Features of a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV)
The key to a WAV being suitable to meet your needs is the available access options for the wheelchair user, and the space and layout inside, including any passenger seats for carers and the rest of your family.
The size and weight of your wheelchair and the number of passengers you regularly travel with will both affect the size of the vehicle that you need. Below is a summary of the key differences between each of the WAV sizes.
Base vehicles include: Fiat Qubo; Fiat Doblo; Citroën Berlingo; Peugeot Partner; Ford Tourneo Connect; Kia Soul; Volkswagen Caddy
- All small WAVs will be fitted with a ramp for entry
- Usually have a lowered floor to give more headroom inside the vehicle and reduce the angle of the ramp
- At least one passenger seat in the rear, but usually seat no more than five people including the driver and wheelchair passenger
- These WAVs tend to feel the most similar to driving a standard car.
Base vehicles include: Volkswagen Caddy Maxi; Ford Grand Tourneo Connect; Vauxhall Combo.
- Have more space than a small WAV which either means extra passenger seats, more room for equipment or a more flexible seating position.
- Like the Small WAVs, these vehicles will have more of a car-like feel in terms of size
- The wheelchair user can be positioned behind the second row of seats in the rear-most part of the car, but many conversions have options to sit further up in between the second row of rear seats.
Base vehicles include: Citroën Space Tourer; Ford Custom; Peugeot Traveller; Volkswagen Shuttle; Volkswagen Transporter; Renault Trafic; Vauxhall Vivaro
- Based on larger vehicles and are the most common WAV for users with larger wheelchairs as their size allows more flexible seating arrangements
- Can carry up to nine passengers including the wheelchair user and driver
- Some conversions allow two wheelchair users
- The majority of medium-large WAVs are still fitted with a ramp, however if you need a lift these can sometimes be fitted, but you should be aware that there will be reduced head height in these cases.
Base vehicles include: Peugeot Boxer; Renault Master; Fiat Ducato
- Based on the largest vehicles available on the Scheme and, in terms of size, are more like a commercial vehicle
- Good for larger families or those travelling in the largest or heaviest wheelchair
- All are fitted with a lift
- Most can be converted to allow for two wheelchair passengers, as well as space for other passengers in standard seats.
Getting in and out
Many WAVs will have had their floor specially lowered to allow enough headroom for the wheelchair user. It also helps make access easier by allowing the ramp to be as short as possible and the angle to be less steep.
Ramps are the most common way to access a WAV. The ramp is usually manually operated with the carer physically unfolding the ramp from the back of the vehicle. They can be automatic, where the ramp folds and unfolds at the touch of a button – however this will cost extra. Some manual ramps are lighter in design, and others can be gas-assisted to make raising and lowering easier.
If you opt for a larger WAV, it might have a lift instead of a ramp. This can be a help if your carer has trouble pushing you up a ramp. A lift may cost more than a ramp so your Advance Payment could be higher.
Inside a WAV
The space you have inside a WAV is vitally important – not just for all passengers, but also to accommodate the things you will be travelling with regularly such as shopping or mobility aids.
Front or back?
Most WAVs position the wheelchair user in the back of the vehicle, but the actual position can vary quite a lot. Some layouts position the wheelchair user right at the back where the original boot would have been; others try to position the wheelchair user closer behind the driver. The position will affect the travelling experience as the closer forward the wheelchair user is positioned the more inclusive many people find it, however these conversions typically cost more. Additionally, some converters specialise in supplying WAVs that allow the wheelchair user to sit in the front next to the driver, although these will have a higher Advance Payment.
All WAVs have a restraint system that has been tested as part of the conversion type approval. Most WAVs have four restraint belts that attach to the front and rear of the wheelchair to keep it in position inside the vehicle. The front restraints are adjustable and are usually self-locking, similar to a seatbelt. They are easily be attached to the wheelchair to lock it in place, minimising movement when you are travelling.
There are different mechanisms for attaching the restraints to the wheelchair, some of which a carer might find easier to operate than others. An automatic tie-down system is available at additional cost.
Additionally, the wheelchair user will have an appropriate seatbelt fitted to keep the user safe when travelling. :
All WAV conversions are tested for safety of the wheelchair user; however some WAVs will be tested with a heavier wheelchair than others. It is important that your supplier knows which wheelchair you are currently using and if this is likely to change during the course of your lease so that they can recommend an appropriate WAV and restraint system.