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Get Going with an Accessible Van

Rental Agencies Put You in the Driver's Seat
By: CaregiverZone

Doug's multiple sclerosis required him to use a wheelchair, which threatened his ability to travel to his synagogue and his job as a university professor. The city bus, equipped with a wheelchair lift, provided fairly easy transportation from home to work. But his synagogue was several blocks from the nearest bus stop, making it difficult to reach by wheelchair, especially in winter. Renting or buying an accessible van offered Doug transportation options.

Many people with disabilities depend on public transportation, carpools, taxis or sidewalks to get around. But these forms of transportation are not always disabled-accessible, affordable, reliable or safe.

In July 1990, Congress signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. With this law, the movement to make our nation free of physical barriers began. Accessible van rentals are one of many services encouraging independence, choice and dignity for people with disabilities.

Rental agencies customize accessible vans to fit disabled people's hearing, mobile and visual needs. Van features include:

  • Removable front passenger seat

  • Hand controls

  • Raised roof or lowered floor

  • Six-way power driver's seat

  • Tie-downs with seat belts for one or more wheelchairs

  • Power lift or ramp for wheelchairs

People using wheelchairs or scooters should rent vans with power lifts, which transfer them and their equipment into the van without risking injury. Rental typically costs $80 to $110 per day, depending on the van size and configuration. An agency may offer unlimited mileage or charge for every mile over a set number of miles. Chrysler, Ford and General Motors make most accessible vans using adaptive equipment by Braun, Ricon, IMS and Vantage.

Accessible van rental agencies are located throughout the United States with satellite locations in other countries. Most agencies do not accommodate one-way travel. They do often deliver and pick up vans.

Accessible van rentals can come in handy in a variety of circumstances, including:

  • Medical appointments and therapy

  • Shopping, recreation, business and daily activities

  • Worship services

  • Day trips and vacations

  • Special events, such as graduations and weddings

  • Voting. Senior centers often provide rides to the polls.

  • Airport deliveries

  • Occasions for test-drive, replacement or comparison vehicles

  • People's visits to your home

These tips will help you rent wisely:

  • Before renting the van, consult the senior's health insurance agency. Some insurers may cover the rental of accessible vehicles.

  • Make reservations as early as possible. Some agencies require reservations up to two weeks in advance.

  • Clarify basic rental fee coverage to avoid hidden extra charges.

  • Ask the agency if the van meets strict federal guidelines and the standards of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association.

  • Make sure the agency provides instruction in the proper use of the van and its equipment. Without proper guidance, you won't get the most from the van and you increase the risk of injury.

  • Ask if your agency offers 24-hour technical support and vehicle service nationwide in case of emergency.

  • Agencies cannot provide drivers for their rental vans. However, many can give you a list of independent contract drivers available in your area.

  • Rental agencies do not provide disabled parking permits, so bring your own disabled parking placards.

  • Ask your agency if it can provide listings of accessible accommodations, facilities and attractions near your destination.

  • The renter - not the rental agency - is liable for damages and repairs in the event of an accident or vandalism. Most auto insurance policies cover this liability.

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