When passengers have reduced mobility related to old age, it can be difficult to identify the right vehicle. Smaller, car based MPVs can be appealing where a passenger can sit on a seat from a standing position and lift their legs into the vehicle. The dimensions of the door aperture and the interior however can inhibit movement and cause passengers to bump heads on the door.
This type of vehicle will be suitable for occasional use, for example where a family collects an elderly relative in their existing car.
If a vehicle is intended to carry people with reduced mobility on a regular basis, it is worth considering a vehicle modified to provide varying forms of access assistance to ensure the safety and comfort of the passenger, and to allow the driver or escort to load and unload vehicle occupants with ease. This might mean an added grab handle, or it might mean looking at a different type of vehicle with improved dimensions.
A saloon, estate or MPV can be modified to make it easier to access, either with a transfer board fitted to the front passenger seat, or with the front passenger seat being replaced with a rotating car seat which can be manually or electrically operated. It is also possible to add miniature hoists and loading devices to stow wheelchairs and scooters. These are all specialist items which can be vehicle specific so it is important to do thorough research prior to purchase. This combination of vehicle and access equipment is most suitable for private family transport, or for Care environments with only one or two vehicles which need to perform multiple roles.
Where passengers with reduced mobility wish to access vehicles with more independence it is important to offer access features to assist with safe entry and exit. Grab handles, a step, large door entry, sufficient headroom and gangway, all contribute towards easy access. Of course these types of features will also assist in a professional Care environment where carers need to assist passengers on or off the vehicle. The point to note is that these features work best on small commercial passenger vehicles rather than car based derivatives.
Some older people require the use of a wheelchair. Depending on the vehicle and the level of mobility of the passenger, the wheelchair user may either transfer from wheelchair to seat, or they may remain in their wheelchair with appropriate space and restraint provision. The use of a rotating car seat or transfer board would allow a wheelchair user to access the nearside front of the vehicle. In this instance the vehicle also needs the space to be able to accommodate the empty wheelchair, and the driver needs to be able to safely load and unload the wheelchair. If the wheelchair is large or heavy then stowage may need to be assisted by a hoist and / or a ramp.
Where passengers intend to travel in their wheelchair a vehicle needs an appropriate access method via a ramp or a tail lift, a dedicated space and restraints for both the wheelchair and the wheelchair user. The most appropriate system will be easy to use for helpers & carers with straight forward operation and minimal manual handling. Most importantly of course is to make the wheelchair user feel safe during loading and unloading and as comfortable as possible whilst the vehicle is moving.
In order to identify the most appropriate vehicle and access methods for your needs, please make contact with the team at Minibus Options who will be pleased to offer unbiased expert advice.