Eight top tips on helping wheelchair bound parents get out and about

Eight top tips on helping wheelchair bound parents get out and about

For those wanting to help their wheelchair bound parents get out and about regularly, a wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV) can offer a tailor-made solution. But how can you be sure it’s right for you – and them?

Specialist advice website www.myageingparent.com has now published a handy guide to choosing and using a WAV, either to purchase or hire.

“If your Mum or Dad uses a wheelchair to get around, either all the time or occasionally, transferring from their armchair into the car and back into the wheelchair can be exhausting for all concerned,” says the website’s MD Deborah Stone.

“It can also be undignified and even painful for them, so it’s no wonder that many elderly and disabled wheelchair users think it’s not worth all the fuss to go out.  But that means their ‘world’ gets smaller, and can lead to social isolation and depression. Less activity and stimulation means less for them to engage in and talk about.

Wheelchair - My Ageing Parent“A WAV can cut through all these problems, making it relatively simple for them to have a trip out.  It doesn’t have to be somewhere grand, – a trip to the shops or garden centre, the theatre or out to a riverside pub or a nice little tearoom.

“Now there’s more to talk about straight away – and you are continuing to build up shared memories. With a wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV) you can be out of the door, into the car and away in a matter of minutes.  The best WAVs have a low-cut floor and a lightweight rear ramp for easy access.

“Your older relative stays in their wheelchair which, once securely locked down, becomes their seating position in the car, complete with their own seatbelt. They have a good view all round and other passengers can sit alongside them to enjoy the trip together.”

So what are the eight top tips for choosing and using a WAV?

How to buy or hire a wheelchair accessible vehicle

WAVs come in lots of different models to hire or buy, but they need to be chosen carefully to ensure the wheelchair will fit and your elderly parent will be comfortable with the ride.

  1. Wheelchair accessible vehicles are conversions of a standard production vehicle, converted for wheelchair access by specialist manufacturers.  If you are thinking about buying a new WAV, make sure you only buy from a Member of WAVCA (the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Converters’ Association).  All WAVCA members sign up to a code of practice which governs how they design and build their vehicles.  It also gives guidelines about how WAVs are sold.
  2. You can’t buy a WAV like you would any other car.  The decision as to whether a vehicle is right for you is less about what’s under the bonnet and much more about access and safely securing the wheelchair. Your WAV supplier will talk to you over the phone and ask certain questions about the wheelchair user and the size of their wheelchair.
  3. They will also want to know who else will need to travel in the car (for seating numbers) and if there is a need to take any for luggage or additional other equipment, such as a spare wheelchair walking frame or an oxygen cylinder perhaps. It is also useful to advise them of any special requirements of the driver/attendant who will be responsible for getting the wheelchair user into the car and safely secured.
  4. If the driver is frail themselves or needs to drive with hand-controls, or simply automatic, then these are all important considerations as additional aids may be required. The WAV supplier should then be able to work out which of their models will suit you best, however you may need to call a number of different suppliers to give yourself a choice of models.
  5. Alternatively, find an independent mobility consultant who can impartially recommend the best WAV model for your circumstances.

    Buying second hand

  6. Buying a second-hand WAV is even more of a minefield.  Always ask who the original WAV conversion was carried out by.  If the dealer does not know, don’t buy from them.  Ask about the warranty on the conversion too, and if they are cagey again, don’t buy from them.  The conversion process is extensive and complex, so a good warranty, from someone who knows what they are selling, will be crucial for your peace of mind.
  7. Never buy a new or a used WAV without trying it out, with the wheelchair user, in your home surroundings if possible.  Most reputable WAV suppliers will offer a free at-home demonstration.


  8. If you don’t think your situation calls for buying a WAV, or if you want to try one out before buying, another option is to hire one.  Again, you don’t hire one like a standard car.  There are a few specialist WAV hire companies offering daily rental and longer term hires, but make sure they are asking you the same questions to ensure suitability as if you were buying one.  It is just as important.

“For many elderly people and their families, a WAV can open up their lives in ways they had not imagined,” says Deborah Stone, “making the investment more than worthwhile. But the one piece of advice we would give is to hire one first to see whether it IS right for you – and your elderly relatives.”

Read the full guide HERE