Dear Editor,

My father is a polio victim and until recently was only in the wheelchair part-time. He could get to his feet and use a walker for short distances, i.e., to and from the car. He has broken his leg, is 6’8″ tall, and been told he is now permanently in the chair. At 76 years old he does not want to give up traveling by car to visit his family. My mother drives but at her age now, lifting the chair into the trunk of the Lincoln is beyond her.

They are in need of another type of vehicle but the mini-vans are too high to slide into the seat from his chair. What’s the next step? A van with a ramp or lift? Where can they go to see what options are out there? I know a van can be fitted, but how do they research the best model or what stats are needed in the van in the first place. Do they sell vans already outfitted?

I am just starting my search and have no idea where to begin.

Thank you for any direction you can give me.

G. Dynes

Don’t worry, your father absolutely shouldn’t need to give up traveling by car. There are a couple of good options for he and your mother. The first is an automated chair carrier that can be attached to their current vehicle. This device mounts on top of a car and automatically lifts and stores a wheelchair inside a sturdy, plastic container. These devices can usually be ordered through medical supply stores or rehabilitation hospitals. One example of such a device can be found at Tip Top Mobility.

However, if getting in and out of a car seat is becoming difficult for your father, a mini-van with a ramp is a good answer. There are at least a dozen companies focusing on mini-van conversions, but four that have been around for some time are the Braun Entervan (800-843-5438), Associated Rollx Vans (800-956-6668), Vantage Mobility International (800-348-8267), and Independent Mobility Systems (800-467-8267).

These companies and others sell converted mini-vans with ramps, primarily Ford and Dodge due to their large interiors, in various seating configurations. They deliver or have outlets nationwide and will work with you to adjust the van to your specific needs.

For means of comparison, have each company send you their information. Also, if there is a rehabilitation hospital in your area give them a call to get their input. Finally, there are disability expos throughout the country at various times during the year. Like a car or computer show, this is a good way to view and become familiar with the array of products on the market.