When the Time Comes for a Wheelchair Van

Jodi Shenal by Jodi Shenal

Jodi Shenal

Jodi Shenal

I'm a stay-at-home mom with two amazing children. My son is on the Autism spectrum and my daughter has a rare genetic disorder and multiple disabil...

When the time comes for most people to purchase a new vehicle, it isn’t considered a pivotal, life-defining moment. For some of us, that’s EXACTLY what it becomes.

When my husband and I recently began shopping for a new vehicle, we were down to one reliable car that was already nine years old.

Our other car was sixteen years old when it finally gave out on us; it had a good run.

Desperately in need of a second car, we had to make our move.

However, this time around, we knew that our quest for transportation was going to be more in-depth; it would prove to be a stressful, profound process.

We had so much to consider and a plethora of strict guidelines laid out.

We were not in search of amenities and luxuries like heated seats or fancy controls.

Our “must-haves” didn’t include a sunroof, a navigation system or premium leather upholstery.  Our hearts were not set on any particular color choice.

Those traits meant nothing to us… we needed life-changing conveniences.

You never envision yourself at 40 years old in the market for a vehicle with these features: an in-floor wheelchair ramp and a lowered floor conversion.

You don’t dream of the day you’ll buy a car with four-point tie-down straps and removable seats.

With “brand new” being ridiculously out of our price range, we required something dependable with very low mileage.  Those were all hot items on our list of NEEDS.

As our growing, eight-year-old daughter is in a wheelchair, choosing a small coupe or sedan would be completely far-fetched.

Breaking down a wheelchair into two HEAVY pieces, a seat, and frame, to cram into a car several times daily was causing serious wear and tear… not only to her chair but to my back as well.

We could delay the inevitable no longer.  We needed a wheelchair van.

It’s a daunting task to make this drastic move.  For weeks, we talked to other parents, logged hours of research, and anxiously tried to figure out how we could afford it.

There are multitudes of options out there.  Is it best to purchase and modify an existing van, or is it more cost-effective and advantageous to purchase an already converted vehicle?

As parents of a child with multiple disabilities, we were never offered a handbook to guide us through this, or any other part of our journey.

After weeks of nervous deliberation, we purchased our beautiful, gently used wheelchair van!

We had been unsure of what the right move was, until the very first time I rolled my daughter up the manual ramp and gracefully secured her chair to the floor.

Realizing I could close the door and have a huge area for diaper changes was incredible!

I knew how much easier life would be from that moment forward… for her and for us.

There would be no more breaking down, lifting, transferring or struggling to get her in and out of a car, ever again.

I felt a tiny twinge of sadness when I realized that there was no going back…there would be no more small cars in my future.

However, that sadness swiftly melted away when I mastered backing it into parking spaces and feeling the freedom of maneuvering my child in and out, in mere seconds.

I’ve learned that going from driving a compact car to a big, powerful tank of a vehicle is just another step forward in our life’s adventure!

This was a proactive move to ensure we have everything in place to meet our child’s needs, and we were thrilled to have it!

The one “typical”, imperative feature was a CD player; our fourteen-year-old son is a music lover.

All he cared about was being able to play his CDs by “The Smiths” and “The Clash” as we drove.

He got it and the day-to-day experience of travel has been significantly enhanced for our entire family.


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