Training on Ford Wheelchair Vans and Mobility Equipment


Whether you’ve purchased an Econoline, a Freestar or a Windstar, one thing remains unchanged: The need for training on your new Ford wheelchair van and its equipment.

Training is Critical

Training isn’t optional. It’s an absolute necessity. Not only is some level of training and education generally required to receive appropriate licensing, it’s also practical and ethical imperative. You don’t want to put yourself or others at risk. Training increases your skills and decreases the risk of accidents.

What Training Should Accomplish

Training on your wheelchair van and its equipment should accomplish a few things.

First, it should familiarize you with your van and the modifications designed to make access easier. You need to be fully trained on the use of your lift or ramp and any other equipment designed to make entrance or exit from the vehicle easier. That may include kneel actuators, automatic or remote entry systems, transfer seats, wheelchair docking mechanisms, tie-downs or a host of other custom conversions.

Second, training should result in producing a safe, talented and confident driver. When you’ve moved from training on your Ford wheelchair van equipment to tooling around town alone, you should feel supremely confident in your ability to handle whatever the road may throw at you. You need to be one with your vehicle, capable of navigating treacherous situations and handling even the most problematic traffic situations.

Who Should Train You?

With respect to your access equipment, you should receive some training from the dealer who sold it to you. Your driving evaluator may also lend a hand in providing you with instruction in this area. You can also consult any manufacturer-provided materials to increase your knowledge base.

Driving instruction is a different matter. It may begin with some off-road instruction from the equipment dealer or evaluator, but that’s far less training than what you’ll need.

You’ll want to partner with a qualified, licensed driving instructor who has experience in dealing with wheelchair van drivers. You can find an instructor in your area by seeking a referral from your evaluator, your local motor vehicles department or area rehabilitative offices. Some areas are home to private firms that offer specialized instruction and those are worth considering, too.

Drive-along training with your instructor will continue until you’ve demonstrated the ability to handle the legal requirements of driving your Ford wheelchair van.

That’s not necessarily the end of your training, though. Remember, you want to complete your training with a great deal of confidence in your ability. In many cases, the ability to pass the test doesn’t really evidence that level of skill. You should extend your training and instruction until you know you’re prepared to take that Freestar, Windstar or Econoline out on the highways without worry.

Who Else Should Train on Your Handicap Van?

You’re not the only person who needs training with your wheelchair van. Your spouse, another family member or a close friend should also become intimately acquainted with the vehicle’s operation.

You don’t want to be the only person capable of driving your wheelchair van. It’s not hard to imagine a variety of circumstances in which having someone else available to drive the vehicle would be incredibly helpful.

Although you’ll need to check with your instructor, most won’t object to bringing someone with you to learn about your van and how it’s operated. The level of attention they receive will vary with the instructor, but at the very least, they’ll learn the basics of operating your Ford wheelchair van.

You want to put as much care and attention into training on your new equipment as you did in its selection. Your Ford wheelchair van can improve your life in a number of significant ways, but its operation isn’t without its dangers and you should make every possible effort to mitigate those risks.

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