Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Our new Wheelchair Conversion Van

BIG things are happening in our life.  I feel so very blessed on a daily basis and know that many of the happenings are the result of letting God work His magic.

One BIG thing that happened is we purchased a wheelchair accessible van.  WOWZA!  We have been thinking and wanting one of these vans for a long time now but have not been able to find one that we can afford.  The price tag on these vans are ridiculous for a minivan - up to $65K new and the used ones are typically upwards of $30K.  At that price, we'll take two please!  Ha!

We told pretty much everyone we know that we are on the lookout for a wheelchair van and our wonderful social worker forwarded me information on one that a local family was selling.  It was a fairly new model - 2010 - and had low miles.  It also had the rear entry option that we thought would work best for our family.  There was a lot of details that we had to work out for us to buy this van since we were buying it from a private party, the owner was deceased and it was registered in a different state, but it all came together so nicely in the end.  Let me just say that I have NO doubt that this van was meant to come to Emma.  All along the way of us purchasing this van I could feel my Dad was at work...and Mom, too.  Thanks, Mom!  The owner of the van recently passed away and that is the reason the family was selling it.  I won't get into all the details, but let me say that it became clear to both us and the sellers that my Dad and the original owner met up in heaven and arranged the whole thing.

And now we have a wheelchair accessible van!!!!!!  A van that Emma loves to sit in more than she loves to sit in the driveway and watch all the happenings in the neighborhood - and that is saying a LOT.  This van opens up a lot of opportunities for us with the most exciting one being that we can now take Emma places with her power wheelchair!  As she gets better at driving her chair and is starting to enjoy the bit of independence that it gives her we want to expand her driving capabilities by teaching her to drive in areas with more people (like the mall).  The van also lets us run several errands without having all the lifting involved with getting Emma in and out of her car seat and the chair in and out of the car.

NOTE:  We were just testing how the chair fits in the car in the video above.  We do have a seatbelt for Emma that attaches to the car in addition to her chest harness that is not shown in this video.

Since there are many different styles of wheelchair vans, I'll give a few details on our conversion for families considering which van will work best for them.

  • We chose a rear entry.  This seems to work best in our area since:  1.)  All the handicapped spots at the places we go are frequently taken and we need to park in a regular spot and a side entry wouldn't really work for a regular parking space  and 2.)  We go into the city a lot and nearly all the handicapped meters are at the end of a block or before a driveway so no one can legally park behind us making it easy to use a rear entry option

  • The second row seating has seats that flip up.  If both seats are flipped up, then you can fit two wheelchairs in the ramp area.  We always have one chair flipped down for Julia and that works great for us.  Emma's manual chair is small so it can go right next to Julia if Emma is transported in her manual chair.  Mostly, Emma likes to travel in her power chair and that is much bigger so it fits in the back section of the van.  At first I didn't like Emma sitting so far back from me but she LOVES driving in the car in her power chair and I've gotten used to it pretty quickly and now don't mind it.  We can also flip down the other chair in the second row and take along a friend or family member for a ride or we can put Emma's car seat there for long trips when we don't want her to travel in her wheelchair.  

  • The tie downs that came with the car are a belt style.  I have to say they work fine but are a bit annoying for the frequency that we go in and out of the car.  We are a VERY active family.  There are other tie down options that are quicker to use and we think we might change the tie downs in the near future.  Stay tuned.
  • Overall, we are highly satisfied with this van configuration so far (click here to see the manufacturer details on the conversion in our van).  There are trade-offs with both side and rear configurations but this conversion seems to work better for us than I anticipated.  Already I've been to several parking lots with no handicapped spots left and the ability to park in a regular space with the rear entry was a big help.  

Side note:  Several weeks ago I threw my back out doing laundry - not that I needed one but it gives me yet another reason to find a reason to hate doing laundry!  It was so bad that I could hardly move for a couple of days.  NOT a good thing to have happen when your job is Mom to a non-mobile cutie pie.  I was seriously scared about what I would do should it not get better quickly.

Thankfully, several trips to the chiropractor and several weeks later my back is doing much better.  I am very aware of how important it is to keep my back in shape for the long haul - Emma is only 6 after all - and plan to add in more strength training at the gym.  This new van has already had a positive effect on my back!