WAV – Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle. A vehicle you can drive from your wheelchair or internal transfer to the driver seat or be a passenger. I have a WAV and it has improved my independence to the point I no longer have to depend on my husband to be my personal chauffeur. Where can you get one? How much are they? What adaptions can I have? I will do my best to answer all of these questions and many more.
What Is A WAV?
A WAV – “Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle” can be a van, caddy or some other type of vehicle big enough to take a wheelchair user inside. Myself, I have a Ford Transit Van, this has room for my electric wheelchair and up to 4 passengers.
There are many ways a wheelchair user may travel/drive a WAV. To my knowledge, you have:
- Wheelchair user as a passenger – The wheelchair user is a full-time passenger in the vehicle and someone else drive the vehicle.
- Wheelchair user internal transfer – Wheelchair user transfers from their wheelchair into the driver seat to drive. This is what I have.
- Drive from wheelchair – The vehicle is adapted so the wheelchair user may drive the vehicle from their wheelchair.
WAV’s can be adapted in many different ways to suit the wheelchair user. Hand controls for driving, six-way driver seat, ramp, floor locking device, too many to mention. This is something that you would need to discuss with the supplier of the vehicle.
Where Can I Get A WAV?
One of the main places people get a WAV from is Motability, (if you are in receipt of DLA/PIP high rate mobility). They are the most knowledgeable about WAVs unless, of course, you go directly to a WAV company.
Me? I was at a Motability roadshow a couple of years ago and saw Motability Operations (separate from Motability) there and spoke to them to get more information about how one would go about getting a WAV. I spoke with a wonderful man who took the time to talk to me and explain things. There were two main criteria required:
- In receipt of DLA/PIP mobility high rate.
- Working or volunteering, which warranted a vehicle.
As I met both requirements, I was able to go ahead with an application if I wished. I went home to think things over.
What Adaptations Can I Have?
When applying for a WAV, you will meet with a person who will discuss with you what your needs are and then talk you through what they can offer you. Truly, there are tons of different adaptions that can be made to a vehicle to enable you to drive. Just to name a few:
- Pedal Modifications
- Hand Controls
- Seating Adaptions
- Wheelchair Stowage Solutions
- Vehicle Access Solutions
- Drive From Wheelchair Conversions
- Electronic Step Access
- Space Drive
The list is truly endless and it is mind-blowing the things that can be done. Personally, my van has rear ramp access, a 6-way driver seat, a floor locking device to lock my electric wheelchair while I’m either a passenger or driver, a button push handbrake and automatic gears.
The image on the left shows my driver seat on runners. This allows the driver seat to be operated electronically, it can go backwards & forwards, up & down and rotates left & right to allow me to transfer into the driver seat.
How Much Does A WAV Cost?
This really depends on how you go about getting a WAV, with Motability, you can get one (if you are accepted) on a lease scheme for 5 years, check out their website for more in-depth information. If you go directly to a WAV company, there, you can look into both used and new WAVs to purchase. Here are a few companies I found that sell WAVs (please make sure you do your research in what best suits your needs), I am not responsible for any third party links I have supplied: Also if purchasing privately, you will need to arrange for your adaptations to be done by them (if they do adaptations or a third party company). The more you need to be adapted, the higher the price will obviously be.
What Is The Process?
I went through Motability Operations for my WAV. Once I had filled in the necessary forms and these were accepted, someone came to my home to discuss my needs and go through what could be done, adaptions wise. The pandemic started shortly after this adding some time to the overall time period. In total, it took approx a year from filling in the forms to receiving my vehicle.
I had to also apply for a grant to pay for all the adaptations needed. I had to wait to find out if I had been accepted for the grant before anything could move forward. Once approved, I test drove three different WAVS (not all at the same time). When I was happy with my vehicle choice, work got underway to adapt it to my needs.
These are called stages 1 & 2, this is where (I think) two different companies work on the modifications needed. One company deals with the lowering of the vehicle floor to allow for the ramp entry and the electric driver seat, while the other company deals with tie-downs, electric handbrake etc. This is where the process can take some time. The more that needs to be adapted, the longer things will obviously take. Due to the pandemic, this did indeed take quite some time for me.
The vehicle is brought out once or twice so they can measure up tie downs, wheelchair floor clamps etc. This is exciting as you get a sneak peek into what your WAV is going to look like.
Once all the modifications are complete and everything is as it should be, you get the official handover and the WAV is now with you for the duration of however long your contract, lease etc maybe.
Since receiving my van, my independence has soared. I no longer have to depend on my husband to take me places and my husband no longer has to strain his back getting my heavy electric chair up and down ramps in and out of the car boot. So I would say a win all round.
One thing I will say though, a little warning so to speak, I didn’t account for the sheer size of the vehicle. It took me some time to feel confident driving such a big vehicle, this is something to bear in mind when making a choice on the vehicle you want/need.
It is NOISY and bloody uncomfortable as a passenger!! Disappointed is an understatement, to say the least! As a passenger, my electric wheelchair is held in place via a floor locking device and a seat belt. I feel every bump on the road and for someone who suffers terrible back pain most days, this plays havoc.
If I’m a front seat passenger (as I can transfer), the ride is much smoother indeed. The trouble is, I don’t want to have to transfer from my wheelchair to the driver’s seat and then onto the front passenger seat every time I’m a passenger. I mean, the reason for being a passenger on any day is due to pain.
Noise? OMG, the van makes such a racket. The ramp rattles and shakes, you think you can hear every nut and bolt moving. Because of this don’t try and have a conversation in the back, it’s almost impossible and even worse if you’re trying to talk to either the driver and/or the front passenger.
There have been many times I have felt quite alone on a journey because I can’t hear others talking to me. Maybe I should just plug in some headphones and go off into my own little world!
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