Car to wheelchair van? Help me decide

By | 2017-01-13T20:42:53+00:00 October 18th, 2013|
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wheechair van offers advice on selecting a ramp for a wheelchair van; shown here is VMI Toyota Sienna with ramp that stows under the floor.

I’ve always owned a two-door car. For the last decade, it’s been a Honda Civic, today with well over 100,000 miles on her.

The upholstery on the back of the driver’s seat is ripped to shreds; the armrest in the back on my  side has been ripped out; dings and scratches mar the lower part of the car frame – also on the driver’s side. I don’t have to tell you that all the damage happened as I hauled my wheelchair in and out of the back seat at least a zillion times.

Remember the days when two-doors were bigger and the chair could just be folded up and pulled into the back seat? Now with the smaller models, both back wheels, foot platforms and anything else that might snag, have to come off.  That’s loads of fun in a rain or snow storm, believe me.

These days, it’s taking forever to get the chair in and out of the car because my hands, shoulders and arms are weaker.  Heck, it’s taking a lot longer just getting me in and out of the car.

Everyone tells me it’s time to trade in the two-door for a wheelchair van. Everyone includes my family, friends, doctors and even strangers when they see me struggling in a parking lot. One time, a complete stranger offered to throw a fundraiser to help buy the van. I repeat: she was a complete stranger.

So, why aren’t I rushing over to the wheelchair van store? (Ironically, there’s one a few miles down the road from where I live.) My resistance comes down to this:

1) A van likely won’t fit in my garage. I live in an area where it snows/sleets/hails/rains at least eight months out of the year. AND, I pay a lot of money to live in a place that offers an attached one-car garage.

2) Vans look SO BIG.  I’ve never driven anything larger than a four-door rental car. (Don’t ask why it was four doors. Ask Avis, Hertz, etc.)

3) Money. Specially equipped vans are expensive and 100% of the cost will come out of my bank account. I know I could buy a slightly less expensive used van, but that leads to Reason No. 4:

4) My experience tells that used vehicles come with lots of problems that can be costly to fix.

5) I don’t trust anything electrical. I have friends whose van lifts quit halfway up (or down), or the lifts didn’t work a lot of the time. It’s not like you can call AAA and have it towed to the nearest garage. Don’t specially equipped vans require (costly) specialists to fix and maintain?

6) The hardest thing to overcome are the pesky personal issues. Is transitioning from car to van giving up? Will I be more of a “crip” in my own eyes and everyone else? Will I get stubborn and not want to drive a van, making me even more isolated because the Honda isn’t working so well for me these days?

I certainly can’t be the only person faced with the car-to-van decision. I’d like to hear from like-minded  souls who are grappling with the issue, and from those who have already bravely made the decision. What finally made you ditch the car? How did you pick a van? What would you do differently, if anything? What advice do you have for someone firmly stuck in the car-only lane?