ALS From Both Sides, ALS Patient Care
ALS From Both Sides
Care of an ALS Patient
By Diane Huberty, Retired RN, Certified Neuro Nurse
...and ALS Patient


Choosing a Van

Minivan, SUV, or full size Van?

  1. Minivans
    • More appealing to those who don't want to drive a "truck".
    • Will fit in garages and parking ramps.
    • Uses a side or rear entry ramp rather than a lift.
    • Require lowering of the floor for the ramp.
    • Lowered floors can bottom out on rough roads or driveways.
    • In a side entry minivan the entire floor is lowered.
    • In a rear entry minivan only the floor between the rear wheels and up to the front seats is lowered leaving a channel for the wheelchair.
    • Rear entry limits the seating available for other passengers.
    • Less interior space and less headroom makes it more difficult to use with a power chair, especially for a tall person.
  1. SUVs
    • Some power chairs may not have the turning radius needed to get turned facing forward in SUVs. Most newer power chairs pivot closer to their center however, and should work but testing before buying is important.
    • A side entry SUV may have only the section of the floor between the front and rear seat lowered. This leaves little room for turning a power chair to face the front and rear seat passengers with feet dangling above the lowered floor.
    • In a rear entry SUV only the floor between the rear wheels and up to the front seats is lowered leaving a channel for the wheelchair.
    • Rear entry limits the seating available for other passengers.
    • Less interior space and less headroom makes it more difficult to use with a power chair, especially for a tall person.
  1. Full sized vans
    • More space for wheelchair and other gear.
    • May not fit in some garages or parking ramps. Raised roof version will not fit.
    • Uses a side or rear entry lift.
    • Must have floor lowered and/or roof raised to accommodate wheelchair and lift.
    • Consider size of engine cowling between front seats. Can make it very difficult to move back to the passenger area if wheelchair passenger needs help.
    • Allows seating for passengers.
    • Available in longer lengths for even more seating or storage.
  1. Other options:
    • Dodge Sprinter: Available from manufacturer in two roof heights, 64 or 72 inches of headroom, no roof raising/floor lowering conversion expense, just add a lift. High door height for even the tallest wheelchair user. Three lengths available. Ideal for traveling. Excellent visibility for wheelchair passenger. Side or rear entry.
    • Ford Transit Connect. A small size utility van that is becoming popular for wheelchair use. Rear entry only. Fold down ramp rather than lift. Must have floor lowered. Two lengths available. Shorter length has seating for driver and one or two passengers. Longer length allows more passenger seating but puts the wheelchair in the 3rd row, and space may not be long enough for a power chair.

Lower the floor or raise the roof?

Side or rear wheelchair entry?

  1. Rear entry
    • Allows the wheelchair user to get in without maneuvering to turn the chair.
    • Rear entry limits the seating available for other passengers.
    • Rear entry eliminates the problem of being blocked from using the lift by other parked cars, but requires loading and unloading in traffic lane of a parking lot.
  1. Side entry
    • Requires turning the chair to face the front. Riding sideways is unsafe as well as nauseating.
    • Requires about 8 feet of space, and another car parking too close can require moving the van to get back in. That is a mere nuisance if you are a wheelchair passenger, but if you are still driving yourself it leaves you stranded.

Ramp or Lift?

  1. Ramps
    • Minivans use ramps.
    • Ramps can be mounted inside the van or positioned under the floor.
    • Manual or automatic.
    • Takes up some space in passenger area and may partially cover the window although some ($$) fold horizontally or vertically for better visibility.
    • May prevent front passenger seat from being able to move back (reducing leg room) or reclining.
  1. Lifts
    • Full size vans and pickups use lifts.
    • Lifts are automatic (powered) and are wired into the vehicle's electrical system and can be operated even when the vehicle is not running.
    • Can be operated manually if controller fails.
    • Lifts can be mounted inside the van or positioned under the floor.
    • Semiautomatic raises/lowers the lift with a switch located on the lift, requires a caregiver to open the door.
    • Fully Automatic opens door, raises/lowers the lift, and closes the door with switches located on the lift. Can be used independently if hand/arm strength allows.
    • Hand-held remote control can be used instead of switches. Requires full attention and caution to be used safely.
    a. Folding
    • Takes up some space in passenger area and may partially cover the window although some ($$) fold horizontally or vertically for better visibility.
    • May prevent front passenger seat from being able to move back (reducing leg room) or reclining.
    b. Under the Floor Slide Out
    • Doesn't take up passenger space or block the window but may take 1.5 inches away from the headroom, a small but critical amount.
    • Harder to deploy manually if something happens to the controller.
    • May require modifying exhaust system, gas tank.
    • Enclosed but somewhat more exposed to water, snow, salt.

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