WAVs a wheelchair user can drive
Drive From Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles are a type of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) available on the Motability Scheme. These vehicles are specially converted to allow a wheelchair user to drive.
They are truly bespoke vehicles, specifically designed to meet each driver's individual needs. They range from having simple hand controls to more complex adaptations to allow the wheelchair user to drive. Due to the nature of their complexity, the timescales and costs involved are much higher than they would be for a standard car or WAV.
There are two ways in which it is possible to drive the vehicle:
- Directly from your wheelchair, which should be safely secured in place with wheelchair tie-downs. This is called a Drive from Wheelchair (DFW).
- Or you can transfer from your wheelchair into a standard or adapted driver's seat. This is called an Internal Transfer (IT).
You can use our WAV search tool to find these vehicles by selecting 'Driver' in the 'WAV type' dropdown menu. You can see the information on whether a vehicle can be converted to drive directly from your wheelchair (DFW), or transfer into a standard or adapted driver's seat (IT), in the vehicle's specifications page under 'other details'.
Things to think about
When you're deciding if a DFW is right for you, there are a few things that you will need to consider. It might help for you to write a checklist of what your needs are and what you may require the vehicle to do for you.
- You'll need to work out the size, height and weight of your wheelchair, as well as your own seated height when sat in your wheelchair, as this could affect the type of vehicle that you will need
- How many passengers will frequently travel with you and what equipment you may need to carry in the vehicle
- These vehicles can be much larger than a standard car so you'll need more space to park and more space to safely manoeuvre the vehicle
- There are a limited number of vehicles available to choose from that can be converted to a DFW or IT. The options available to you will also depend on your individual needs.
The complex nature of these vehicles does make them a more expensive option. While there are usually a small number of pre-adapted Nearly New vehicles held in stock by converters, which come at a more affordable cost, new vehicles will typically cost an average of £20,000 - £30,000 once adapted, and some much more.
Charitable grants are available from , the charity, although this is subject to meeting their criteria. Please bear in mind that if you are accepted for a charitable grant, Motability, the charity, will work with you closely throughout the process of identifying the right solution for your needs, including a visit by one of their Mobility Driving Assessors and advice on what the they are able to fund.
Your driving assessor will spend time with you to find out exactly what adaptations you will need from your DFW or IT, in order to determine a suitable vehicle.
We spoke to Rob Scott, who has been a driving assessor for five years and works with Motability, the charity, as a Mobility and Driving Advisor (MDA), to find out more about the driving assessment process.
How is the driving assessment arranged?
If a customer applies for financial help for a DFW or IT vehicle, the application is first considered by the Grants Operations team at Motability, the charity. If the customer is eligible for financial help, the application is then passed on for a Mobility and Driving Advisor (MDA) to book an appointment with the customer. When they book the appointment, the MDA will discuss with the customer any of their essential vehicle requirements, for example wheelchair size, equipment they regularly travel with and the customer’s upper body strength, as they will want to have a suitable vehicle to demonstrate at the appointment.
What happens during an assessment?
The purpose of the assessment is to understand the customer’s vehicle access, wheelchair loading and driving requirements. The customer will be asked to complete some tests in order to establish their strength, range of movement and visual ability, to help identify the sorts of driving adaptations they may need. The assessor will also look at the whether the customer can access the demonstration vehicle, attain a good driving position, safely secure the wheelchair and reach and operate the necessary controls.
What usually happens by the end of an assessment?
In most cases, the vehicle and adaptations required can be agreed upon by the end of the first appointment. However, in some cases, a second visit may be needed to demonstrate alternative vehicles or adaptations. At this point in the process, the customer will be given some estimated guidelines around vehicle delivery times and how long they make take to convert.
Rob, is there any other advice you would give to customers?
If the customer qualifies for financial help from Motability, the charity, they will receive advice on suitable vehicles and adaptations from one of MDAs. However, if the customer intends to self-fund a vehicle, it is still important to obtain good, independent advice, a great source is Driving Mobility otherwise known as the Forum of UK Mobility Assessment Centres .
There are normally two companies involved in the process of converting a vehicle to give you access in your wheelchair and drive the vehicle yourself. These are the converter and the adaptation installer.
When it comes to Drive from Wheelchairs (DFW) and Internal Transfer (IT), there are a limited number of options available due to their size and complex nature. In most cases the right vehicle will already be in stock with a converter or available for your converter to order from the manufacturer.
Vehicle in stock
- Converters will have a certain number of vehicles in stock at any one time
- There may be a few colour options available but whilst the specifications are suitable for most customers you won't be able to purchase factory-fitted extras
- As these vehicles are in stock, work can begin on converting the vehicle to make it accessible by wheelchair, meaning it could be ready to move to the adaptation installer within around 12 weeks.
Vehicles available to order
- If your converter orders a vehicle from the manufacturer it gives you the option to choose the colour you would like and to purchase optional extras, subject to approval from the Grants team at Motability, the charity, if you are receiving financial support, but it can take 3-6 months before your vehicle will arrive from the manufacturer
- Once the vehicle arrives it will then take around 12 weeks to convert the vehicle for wheelchair access before it can move on to your adaptation installer for your driving controls.
