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Drive From Wheelchair WAVs

Drive From Wheelchair WAVs are specially converted to allow a wheelchair user to drive to allow true independence whilst remaining in your wheelchair.

What's the difference?

When it comes to choosing a WAV, there are different types of WAV and many features to that can improve your motoring experience. Drive From Wheelchair WAVs are bespoke vehicles, further adapted than a standard WAV to allow a wheelchair user to actually drive the vehicle. Because of their complexity, the timescales and costs involved are much higher than they would be for a standard car or WAV.

There are two types of conversion that make it possible:

  1. Directly from your wheelchair, this should be safely secured in place with wheelchair tie-downs. This is called a Drive From Wheelchair (DFW).
  2. You can transfer from your wheelchair into an adapted driver's seat. This is called Internal Transfer (IT).

Things to think about

When you're deciding if one of these vehicles is right for you, there are a few things that you will need to consider, including:

  • 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
  • If you have enough space to park and safely manoeuvre the vehicle - these vehicles can be much larger than a standard car
  • 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
  • If you think you are going to need financial help, contact Motability , the charity, early in your search.

The complex nature of these vehicles means they are 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.

If you are unable to afford the type of vehicle you need, Motability (the charity), may be able to offer a grant. If your grant application is successful, Motability will work closely with you 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 they are able to fund.

 

Your DFW assessment

Your driving assessor will spend time with you to find out exactly what adaptations you will need 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 a driving assessment arranged?

If you apply for financial help for a DFW or IT vehicle, the application is first considered by Motability, the charity. If you're eligible for financial help, an advisor will contact you to discuss any essential vehicle requirements, for example wheelchair size, equipment you regularly travel with and your upper body strength. They'll arrange an appointment to visit you at home and from the discussion over the phone they will bring what they believe to be the most suitable vehicle to demonstrate at the appointment. If you are funding the DFW yourself, the converters will be able to discuss both new and Nearly New DFW options.

What happens during an assessment?

The purpose of the assessment is to understand your vehicle access, wheelchair loading and driving requirements. You'll be asked to complete some tests in order to establish your strength, range of movement and visual ability, which helps to identify the sorts of driving adaptations you may need. The assessor will also look at whether you 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.

Is there any other advice you would give to customers?

If you qualify for financial help from Motability, the charity, you'll receive advice on suitable vehicles and adaptations from an advisor. However, if you intend to self-fund a vehicle, it is still important to obtain good, independent advice. A great source is Driving Mobility.

Your DFW converter

The converter is the company that will be converting your vehicle so that your wheelchair is able to manoeuver 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 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 financial help we will refer them to 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. 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?

We'll contact the customer to let them know and provide contact details for the adaptation installer who will be adding the adaptations after we have converted the vehicle.

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 adaptations installer

Once the vehicle has been converted to allow the wheelchair user access to the driving position, you will then be allocated an adaptations installer to fit your required adaptations, which will allow you to actually drive the vehicle.

The adaptations can take between four to 20 weeks to install, depending on the complexity of the adaptations being fitted.

We spoke to Dan Doran, co-owner of Jim Doran Hand Controls to find out more.

What happens during the adaptation installation process and why does a customer need a fitting?

Once the vehicle arrives into our workshop from the converter, we call the customer to arrange a fitting to start the process of adapting the vehicle to meet the customer's needs. 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 the 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.

Any advice to ensure customers 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?

Once we are happy with all the adaptations that are fitted to the vehicle, we will invite the customer back for a final fitting and a road test. This means we can check all the adaptations are positioned correctly and the customer can use everything.

Can a customer keep their adaptations in best working order?

The more that you use the adaptations, 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.

 

Ordering your vehicle and delivery

There are normally two companies involved in getting your vehicle ready for you. The converter ensures safe access into the vehicle and the adaptation installer who provides the adaptations required to allow you to drive.

Ordering

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.

Vehicles 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 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.

Top 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.

Delivery day

It will be the adadptations installer that will deliver your vehicle when it is ready. 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 to prepare for this. This checklist lets you tick off the different steps involved in your vehicle handover so 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.