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Renting a Wheelchair Accessible Van
By: Scott Smith | November 6th 2017, 10:44 am
Scott Smith

The Accessible was launched initially as the A to Z of everything ‘wheelchair accessible’ and continues to grow to what it is today. Run by wheelchair users who have first hand experience and understanding of accessibility – and how important having easy access is. Our mission is to create the best resource of accurate information on anything and everything accessible to wheelchair users and ultimately the community of people with disabilities at large.

by Scott Smith of The Accessible Planet

Renting a wheelchair accessible vehicle to take a road trip in permits a person with mobility problems to join in on the adventure. However, not all accessible vans are the same, so here are a few guidelines to consider to ensure that everyone has a really enjoyable experience.

Decide on Vehicle Size
First off, you’ll need to decide the size of vehicle you require to comfortably transport all of the participants and their baggage. Wheelchair accessible vehicles come in many different sizes. Some mini vans have space just for the wheelchair user and the driver and may be ideal for shorter trips or town travel. A minivan can take 3-4 people, while a full-size vehicle can accommodate 4-5 people, and larger vehicles with space for more passengers and even multiple wheelchairs are also available. It’s better to go bigger rather than smaller, especially for long trips, so that nobody feels cramped or uncomfortable.
Determine Optimal Seat Position for Wheelchair User
Once the basic capacity is decided on, the wheelchair user needs to choose if they wish to ride in the back or the front of the vehicle. Wheelchair accessible vehicles which are entered through the back doors more commonly accommodate the wheelchair user in the rear of the vehicle. The chair enters either using a ramp or a lift and then is anchored down in the back area, and some larger vehicle may offer multiple lock-down locations. Traveling here may not offer such good all-round vision as travelling in the front seat so be sure to try out how it feels before deciding if you would be comfortable making a long trip seated in the back.

Floor Level and Clearance
In order to make the inclination of the access ramp into a rear-accessed vehicle as gentle as possible and to increase the headroom in the back, the floor level is often lowered. This means that ground clearance is not as high as normal so if you are planning on heading off the beaten track you might ground out. Also, if the wheelchair user is very tall and you’re going to traveling on any rough roads he may still bump his head on the roof. During the modification process the size of the fuel tank is frequently reduced, so if you are heading somewhere where gas stations are infrequent make sure that you have sufficient gas to reach the next pit-stop.


When parking, rear accessible vehicles require a large amount of space behind in order to deploy the ramp or to operate the lift. Of course, many locations offer special parking areas for wheelchair accessible vehicles, but if not, remember to leave space sufficient space behind and preferably find a fairly smooth terrain to make entering and exiting easier. Some wheelchair accessible vehicles can be entered through a side door into the rear of the vehicle. These have the advantage that the vehicle can be parked in a normal space between two cars, and that the wheelchair descends down onto the sidewalk, which can be safer and more convenient.

Ramp Orientation

Other wheelchair accessible vehicles have ramps or lifts at the front passenger door, which is often heightened, to accommodate the wheelchair user where the front passenger seat has been removed. These are probably the best choice for long journeys as the wheelchair user can enjoy a panoramic view, converse with the driver, and in the rear of the vehicle there is room for more passengers and the baggage. Remember that not only the wheelchair user, but every member of the traveling party, needs to be comfortable for a safe and happy journey.
Some wheelchair accessible vehicles can even be driven by the wheelchair user, but these are not so common to find as rental vehicles as normally the vehicle requires specific modifications to meet the physical capabilities of the driver.
Take it for a Spin

Before renting any wheelchair accessible vehicle, be sure to practice getting in and out so that you are sure that it is suitable, and take it for a spin around the block to ensure that everyone feels secure and comfortable. Then pack your bags, and hit the highway, for an unforgettable experience that everyone can enjoy.


This article was written by Scott Smith of The Accessible Planet. For more great information on how to rent a wheelchair accessible van, or global resources on accessibility, please visit

The Accessible was launched initially as the A to Z of everything ‘wheelchair accessible’ and continues to grow to what it is today. Run by wheelchair users who have first hand experience and understanding of accessibility – and how important having easy access is.


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