What is a WAV?
Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) are vehicles that are specially converted so a wheelchair user can travel either as a passenger or a driver without needing to transfer out of their wheelchair. Size, shape and design of WAVs will vary depending on the original vehicle that is used for the conversion and the company that converts it.
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Is a WAV right for you?
When it comes to deciding if a WAV is right for you - there's a lot to think about. If you are no longer able to transfer from your wheelchair to a car seat, or if your carer can't lift you, then a WAV could be the solution. We have over 20,000 WAVcustomers who value the independence their WAV gives them. However, a WAV might not be right for everyone and you should weigh up the pros and cons.
What are the other options?
There are alternatives available if you don't feel that a WAV is the right vehicle for you - but it's important that any vehicle you choose supports your needs now and for the duration of your lease. If you are able to transfer out of your wheelchair without it causing too much discomfort then a standard car fitted with adaptations may be a better choice. Adaptations such as a transfer plate, person hoist or swivel seat could help improve your access to a car. There is also a wide range of adaptations available that can help you stow your wheelchair or scooter, such as a boot hoist or rooftop stowage box.
Choosing a WAV - where do I start?
If you don't know where to start, or if this is your first Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) it might be a good idea to jot down a list of what's important to you or what your driving habits are. You could use this when you're talking to WAV suppliers and comparing WAVs that might be right for you.
Your driving habits and lifestyle
- Where will you be regularly travelling to in your WAV? Are there lots of speed bumps or areas with height restrictions?
- How often will you need to use the WAV?
- Does your driver need automatic transmission to make motoring easier?
- Are you sensitive to temperature? Would you benefit from additional heating and air conditioning?
- What sort of activities would it be used for, e.g. days out, popping to the shops, the school run? Will there be sufficient space to get in and out of the WAV easily?
- Where do you normally park? Are there height restrictions? Will there be enough room behind the WAV to access the vehicle by a ramp or a lift? Will there be enough room for the ramp to fully extend?
- Have you budgeted for the cost of handing over your allowance for five years and ordinary running costs such as fuel?
- Do you mainly make local journeys, or will you be taking your WAV on longer trips? Diesel is not always the most economical or best option if you just tend to make short journeys.
- Do you regularly travel with just the driver? Would sitting behind the driver be a problem for you?
Size and space considerations
- How big is your wheelchair?
- Are you likely to need a new one within the next five years?
- If the wheelchair user is growing or their condition is likely to change will they need a larger chair?
- What's your height when you're seated in your wheelchair?
- How many people regularly need to travel with you?
- Is this number likely to increase over the course of your lease?
- What equipment will you need to regularly transport in the WAV?
- Is it especially large or heavy?
- Is there sufficient head clearance at the point of entry to the vehicle as well as in the wheelchair seating position?
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Types of WAVs
Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) come in all different shapes and sizes so you should be able to find one that's right for you. To find out more information about sizes of WAVs and layouts click through the headings. To see images of typical WAV seating layouts then click through the tabs below.
Standard WAV features include:
- A built-in ramp, or lifts on larger vehicles
- Access from the side or the back of the vehicle
- A lowered floor or raised roof to allow enough headroom
- Wheelchair tie-downs to keep the wheelchair in position inside the vehicle
We classify our WAVs as small, medium or large. When thinking about what size WAV would work best for you keep in mind:
- The size and weight of your wheelchair
- Your seated height in your wheelchair
- The number of people you regularly travel with
- The amount of equipment that you need to take with you on journeys
There are lots of different seating layouts available and these depend on the size of WAV that you choose. We recommend talking to your WAV supplier to decide what option would work best for you and your needs. WAVs tend to position the wheelchair user towards the back of the vehicle but there are some that allow for the wheelchair user to sit beside the driver. However, an upfront layout will limit the seating you could have in the back of the WAV. They are also a more expensive option.
Things to think about
When deciding on what seating layout will work best for your needs there a few key things you should take into consideration:
- With some seating arrangements, the wheelchair passenger may find it difficult to see out of the windows or hear other passengers. If you have a preference then speak to your WAV supplier who could advise you.
- Will a partner or carer need to get to the wheelchair user during journeys - does the seating allow for this?
- WAV suppliers will normally remove some standard seats from a WAV to make it accessible. You may be able to have rear seats that fold out of the way or you might be able to request a seat as an optional extra. Sometimes these extra seats can be smaller than the standard option and might not be suitable for adults on long journeys or child seats.
- If the wheelchair user is sensitive to temperature, you may benefit from additional heating or air conditioning in the back of your WAV - but this is normally at an additional cost.
- Small WAVs
- Medium WAVs
- Large WAVs
- Most small WAVs accommodate up to four people including the wheelchair user.
- These WAVs normally have a ramp rather than a lift to allow access.
- They usually have a lowered floor to give more headroom inside the vehicle and reduce the angle of the ramp making it easier to get in and out.
- Below you'll find an image of a typical small WAV seating layout. There are other options available so speak to yourWAV supplier to find out what might be right for you.