Tip: to minimise the timescales involved you want to choose a vehicle that's already in stock with your converter. However, it's essential that you choose the right vehicle for your needs.
The converter is the company that will be converting your vehicle so that your wheelchair is able to manoeuvre in and out safely. They will also arrange the seating layout and help decide the position of any passenger seats that you may need. There are a number of converters across the country, and many of them provide a nationwide service.
When you know that a Drive from Wheelchair or Internal Transfer vehicle is right for you, the next step will be for the converter to organise a demonstration at your home, where they will bring along a vehicle that they think could be suitable.
We spoke to Simon Pearson from Sirus Automotive (one of a number of converters), who started the company in May 2004 with his business partner Russell, and asked him about converting DFW vehicles for the Motability Scheme
To help someone who is thinking about a DFW vehicle on the Motability Scheme, can you tell me a bit more about what's involved?
When we receive information on a customer, we give them a courtesy call where we talk them through what will happen next and give them a contact at Sirus who they can call if they ever have any questions. We then go through the colours we have available and any optional extras they would like; if they need a grant we will refer them to the Grants team at Motability, the charity. After this first call we post out all the paperwork the customer will need to complete – if they have any problems with this we’re always happy for them to call us. Then when we have these forms back and have checked everything is okay, we can schedule the vehicle into our workshop to begin the conversion process. There are a few different stages to this where different parts of the vehicle are modified or refitted to allow access to the vehicle by wheelchair. Once completed, the vehicle will go through a strict safety testing and quality control before we arrange delivery to the adaptation installer to have the driving controls fitted.
Do you notify the customer when the vehicle is ready to move to the adaptation installer?
Yes, the customer is advised by their Motability specialist at Sirus when the vehicle is ready to be moved to the adaptation installer. The customer is also provided with the relevant contact details for the adaptation installer.
Do you have any advice for customers who are new to DFWs?
My key advice would always be to use the vehicle as much as you can, with any vehicle the more you use it the more reliable it will be and it will keep your battery in good working order. Also, the more you use it, the more comfortable you will be with its features. The other thing I would suggest is reading all the information given to you about your vehicle to help you understand how everything works. If you have any questions or you’re unsure on anything then just speak to your converter.
Your adaptation installer
Your adaptation installer is the company that will fit the driving adaptations after your vehicle has been converted to allow you to drive the vehicle yourself. They can take between 4-20 weeks to install, depending on the complexity of the adaptations being fitted.
We recently had the opportunity to put some questions to Dan Doran, co-owner of Jim Doran Hand Controls (one of a number of installers), about installing adaptations on the Motability Scheme.
Dan, can you tell me a little bit more about the adaptation installation process and why a customer needs a fitting?
Once the vehicle arrives into our workshop from the customer’s converter, we give the customer a call to book in a time for the customer to come in and have a fitting. The way I always explain a fitting is that you wouldn’t get a tailor made suit without getting measured for it first and it’s the same for adaptations. It’s essential a customer has a fitting so that we can work out positioning of equipment and can measure someone’s exact requirements. We need to be able to see the customer sitting in their wheelchair to see how far they can reach and test out what adaptations will help them.
Do you have any advice for our customer so they can get the most from their fitting?
Always bring to the fitting anything you normally need with you as we need to check everything can fit in - so things like medical equipment, extra wheelchairs and even some winter clothing so we can see if you can reach everything with the extra layers on.
We also recommend that you don't rush through your fitting, take as much time as you think you need.
What happens after all the adaptations are installed?
When we are happy with all the adaptations that are fitted to the vehicle, we will call the customer and invite them back for a final fitting and a road test. This means that we can check all the adaptations are positioned right and the customer can use everything.
Dan, do you have any advice on how a customer can keep their adaptations in best working order?
The more that you use the adaptation the more reliable they are going to be, and when you’re more familiar with them you’re less likely to have any problems. It may sound silly, but just try and keep your vehicle as tidy as possible and try not to have food or drinks near the adaptations.
Taking delivery of your vehicle
When you take delivery of your vehicle from your adaptation installer, they will go through a comprehensive and detailed handover demonstration with you.
You may find it useful to download and print off our handover checklist Will download a resource(PDF 213KB) to prepare for this. This checklist lets you tick off the different steps involved in your vehicle handover so that you feel confident with all aspects of how your vehicle works. Your adaptation installer will go through this checklist with you and take you on a test drive to make sure you are comfortable with everything.
A specialist from Motability Operations Ltd will call you a few days after your handover just to make sure that you’re happy and to ask if you would like us to help provide any more support with getting used to driving your new vehicle. If you feel that you might need some more advice or guidance, either before you receive your vehicle or after, then you are able to call our team of specialist account managers who will be more than happy to assist. We can also provide you with familiarisation lessons. These would be with a fully qualified driving instructor to ensure that you are comfortable and confident when driving.
We will also send you a letter with the contact details of you managing dealer, your converter and your adaptation installer should you ever need to contact them.