When we first got Ladybug’s power wheelchair, we had planned on using our regular minivan for transporting her. We had purchased a portable ramp to put her wheelchair in the van, and thought this system would work. We planned to use this system for a year while we saved up for a wheelchair van. However, that theory lasted about a half an hour before we knew it just wasn’t feasible. We were quickly in the market for a wheelchair van.
Problems With a Standard Minivan
Ladybug had just turned seven when she received her power wheelchair. Prior to this, she had an adaptive stroller/wheelchair device that we pushed. It was 40 pounds and awkward to lift in and out of the van. In addition to lifting her wheelchair in and out of the the van, we also had to transfer Ladybug from her wheelchair into her car seat. This isn’t such a bad thing when your child is a toddler. However, by the time your child is 7 it starts taking a toll on our bodies too. I threw my back out a few times, and had numerous chiropractor appointments.
While on one hand she was only seven and still a small child, we also had to acknowledge that she’s ONLY seven. That means there are still many years that we will be caring for her. One of the realities of being a special needs parent is that you need to take measures to ensure that you are physically able to care for your child for years to come. Putting an end to the lifting/transferring to get Ladybug in and out of a vehicle is one way we can do this.
In hindsight we shouldn’t have waited on getting a wheelchair van. We should have taken the plunge when we were still using a manual chair. The worst part was we found ourselves choosing not to go places simply because it was a lot of work to take Ladybug anywhere.
Problems With Using a Portable Ramp
Like I said, our goal was to make a regular minivan work with the power wheelchair. This desire was purely for financial reasons, we wanted a year to pay off some more debt and save a little more for the down payment. It seemed like the responsible thing to do at the time. However, we quickly ran into issues with this idea.
The first issue we faced was that the distance from the ground to the back end of the minivan. The height between the two meant that even with using a 6 foot long ramp, it was a steep incline. Because of the wheel position on the wheelchair, we had to push the chair while trying to drive/stir the joystick to make the transition from the ground to the ramp. It was very awkward and difficult. On top of the difficulty of this task, I had a constant fear that I would drive the chair off the ramp in the process. It was a legitimate fear, it actually happened once. Luckily, my neighbor was outside and I was able to call for him to help as I’m holding the 360 pound chair from going completely off the ramp!
Once we were able to get the chair into the van, there was the problem of getting it out! You see, it’s not a smooth and flat transition from the bumper to the floor of the minivan. There is a good 3-4 inch drop which was too much of a jump to just drive over to get out. We found ourselves putting plywood and a door threshold in the back of our van just to get the chair out. Driving the chair out also proved to be tricky. We had to reach up, navigate the joystick to drive the chair backwards from the ground. Friends, it was not fun. Again, I always had a fear that the portable ramps would fail and the chair would drop.
More Portable Ramp Problems
Portable ramps are noisy! Driving down the road they would bounce around up and down and all we heard was banging metal. It continued to be a problem even after shoving a few blankets in between the folded parts.
The ramp also wasn’t holding up, one of the pins busted off and the track gripping started wearing off quickly. This system of getting around was clearly not working.
Finally, they are heavy, awkward and cumbersome to get folded out and positioned properly. I was always afraid the ramp would slide off the back of the van. They take up a lot of storage space, and are a hassle. In a nutshell, the portable ramp was not the convenient solution we thought we had.
Freedom With a Wheelchair Van
Getting a wheelchair van has been like giving new life to our family. We no longer dread the process of getting Ladybug loaded and unloaded from the vehicle. Our own bodies have benefited from not doing as much lifting and transferring. We enjoy going out into the community more, and enjoy life together as a family.
The benefits of the wheelchair van have far surpassed just having the ability to drive around town. We now feel like we can leave the house anytime and not have to worry if our backs feel up to it.
Having a wheelchair van also means that Ladybug’s grandparents can take her places. Before the wheelchair van, this was really difficult due to physical limitations. Now, they have the freedom to take her for a day out with grandpa and grandma.
Power Ramp and Easy Lock System
We chose an in floor power ramp for our wheelchair van. The door opens and the ramp will come out with the push of a button. This is especially great if you’re caught in the rain, you can push the button and the ramp is coming out while you’re heading to the van. This means the ramp is out and ready for you when you get there. No need to sit and wait in the rain (or snow) for the ramp to be down.
The in floor ramp also means that the ramp is out of sight out of mind when driving. We don’t need to worry about Ladybug playing with a ramp folded up next to her. We also don’t need to worry about her pinching her fingers in a folded ramp.
The EZ Lock system is a dream come true. A pin was placed at the bottom of Ladybug’s wheelchair, we simply roll her up the ramp and the pin locks into the EZ Lock system. Once locked, we can pivot her chair to have her face forward. She is safe and secure. We don’t need to bend over and use manual tie downs to secure her chair. Seriously, this feature is so amazing. Do NOT get a wheelchair van without an automatic locking system!
Where to Get a Wheelchair Van
I HIGHLY recommend Rollx Vans. We did a little shopping around before making a purchase and the staff at Rollx was the best we had encountered. Wheelchair vans and handicap accessible vehicles are all they do. They were able to help us think through some needs and features we weren’t even aware of. Other places we shopped at didn’t ask nearly as many questions about our needs in a van. Had we gone with another dealer we would have gone without some of the features in our van that we have come to love.
Why We Loved Working With Rollx
Some other reasons we loved working with the people at Rollx is that they have a large inventory of both new and used wheelchair vans. While other dealers only had a handful to choose from, Rollx had the inventory. We were able to get exactly what we wanted without settling. It also meant that we didn’t have to wait weeks for a van to be converted for us, we could pick one ready off the lot!
They also do the van conversion right there. They’re not there just to sell you the van, they also do the conversion themselves. This means that their sales staff are very knowledgeable in both the process and the finished products. They’ll even take you back to the factory to show you parts of the process. This homeschool mom loved that!
Finally, the sales staff are knowledgeable on state programs for gaining assistance in the purchase of a wheelchair van. Let’s face it, converting a van to a wheelchair van is an extensive process and the cost of these vans is why many families put off the purchase. The staff at Rollx will help you with the paperwork needed to get the assistance you qualify for. Any special needs mom will tell you just how valuable it is to have some assistance with the paperwork! With their help, a wheelchair van might be more affordable than you think.
Nationwide Delivery Service
Don’t live in Minnesota? That’s ok! Rollx offers nationwide delivery service. You have the choice to have your van delivered to your door, or they will fly you (or assist with driving costs) to Minnesota. Talk about service!
Everything about your wheelchair van from Rollx will be customized to your needs. In fact, the locking device isn’t installed until you are picking up your van to ensure it is placed exactly where you need it. Whether you have a manual or power wheelchair, need hand driving controls, want the wheelchair to sit in the front or back seat, Rollx will tailor your van to fit your needs.
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