It’s ironic that a person who uses a wheelchair to get around the house has such limited options for how to get around town. For years, any wheelchair user who wanted to drive independently was stuck driving a big, gas-hungry vehicle that was limited on style.
However, thanks to computer design and plain old innovation, the limitations are growing steadily smaller. Today’s wheelchair accessible vehicles do more than just allow you to roll in and drive. They look cool, go fast, and turn heads.
What is out there today that has changed the face of accessibility? Here are a few rising stars of the industry. While they’ll probably never be mass-produced, the conversion process is more innovative and efficient than ever, and these models come packed with convenient features that are great for any driver.
For years, we associated wheelchair accessibility with conversion vans. They were really the only vehicles to roll out of the factory with enough frame dimension to permit movement of a wheelchair through a door opening and into the driver’s seat.
Throw that out. The Kenguru, a Hungarian product, is a compact, unique vehicle with a rear end that opens wide to accept a wheelchair. It loads like a C-130 but it’s sized more like an ultralight. That makes it a great choice in crowded urban environments and for the fuel-conscious driver.The Kenguru Car
The Kenguru is a dandy commuting vehicle for a single occupant, but many wheelchair users have to schlep off to soccer practice like anyone else.
For the driver who is more like a chauffeur, the Peugeot Horizon provides considerable flexibility within its design to accommodate a variety of mobility assistance devices. This model is a modification of the Peugeot Partner.
If you need space for a large electric scooter, that can be done. If you have a more compact wheelchair, the space can contract to free up room for other things.
This flexibility is key to getting more of these vehicles on the market, because if each model is designed from the ground up to be strictly for one specific type of mobility device, it will never be cost-effective to produce. Even within the realm of wheelchairs, there are power models, compact models, larger models, and endless other options that affect how the units must be transported.
Also in the suburban rat race is the Volkswagen Vista, an outcropping of the Volkswagen Caddy (We sure hope Caddy doesn’t come out with a model called the Volkswagen. Talk about confusion.) This model is spacious, fuel efficient, and makes a sharp set of wheels.
Here’s the trick: Many of these models aren’t yet available in the US. But with some luck and time, and sadly, with the increasing number of paralytic and amputee veterans returning home from service in Iraq and Afghanistan, you can expect to see these rolling onto American specialty lots before long.
Thanks to improved laws and technology, the world is becoming friendlier every day to wheelchair users. Now that the automotive industry has brought some flair to vehicles for these drivers, it’s gotten even friendlier…and cooler, and faster.