From a safety point of view, we always recommend that you transfer to a proper car seat and use the car's original seat belt. However, if you are unable to do so, a lowered floor car is undoubtedly a quick and easy solution for both drivers and passengers. Roll in via the ramp, buckle up (that goes for both you and your wheelchair) and you’re ready for departure.
Terminology: A lowered floor vehicle is sometimes referred to as a WAV, which is short for Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle.
If you wish to drive while seated in the wheelchair a common solution is to lower the floor in the entire car. Enter via a ramp from the side or at the back of the car and then roll up to a designated position. Secure the wheelchair in a wheelchair lock, strap yourself in with a three-point belt, start the car and drive away. There are also supplementary neck and back protection if you, for example, use a manual wheelchair.
One way to make the ramp less steep or shorter is to equip your car with a so-called hydraulic kneeling lowering system. This means using the car's suspension to lower the car. This, in turn, reduces the height difference between the car floor and the ground.
Do you wish to drive yourself or do you want to be a passenger? With a flexible seating configuration, you can change as many times as you want. Your wheelchair and the car's other seats can all move around as needed and desired. This is a good solution if you want to share a car with someone who does not drive from the wheelchair.
In a lowered floor vehicle, the ramp is the straight path into the car. However, its position affects what type of parking spaces you can use. With the ramp at the back, you can make use of regular parking spaces at a parking lot for example. If you want to be able to do parallel parking, a ramp in the side is a better option. What suits you best depends on your parking situation.
A lowered floor vehicle is no reason to compromise safety. At a minimum, you need a standard 3-point seat belt as well as additional head and neck protection. You must also separately secure the wheelchair with a wheelchair lock or tie-downs. In closing, make sure that any adaptations made to your car are carefully tested and meet requirements for passenger cars.
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