What's different about a WAV?
WAVs are very different from standard cars and each of these differences can impact whether a WAV will suit your needs. Here's an overview of some of they key differences to consider.
Travelling in a WAV will feel different from sitting in a standard car. You will be seated in your wheelchair which, although safely restrained, is not fixed to the floor in the same way as a car seat. You will therefore experience slight movements when seated in your wheelchair – most people get used to this in time, but some may not. Your height when seated in the wheelchair may give you a different eyeline out of the windows and with most WAVs the wheelchair user is seated towards the back of the vehicle and so hearing and talking to the driver can be more problematic than in a standard car. Again, in time most people get used to these compromises, but you should check whether you are happy with these aspects before you decide if a WAV is right for you. The travelling experience will vary between each WAV as well as between conversions from different suppliers, so we would always reccommend a few demonstrations to test each out.
When making the vehicle accessible for wheelchair users, the converter usually has to remove some of the standard seats. Some vehicles have rear seats designed to fold out of the way to make room for the wheelchair, or you may be able to request to have the wheelchair user to be located in the passenger seat. Layouts also depend on the size of the WAV.
WAVs can be bigger than the type of car that you're used to, so it's important to think about how this will affect your travel from day to day. All WAVs are fitted with either a ramp or lift, and access will either be from the back or side of the vehicle depending on the conversion. Think about where you normally park and if there is enough space for a ramp or lift and room for wheelchair user to manoeuvre. If you opt for a larger vehicle, make sure the height of the vehicle will be able to clear any height restrictions that you regularly pass through, for example multi-storey car parks.
Most WAVs will have had their floor specially lowered to allow enough headroom for the wheelchair user. As the floor has been lowered, you will need to make sure the WAV allows for enough ground clearance in the places you usually drive, and the driver will need to be more careful over speed bumps.
Some WAVs are larger than regular cars, and as a result will offer a very different driving experience and may require some adjustments in driving style to make sure everyone is safe and secure. It is extremely important to ensure that your driver feels comfortable and confident operating the vehicle.
When the converter lowers the floor of a WAV, the fuel tank may need to be modified or replaced, reducing its size or changing its shape. This can mean your WAV will need to be refuelled more regularly than a standard car and the fuel gauge may be less accurate. Ask your converter if this applies to the WAV you’re looking at.