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Features of a WAV

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If you’ve decided that a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) is the solution for you then there are three key areas that you need to thoroughly consider:

  • how you will get in and out
  • what the conversion features are
  • the experience of travelling inside a WAV

To explore the different areas in more detail and find out more about the different features of a WAV, click through the tabs below.

Getting in and out

All WAVs will be fitted with either a ramp or a lift and you will access the vehicle in your wheelchair from the back or from the side depending on the conversion.

Ramps

Ramps are the most common way to access a WAV. Normally a ramp is manually operated with someone physically unfolding the ramp from the back of the vehicle. Alternatively you can opt for an automatic ramp which will fold and unfold at the touch of a button but these are more expensive.

You should think about and test the angle and length of the ramp as not all WAVs will be the same and some options might make it more difficult to push a wheelchair. Some manual ramps can be spring-loaded to make raising and lowering easier. And some WAV suppliers will offer a powered winch at no extra cost so ask them what’s available.

Lifts

A larger WAV may be able to have a lift fitted; this can be a help if your carer has trouble pushing you up a ramp. A WAV fitted with a lift will cost more than one fitted with a ramp so your Advance Payment could be higher. Lifts also require an annual service but this is covered by your lease.

Things to think about

  • Consider whether your carer will physically be able to operate a ramp and then push you up it. Will they be able to do it now and for the duration of your lease?
  • If your carer does find it hard to push you up a ramp then an electric winch could help. This is a motorised cable that attaches to a wheelchair and pulls the wheelchair into the WAV.
  • If your carer struggles to bend and lift and you use a medium or large WAV then consider whether a lift would be the best option. They are button automated and require the least amount of effort.
  • Most ramps and lifts will be fitted at the back of the WAV. But some WAVs can be accessed from the side so think about what would work best for you.

Conversion features

Lowered floors

Most WAVs will have their floor specially lowered so that you have enough headroom inside the vehicle when you’re sitting in your wheelchair. A lowered floor means that a ramp can be either shorter or at a less steep angle for easier access.

Things to think about

  • As the floor has been lowered you will need to make sure that your WAV allows for enough ground clearance in the places you usually drive. Your driver will need to be more careful on roads with speed bumps.
  • When the floor is lowered, your WAV supplier may need to modify or replace the fuel tank. This could reduce its size or change its shape. Potentially this means your WAV will need refuelling more regularly and your fuel gauge may be less accurate.
  • Some WAVs can have a lowering suspension. This means that the back of your WAV will lower to give you easier access in your wheelchair. This happens at the touch of a button and reduces the angle of the ramp but they do cost extra.

Travelling inside a WAV

It’s important for you to be comfortable and secure travelling inside your WAV. The size and seating layout you choose will impact how comfortable you find your WAV - so give this some thought and work out the best option for you.

You will also need to think about safety and space – what safety features you will need to keep your wheelchair secure and the space that you will require to be comfortable.

Safety

WAVs will come with a three-point seatbelt for you to use while the vehicle is travelling. Most WAVs will also come with four restraint belts. These attach to the front and rear of your wheelchair and lock it in place to minimise movement when travelling. The front restraints are normally adjustable and self-locking, similar to a seatbelt and are easy to attach to your wheelchair.

There are different mechanisms available for attaching restraints to your wheelchair and your carer may find some easier to work than others.

Things to think about

  • During your WAV demonstration make sure everyone who will be using the restraint system tests it out.
  • If you carer has limited mobility or dexterity your WAV supplier can recommend alternative options that are more suitable. Automatic options are available but will cost more than a belt system.
  • If your wheelchair weighs over 140kg then not all restraint systems are suitable. You will need to ask your WAV supplier about what’s available.

Space

The space you have inside a WAV is incredibly important. It will need to accommodate your passengers and the things you regularly travel with such as shopping or mobility aids.

Things to think about

  • Your wheelchair will need to fit in the WAV without any tight, difficult manoeuvres.
  • It’s strongly recommended that you have a head restraint attached to your wheelchair when you’re travelling inside a WAV – these are easy to use and don’t damage your wheelchair.
  • Larger wheelchairs or scooters might be too heavy for smaller vehicles.
  • If you think you might need to change your wheelchair during your lease, consider if that will affect your choice of WAV.
  • Think about how much space you will need for luggage or equipment – some vehicles have useful lockers and shelves for small things. And loose luggage can be dangerous if the driver has to suddenly brake.