- A medium WAV is more suitable for a larger wheelchair or if you have a lot of equipment.
- They seat between five and seven people including the wheelchair user.
- Most will have a ramp but some are available with a lift instead.
- Below you'll find two images of a typical medium WAV seating layout. There are other options available so speak to your WAV supplier to find out what might be right for you.
- Large WAVs are a good option if you travel with lots of passengers.
- They are suitable for large or heavy wheelchairs or if you carry lots of equipment.
- They are normally fitted with a lift to make entry easier.
- Below you'll find two images of a typical large WAV seating layout. There are other options available so speak to yourWAV supplier to find out what might be right for you.
Take a look at our wheelchair accessible vehicles
Features of a WAV
If you've decided that a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) is the solution for you then there are three key areas that you need to thoroughly consider:
- how you will get in and out
- what the conversion features are
- the experience of travelling inside a WAV
To explore the different areas in more detail and find out more about the different features of a WAV, click through the tabs below.
- Getting in and out
- Conversion features
- Travelling inside a WAV
Getting in and out
All WAVs will be fitted with either a ramp or a lift and you will access the vehicle in your wheelchair from the back or from the side depending on the conversion.
Ramps are the most common way to access a WAV. Normally a ramp is manually operated with someone physically unfolding the ramp from the back of the vehicle. Alternatively you can opt for an automatic ramp which will fold and unfold at the touch of a button but these are more expensive.
You should think about and test the angle and length of the ramp as not all WAVs will be the same and some options might make it more difficult to push a wheelchair. Some manual ramps can be spring-loaded to make raising and lowering easier. And some WAV suppliers will offer a powered winch at no extra cost so ask them what's available.
A larger WAV may be able to have a lift fitted; this can be a help if your carer has trouble pushing you up a ramp. A WAVfitted with a lift will cost more than one fitted with a ramp so your Advance Payment could be higher. Lifts also require an annual service but this will be covered by your lease.
Things to think about
- Consider whether your carer will physically be able to operate a ramp and then push you up it. Will they be able to do it now and for the duration of your lease?
- If your carer does find it hard to push you up a ramp then an electric winch could help. This is a motorised cable that attaches to a wheelchair and pulls the wheelchair into the WAV.
- If your carer struggles to bend and lift and you use a medium or large WAV then consider whether a lift would be the best option. They are button automated and require the least amount of effort.
- Most ramps and lifts will be fitted at the back of the WAV. But some WAVs will be able to be accessed from the side so think about what would work best for you.
Most WAVs will have their floor specially lowered so that you have enough headroom inside the vehicle when you're sitting in your wheelchair. A lowered floor means that a ramp can be either shorter or at a less steep angle for easier access.
Things to think about
- As the floor has been lowered you will need to make sure that your WAV allows for enough ground clearance in the places you usually drive. Your driver will need to be more careful on roads with speed bumps.
- When the floor is lowered, your WAV supplier may need to modify or replace the fuel tank. This could reduce its size or change its shape. Potentially this means your WAV will need refuelling more regularly and your fuel gauge may be less accurate.
- Some WAVs can have a lowering suspension. This means that the back of your WAV will lower to give you easier access in your wheelchair. This happens at the touch of a button and reduces the angle of the ramp but they do cost extra.
Travelling inside a WAV
It's important for you to be comfortable and secure travelling inside your WAV. The size and seating layout you choose will impact how comfortable you find your WAV - so it's important to give this some thought and work out the best option for you.
You will also need to think about safety and space - what safety features you will need to keep your wheelchair secure and the space that you will require to be comfortable.
WAVs will come with a three-point seatbelt for you to use while the vehicle is travelling. Most WAVs will also come with four restraint belts. These attach to the front and rear of your wheelchair and lock it in place to minimise movement when travelling. The front restraints are normally adjustable and self-locking, similar to a seatbelt and are easy to attach to your wheelchair.
There are different mechanisms available for attaching restraints to your wheelchair and your carer may find some easier to work than others.
Things to think about
- During your WAV demonstration make sure everyone who will be using the restraint system tests it out.
- If you carer has limited mobility or dexterity your WAV supplier can recommend alternative options that are more suitable. Automatic options are available but will cost more than a belt system.
- If your wheelchair weighs over 140kg then not all restraint systems are suitable. You will need to ask your WAVsupplier about what's available.
The space you have inside a WAV is incredibly important. It will need to accommodate your passengers and the things you regularly travel with such as shopping or mobility aids.
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Things to think about
- Your wheelchair will need to fit in the WAV without any tight, difficult manoeuvres.
- It's strongly recommended that you have a head restraint attached to your wheelchair when you're travelling inside aWAV - these are easy to use and don't damage your wheelchair.
- Larger wheelchairs or scooters might be too heavy for smaller vehicles.
- If you think you might need to change your wheelchair during your lease, consider if that will affect your choice ofWAV.
- Think about how much space you will need for luggage or equipment - some vehicles have useful lockers and shelves for small things. And loose luggage can be dangerous if the driver has to suddenly brake.