, to the ride, to the exit. With all their space, they provide more than enough room without having to do modifications to the chassis. This lowers the conversion cost tremendously. Some think a Mercedes Sprinter will be too expensive to convert. In reality its low conversion cost makes it quite competitive in the mobility market.

Circumstances where a Full Size is may not be Recommended
  1. The driver is uncomfortable driving a full size van.
  2. The parking garage/area at the home has space limitations, particularly with a garage that will not accommodate the van.
  3. The person in a wheelchair wants to self drive. While it is possible to upfit for this, the costs run at least 3 x’s as much as they do on a Minivan.
Other Factors to be Considered

The following are features may need to be added:

  1. A power reclining sofa on the rear bench seat – this will be expensive & you will want to make sure it can be done before moving forward with a Chassis Purchase
  2. Running Boards, do not come with the Chassis, they will need to be added

Accessory Lifts

For Many, they are not ready to take the plunge into a lowered floor minivan. Or perhaps they are able to easily transfer or still have some ambulatory capability. Accessory lifts assist either people or scooters/wheelchairs into the vehicles. They just don’t do it at the same time. These type of modifications bring a great deal of satisfaction to a devote niche group. For these individuals, there are numerous answers. Below are links to some of these answers. We at MITS, are providers for each of these solutions.

This section will show the different options and providers