In this article, disability blogger, and Motability Scheme customer, Emma Muldoon discusses how she’ll choose her next Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV).
As a full time powered wheelchair user I need to remain in my wheelchair while travelling in the car. For the past fifteen years or so as a Motability Scheme customer, I have always had a rear entry, passenger Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV). The rear entry passenger WAVs have been the best option for us. I simply drive my wheelchair up the ramp and I’m secured in place with the wheelchair restraint belts (tie downs).
I am now into the fourth year of my current lease with my Ford Tourneo Connect WAV with rear entry. Before that we had a Citroen Berlingo, so we were excited when it came time to take delivery of the Ford Tourneo. At the time it was brand new on the market and we were one of the first customers to get it from our Motability Scheme supplier.
Emma in her Ford Tourneo Connect WAV
Since then our Ford WAV has taken us all over the UK. It is a comfortable and reliable car to ride in as a power wheelchair user and my partner enjoys driving it. These are two important factors especially as we do a lot of travelling by car.
When considering our next WAV we usually begin looking into our options a year before our renewal date. This gives us plenty of time to see what is available, if there are new WAVs and arrange home demos.
We went along to the Motability Scheme’s One Big Day event in Edinburgh last year. It was great to see the range of vehicles on display as it gave me the opportunity to go inside the cars in my powered wheelchair. I was able to get a feel for what I liked and didn’t like as well as what worked and didn’t work for our needs.
Emma at One Big Day Edinburgh
It was at this event that I got to try a couple of sit upfront Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles. We tried the InFront Doblo and Ford Upfront. My favourite was the Ford Upfront so we arranged a home demo with Sirus Automotive.
The home demo was booked via email and arranged for the following week. The whole process was easy and straightforward. The rep explained everything when he came out and answered all the questions we had, and we had a lot.
Our main concerns were the side entry ramp and whether there would be enough room to manoeuvre my wheelchair into position.
Personally, the biggest driving force behind getting a sit upfront WAV is being able to have a conversation with my partner. Sitting up front beside him would also mean he could help me if I need something. Simple things like helping me take a drink. It can also feel a little lonely sitting in the back and it’s often difficult to have a conversation due to the noise.
The home demo allowed us to test drive the sit upfront WAV from our street and around the local area. We wanted to experience our everyday life so we drove to a supermarket and parked in a disabled bay so I could try getting in and out of the vehicle using the side ramp.
Emma during her WAV home demonstration
We felt very relaxed throughout the two hour demo. The rep was understanding of our needs and we didn’t feel rushed or pressured into making a decision there and then.
Since having the home demo of the Ford upfront WAV, we’ve had time to consider the pros and cons:
Sit Upfront Pros
Sitting upfront gives an unobstructed view out of the windows. I enjoyed being able to look out the front and side windows and see the sky. This is difficult to do when sitting in the back of the vehicle.
Sitting upfront encourages chats with the driver without having to shout. Even a sing-song if you fancy it. I’ve always found it difficult to have conversations with the driver when I’m sitting in the back. The noise from the roads makes it difficult to hear properly so we tend to find ourselves shouting to be heard or sitting in silence.
My muscle wasting condition means I can’t lift my arms up. This makes simple things like eating, drinking or scratching my nose impossible when I’m sitting in the back of the vehicle. The sit upfront WAV would allow my partner to help me whenever I need a drink or something to eat. Simple things that make a big difference.
The sit upfront WAV provides more storage space than our current WAV. The extra storage space will be great for equipment and luggage when travelling but also everyday life for things like shopping bags including space for two passengers in the back.
Sit Upfront Cons
The Advance Payment
The sit upfront WAV comes with a considerably high Advance Payment. Although, there may be the option of applying for a grant, from Motability the Charity, which can be used towards the Advance Payment.
Space to Manoeuvre
The space inside the vehicle is too tight to comfortably manoeuvre into the passenger space. Driving up the side ramp wasn’t a problem, but once I got into the vehicle my feet/foot plates kept catching on the driver’s seat. It took several manoeuvres to get into place. The same happened as I reversed my wheelchair out of the space to exit the vehicle.
Distance to driver
Once I was in place, I couldn’t help but feel the space between me and the driver was too tight. As much as I loved sitting upfront next to my partner, I was aware my wheelchair controller was encroaching over into his space and slightly affecting his ability to comfortably use the gear stick.
Although I tested entering and exiting the vehicle while parked in a supermarket disabled parking bay, I still have concerns when it comes to smaller parking bays. What happens if another car parks too close to ours and there isn’t enough space to pull the side ramp down?
Thankfully, we still have plenty of time before our current lease is up so we don’t have to make any decisions yet. We will consider the pros and cons and arrange more home demos before making our final decision later this year.
You can read more from Emma on her blog Simply Emma