Consumer research for older and disabled people

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WAVs for passengers

The most common wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) are those where the wheelchair user travels as a passenger. These range from compact MPVs to minibuses that can take more than one wheelchair passenger. Here's a checklist to help you choose your passenger WAV.
Boy in wheelchair sitting between two boys in standard car seats
Passenger WAV with passenger seats in the back - room for all the family

In larger WAVs, seats for other passengers are available in a range of different configurations. Some converters also offer WAVs where the passenger seats can be moved around. New passenger WAVs start at about £13,500 but can often cost £20,000-£45,000 depending on size and type.

There are passenger WAVs where you travel in the front next to the driver (up-front WAVs) and those where you travel in the back. Many wheelchair users prefer up-front WAVs, because they can talk to the driver more easily, but they are more expensive. They start at around £19,000 but can often cost over £30,000.

Passenger WAV checklist

Travelling position

  • Make sure you can sit comfortably and upright (without having to duck your head), and can easily see out of the windows.
  • Is there enough space above your head so you don't hit the ceiling if the driver takes a bump too fast?
  • Will you be able to talk to the driver and any other passengers?
  • Will your carer be able to get to you if you need assistance of any kind during your journey?
  • Ideally, be positioned in front of the rear wheels or the ride can be very uncomfortable. Note: this may not be possible in some smaller WAVs.
  • If you have uncontrolled movements, make sure you are not too close to unpadded parts of the car.

Getting in and out

  • Will a tailgate or door/s be better to suit you and the way you use your WAV?
  • Will you, or whoever is helping you, have the agility, strength and reach to open and close a tailgate?
  • Make sure that you, or whoever is helping you, can safely and easily operate the ramp or lift to get you in and out.
  • Make sure that you and your wheelchair will fit along the entry and exit route without getting stuck.
  • Tip: some WAV users place stickers on the ramp or somewhere else on the vehicle to help guide them into the right position when they are getting in.
Girl in wheelchair beside narrower than standard car seat
Smaller passenger WAV - room for one back seat

Space

  • Think about how many people will be travelling with you.
  • Often, some of the rear passenger seats need to be removed to make enough space to get the wheelchair in - sometimes they're replaced with folding or smaller seats.
  • Think about where you'll stow, and how you'll secure, any luggage or equipment you'll be carrying. You can't use the space behind the wheelchair travelling position - it has to be clear for you to get in and out.
  • Some WAV users carry their extra luggage in roof boxes or trailers. Note that most WAVs can't be used to pull a trailer because of the way the rear of the vehicle has been modified.

Tie downs

  • Think about who will be travelling with you. Tie downs need to be operated by an assistant.
  • Tie downs can be fiddly so whoever is operating them needs  to be able to perform fine movements with their hands.
  • Make sure the tie downs are fitted in the correct place to securely hold your wheelchair.
  • Check the weight limits of the tie downs.
  • Tip: if your WAV has a ramp, having front tie downs which pull out enough to attach to your wheelchair before using the ramp will make using tie downs easier.

Warnings

  • If the converter has fitted smaller seats in the back of the vehicle, these may not be suitable for an adult to sit on, especially on a long journey. 
  • They may also not be suitable for carrying a child seat and they may have had any ISOFIX fittings removed. Ask the converter about this.

Last updated: February 2017


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