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Van lifts: a practical guide.

A van lift is a practical method of transportation for someone using a wheelchair. Vans equipped with automatic lifts are convenient because they can eliminate awkward transfers and the difficulties of loading and unloading a wheelchair. They also provide easy transportation for non-folding wheelchairs and heavy, power wheelchairs.

You may consider many variables and optional features when choosing a van lift. Different types of van lifts include platform and rotary. There are two types of platform lifts, those using linear vertical tracks and those using a parallel arm providing a parabolic line of travel. Compatibility can be an issue because not all van lifts fit all models of vans. Choosing the type of operation, such as electric or hydraulic, may also be an important factor in extreme climates and temperatures.

Another choice you must consider is whether to get a minivan or a full-size van. The driver's ability to transfer to the standard driver's seat is a critical consideration in this decision. The driver's view is obscured by the top of the windshield when sitting in a wheelchair. This is resolved by dropping the floor in the driver's area, but minvan floors cannot be dropped because of their construction. Minivans can also cost more to convert for wheelchair use because they require more modifications to install the special equipment. On the other hand, they are smaller, easier to park and more economical to drive.

At this time there are no universal standards for van lifts or any other van modifications needed to accommodate wheelchairs or drivers with disabilities. Standards establish the criteria for technical control, product performance and quality assurance, and while a few states or agencies have guidelines, most are not performance-oriented or uniform. In 1987, the Society of Automotive Engineers established a subcommittee to undertake the difficult task of preparing standards or recommended design practices for equipment for people with disabilities as related to transportation. The mission of the task force is to establish standards that will provide a base line of performance that can be universally used by all manufacturers to validate the safety, integrity and performance of these products without inhibiting the designer's ingenuity.

Choosing A Van Lift

The following are criteria to consider when choosing a van lift:

* If you are installing a van lift, it is improtant to identify what lifts are compatible with the make, model and year of the van. You must then choose among those lifts for the style or brand that has the most desired features.

* When converting a van, many installers refuse to cut the frame of a vehicle to accommodate the required modifications for specific equipment. Cutting the frame usually voids the manufacturer's warranties. If you already have a van, it is important to ask the installer whether the van can be converted safely. It may be necessary to consider selling your current van to purchase a model that is more suitable for conversion.

* If you are purchasing a new van, you may first want to choose the style and brand of lift. You can then purchase a van model that is compatible.

* The type of parking you most often encounter is an important consideration in choosing the style of lift. Parallel and pull-in parking needs should be considered because they can affect the choice of specific brands or styles of lifts, and the choice of rear or side installation.

* If you have a wheelchair, compatibility with the style, size and brand of that wheelchair is also a critical part of the decision. Some wheelchairs have a wheelbase that is too long for the platform of many van lifts, particularly the three-wheeled scooter-type power wheelchairs.

* The available options of the various lifts may also be important to consider, including the availability of a manual emergency back-up system to lower the lift if the drive system fails.

* A raised roof may be needed to allow a tall person to sit upright or to accommodate a high reclining back and headrest on a wheelchair. A raised door may be required if the platform was lengthened to fit an individual's wheelchair.

* To achieve the proper eye level necessary to drive from a wheelchair, a portion of the floor may need to be lowered. Local policies and regulations vary on how this can be done and to what type of vans (e.g. California allows no structural modifications to vehicles with unit body construction).

* An automatic lock is needed for the flap at the end of the platform to prevent the chair from rolling off the edge of the platform while in midair.

* Various types of control switches are available for operating the lift up and down, folding and unfolding, and opening a power door. These can be mounted in multiple locations for the convenience of a person in a wheelchair or an attendant. Full sets of controls can be mounted near the driver's seat and in a locking compartment on the exterior of the van. An up and down control can be mounted on the lift.

* Other van accessories include a power seat, a power door, a portable ramp, a lowered floor, a raised top, low effort and zero effort steering, low effort braking, hand controls, power parking brake, an auto hand rail, an auto safety barrier and remote starters and door openers.
COPYRIGHT 1992 EP Global Communications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Annual Mobility Guide for Parents of Children and Adolescents
Author:Hall, Marian
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Words:882
Previous Article:Maintaining your wheelchair.
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