Ford Wheelchair Vans Side Entry Access Options

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Handicap drivers and vehicle owners can configure a Ford wheelchair van for either rear or side entry. The full-sized E-Series vans and previously-manufactured Windstar and Freestar minivans all support side entry.

That is a good thing, too. Side entry is the most popular means of entering and exiting wheelchair vans.

The popularity of side entry is due to multiple factors. These include:

Proximity to driving area
The wheelchair user exits and enters the wheelchair van close to the driver’s area. In rear entry situations, that is not the case.

Parking considerations
Many wheelchair users find that the parking situations they most often encounter do not mix well with rear entry. Someone who parallel parks frequently, for instance, may have difficulties with rear entry.

Accessibility
Side entry generally offers a wider and more convenient space for entering and exiting the wheelchair van that does rear entry.

Independence
When correctly modified, it is possible to create a side entry wheelchair van that the wheelchair user can use and drive without assistance.

Ford has manufactured a few different vehicle models that are frequently used as wheelchair vans. Full-sized E-Series vans can be converted for this purpose and many of the now-defunct Windstar and Freestar models are still on the road, serving as wheelchair vans. Let us look at how these vehicles can be properly modified for use as side entry wheelchair vehicles.

The full-sized vans can be used as side entry vehicles with either lift- or ramp-based configuration. The E-Series vehicles are large enough and sturdy enough to manage a lift on the vehicle’s side. That is not true for the minivans. The Windstar and Freestar simply lack the necessary space to provide side entry with a lift. Instead, they rely exclusively on ramp-based modifications.

Side Entry Process

The process of installing a side entry ramp is essentially the same for all of the Fords wheelchair vans under consideration. The floor of the van may be lowered to increase space (in the minivans) or to facilitate a lower overall point of entry. An auto kneel system may be installed to allow the vehicle to drop down when parked in order to make access more convenient and safer. Power sliding doors are a nice addition, especially when wheelchair user independence is a top consideration.

Decisions regarding the ramp involved in the side entry modification can be based on a number of factors including the strength and dexterity of the wheelchair user, the length necessary to handle the most frequently encountered conditions, cost and more. In most cases, side entry wheelchair vans use ramps that can be retracted or deployed via a motorized system with the push of a button. This heightens convenience and makes it much easier for a wheelchair user to operate the vehicle without assistance.

Ford wheelchair vans provide side entry through a simple, yet effective conversion process that maximizes accessibility while providing simple and easy-to-manage operation by the wheelchair user. With the right adjustments, it is possible to transform an E-Series van, a Windstar minivan or a Freestar minivan into a functional side entry wheelchair van.

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