If you're interested in wheelchair vans, one decision you'll need to make is if you want a van with side-entry or rear-entry. Each affects the configuration of the van in different ways and are best suited for specific situations. Here's a look at how the two options differ.
Side-Entry Vans Save Storage Space
When the ramp is on the side of the van, the area in the back is not disturbed, so there is still plenty of room for storage. This might be important if you need to carry medical equipment or if you plan to travel frequently. A side-entry van is also necessary if the wheelchair user wants to get in the front seat or the driver's seat. This type of van is best if you do a lot of parallel parking, since the wheelchair can exit right onto the sidewalk.
You'll also have more options when it comes to the type of lift or ramp to mount on the side. You may want a simple ramp or one that elevates the wheelchair so it can roll inside the van. The major drawback to side-entry vans is that you'll always need to park in handicap spaces in a parking lot, so the ramp can lower and allow the wheelchair to get in and out.
Rear-Entry Vans Allow More Parking Options
The biggest advantage to a rear-entry van is that you can park in a regular space in the parking lot, since the ramp is placed in back of the van and not the side. However, this could also cause problems because the ramp would be in the traffic area. Still, you'll have more parking options, and that can be important. If you risk parking in a regular spot and you have a side-entry van, you might come out of the store and find the side door blocked by another car.
While rear-entry vans are great for crowded parking in driveways and parking lots, they aren't practical for frequent parallel parking, since a car parking behind you would block the ramp. Rear-entry vans allow the wheelchair to be positioned in the middle of the van, rather than a side seat, and they also make it easy to accommodate a reclining chair, oversize wheelchair, or large scooter.
Choosing the right wheelchair van takes careful consideration because you want one that makes travel easy and not a chore. Look at different types, and try them out, so you find one that fits your needs the best. The right one for you will depend on whether you want the wheelchair in the front row of seats and the type of parking you do most often.