Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs)

Wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) allow you to travel in your wheelchair or to transfer from your wheelchair to a car seat. Our information is based on what WAV users told us. It can help you to decide what type of WAV is right for you, how to get a WAV, what to think when choosing and useful contacts.

Woman in wheelchair entering MPV via side-entry ramp

What are WAVs?

A wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) can make a great difference for disabled drivers and passengers. 

The positive points about travelling in your wheelchair are:

  • you don't need to transfer in and out or stow it in the boot, so you can travel more freely 
  • if you have someone who helps you, installing a winch can save them from injuring themselves by lifting you or your wheelchair
  • if your wheelchair has a specialist seating system, you can benefit from the support or pressure relief it gives you while you're travelling. 

We look at what WAVs are, the standards and regulations that apply to them and the various types that are available:

  • WAVs range in size from ones that will take just the wheelchair user and one other person, to those that will accommodate several other passengers as well.
  • Wheelchair accessible vans or minivans with room for more than one wheelchair passenger, are generally used as taxis or minibuses. 

WAVs are fitted with ramps or lifts to allow the wheelchair user to get in. You're either pushed into the vehicle or you propel yourself. Some WAVs that have wheelchair access by a ramp may also be fitted with winches. 

Once inside, the wheelchair is fixed in place using a tie-down system and the person sitting in it uses a restraint like a regular seat belt. Wheelchair tie-downs can be straps that need to be clipped onto the wheelchair by hand, or fully automatic docking systems that lock on to a plate or spigot attached to the wheelchair. 

WAVs for drivers allow you to be completely independent and:

  • are likely to be heavily adapted and built around you and your wheelchair.
  • need to have automatic doors, ramps and docking systems
  • means you can either drive from your wheelchair or transfer from your wheelchair into the driver's seat (which can be a swivel seat).

If you're able to transfer out of your wheelchair into the driving seat, you may prefer to do this. For safety and comfort, it's always better to travel in a car seat if you can.

New WAVs can range from £13,500 to £55,000 depending on the type of vehicle you choose. For second-hand WAVs you can choose from a number of dealers or buy privately.

For information on companies that make, equip or sell WAVs, see our Useful contacts, which gives names and addresses of suppliers and fitters, and details of the services they provide.

You may also be interested:

 
This guide was produced by Rica with funding from Motability and in partnership with the Queen Elizabeth Foundation and the Driving Mobility (the Forum of Mobility Centres).
Download our WAVs information as a complete guide here: Wheelchair accessible vehicles (PDF). Or you can receive printed publications by post (UK only).

Last updated: February 2017


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