Purchasing a wheelchair accessible vehicle is a big decision.
If you have a mobility challenge and are in need of accessible transportation, it’s difficult to know where to start when it comes to finding, purchasing and learning about your new or used handicap accessible vehicle. These six steps will help you get on the road to independence:
Contact a Quality Assurance Program (QAP) accredited dealer.
Whether you are a driver or a passenger with a disability, a consultation with a QAP-accredited NMEDA dealer should be your first stop in the buying process. These experts can provide in-depth knowledge of the different types of equipment available, recommend the best vehicles for the equipment you need, help you find a local Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) for an evaluation, and provide you with financing options. Unlike a standard car dealer, QAP dealers specialize in auto mobility.
If you are a driver with a disability, make an appointment to get evaluated by a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS).
During your evaluation, a CDRS will assess your motor skills, strength, coordination, perception, and cognitive skills. These assessments will help determine your specific equipment needs, and you will be provided a written prescription. If you want to explore the possibility of getting behind the wheel of an adaptive vehicle, contact a QAP accredited dealer or visit the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED), www.aded.net, to find a CDRS near you.
Do your homework.
- Consider your needs – What are the dimensions and features of your wheelchair? Will you be driving the vehicle independently or are you looking for a vehicle that you can be a passenger in? Do you want a transfer seat or will you be driving while in your wheelchair or another mobility device? Each of these questions must be evaluated before you can determine whether you are best suited for a side- or rear-entry vehicle, as well as any additional structural modifications.
- Evaluate your lifestyle and daily routine – How much parking space is available at your home for a ramp or lift to deploy? How often do you leave your home? What are your most visited destinations and is there accessible parking available? Is there more than one wheelchair user in your household? These answers will help you determine the type of vehicle and equipment that will be best suited for your lifestyle, such as a minivan, SUV, truck, car, ramp, lift, etc.
- Establish a budget – How much can you afford to pay? Remember to consider a down payment, monthly payments, insurance, gas, and an estimate for yearly maintenance. Your budget will play a large role in deciding whether to buy a new or used vehicle, or whether to adapt your current vehicle. There are rebates, grants, loans, and other financial aids available for people with disabilities—take advantage of them.
- Educate yourself – Research your mobility options and have an idea of the type of equipment you are looking for. If buying a new conversion, verify the year, make, and model have been safety-reviewed and accepted here.
- Don’t get taken for a ride – Not all mobility equipment installers follow federal safety standards or are accredited by a third-party—and cutting corners in auto mobility can be genuinely dangerous. Before you buy, verify the seller is QAP accredited.
Make your purchase.
When you are ready to buy, be sure you know how and where your vehicle and/or adaptive equipment will be serviced after the sale. This is critically important if you don’t buy from a QAP accredited dealer, and instead buy a vehicle online directly from a manufacturer (learn more about online purchasing concerns here).
Get driver training.
Once your vehicle and equipment are purchased, you’ll need to learn how to use them. If special mobility equipment is used for driving, it may require a few training sessions with your CDRS to effectively and safely drive a modified vehicle.
When available, submit your Mobility Assistance Reimbursement Application to the appropriate vehicle manufacturer. The step-by-step process may differ from company to company, so it’s best to visit the website for your particular vehicle manufacturer and download the correct forms before your purchase.