How Is a Ford Modified for Wheelchair Access

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Ford currently produces one vehicle commonly used as a wheelchair van. Their E-Series is the most popular full-sized van line on the market and the vehicles perform admirably as a wheelchair vehicle.

In the past, Ford produced the Windstar and Freestar minivan line. These vehicles were frequently converted for use as wheelchair vehicles.

Let us look at what constitutes an accessible vehicle. Then, we will consider both Ford vehicle options and how they can be modified to produce optimal wheelchair access.

The Wheelchair Access Ideal

Before we discuss specific modifications to Ford vehicles, we should first determine what constitutes a wheelchair accessible vehicle. Optimally, a wheelchair van will allow a disabled individual the opportunity to enter, exit and (if they so desire) drive the vehicle.

That means we are basically looking at two different sets of requirements. First, the van should be modified in a way that allows the disabled driver to get in and out of the van without any third party assistance. That will not always be possible, but it is an ideal to which conversion professionals can aspire.

Second, the Ford must be adapted for use by the disabled driver. This involves a series of modifications designed to properly immobilize the wheelchair and any necessary adjustments to its operation.

Fortunately, it is possible to create accessible Ford wheelchair vehicles. The E-Series vans are incredibly easy to alter to virtually any specifications and a proven pattern of modifications can transform Ford minivans into credible mobility vehicles.

E-Series Vans

ford e250 2009 Over the last several years, more and more wheelchair users have transitioned away from full-sized vans to minivans. Minivans are less expensive, more fuel efficient, easier to handle and more attractive than full-sized vans.

However, full-sized vehicles offer incomparable access levels. They can be used with lift or ramps and can support virtually every possible popular conversion.

Some common adjustments to E-Series vans include lowering the floor to increase headroom, installing an auto kneel system to decrease ramp slope (when ramps are used), utilization of side entry or rear entry ramps.(when a ramp-based modification is preferred), the use of alternative vehicle controls or aids, installing power side doors, adding means by which a wheelchair can be secured once inside the vehicle, and installation of appropriate seating for the wheelchair user if he or she opts to serve as a driver.

In some ways, converting an E-150 or E-305 van is like working with a blank canvas. The large vans are perfectly capable of handling any possible modifications. If one is prepared to deal with the inevitable negatives of a full-sized vehicle, they can create a stunning and wholly accessible wheelchair van.

Windstars and Freestars

ford windstar 2003 dropped floorFord no longer produces Windstars and Freestars. They discontinued the model line and decided to concentrate on the Ford Flex crossover vehicle, which is rarely used as a wheelchair vehicle. However, a large number of used Windstars and Freestars are still on the road and can be used as a wheelchair van.

Windstars and Freestars can be configured for rear-entry or side-entry. Rear entry variants may utilize an external lift, but most rely upon a wheelchair ramp and undergo modifications to produce a side-entry wheelchair van. These include:

Lowering the floor

By dropping the floor, it is possible to create adequate clearance for a wheelchair user without raising the vehicle’s roof.

Using an auto kneel

This modification, common to E-Series adaptations, as well, allows the Ford minivan to set lower to the ground. This decreases the slope of the ramp, providing a safer and easier route in and out of the vehicle.

Using power doors

Automatic power sliding doors makes access much easier for the wheelchair user. Instead of wrestling with heavy doors or struggling with awkwardly placed handles, it is possible to open and close the access doors via remote control.

Installing a ramp

ford windstar 2002 rampsThe wheelchair user may opt for a manual ramp if he or she wants to cut costs and has the physical ability to utilize the option. Most prefer automatic ramps that deploy and retract via a motor. These ramps generally stow under the vehicle, out of sight, when they are not in use.

Those base modifications are supplemented by additional adaptations similar to those mentioned in our discussion of the full-sized vans. In order to provide optimal access, a vehicle much account for access to the driver’s area, appropriate restraint of the wheelchair, proper seating arrangement and the use of any necessary alternative van controls or performance enhancements.

Ford is a respected name in the auto industry. Its full-sized vans are the top sellers in their class and the auto giant produced thousands of high-quality minivans over the course of over twenty years. Both the E-Series vans and the minivan offerings are capable of serving as nearly ideal wheelchair vans when correctly modified.

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