Ford Windstar Wheelchair Vans Interior Handicap Driving Features


The Ford Windstar and Freestar were top-selling minivans until the manufacturer opted to discontinue the lines in favor of focusing on the crossover market. Many of the minivans are still in use as wheelchair vans, thanks to a number of interior driving features.

Getting into a Windstar or Freestar

The first thing one needs to think about when modifying a Ford for use as a wheelchair van is the ability of the disabled driver to effectively utilize the vehicle’s doors. These mass-market minivans weren’t built with disabled drivers in mind, and working the heavy doors can be a problem for many.

That problem can be overcome with the installation of automatic sliding doors (for side entry configuration). When partnered with a remote entry system, the disabled driver can open and close the vehicle’s doors with the tap of a single button, improving access and convenience tremendously.

Once the matter of the doors is resolved, the wheelchair van owner needs to think about the other modifications that can improve access. One popular adaptation involves the installation of an auto kneel system. These allow the Windstar or Freestar to dip closer to ground level when at rest, reducing the slope of the ramp to create an easier, safer process.

Another interior adjustment involves lowering the floor of the minivans. This increases the amount of interior vertical clearance, which is absolutely essential in order to provide comfortable, safe access. Wheelchair users have a higher profile than those who sit in the stock seating and additional headroom is a priority.

Windstar and Freestar Seating

The Windstar and Freestar were built with the average family in mind. As such, they combine front passenger and driver seats with center row seating and a rear bench. Most wheelchair van users will find it necessary to make adjustments to that seating pattern for the sake of overall accessibility.

The driver seat may be removed completely when a disabled driver wants to operate the vehicle from his or own chair. In situations where others may also drive the van, an easily removable driver seat may provide necessary flexibility.

Wheelchair users who’d prefer to drive from a more traditional driver seat can explore a variety of options. Swivel seats, power seat bases, transfer seats and other options can make it easier to move from one’s wheelchair to the driver’s seat.

The center row of seating may be removed or limited in order to provide necessary space for a wheelchair’s entry and navigation to the driving area. The rear bench seat is sometimes removed when Windstar or Freestar minivans are set up for rear-entry.

Once the wheelchair is within the Windstar or Freestar, it must be safely secured in place. Like most vehicles, these Fords support a variety of options in this regard. These minivans are amenable to the installation of manual tie downs, electric tie downs and docking systems like those made by EZ Lock.

Driving the Ford Windstar or Freestar Wheelchair Van

The last area of interior modification to explore involves the actual vehicle controls. Many handicapped drivers are more than capable of operating a vehicle safely, but only after certain adaptations are in place. Alternative steering options are an example, as are hand controls designed to take the place of the standard brake and accelerator pedals.

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