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Van Adaptations

These are the adaptations that I personally need to be able to drive safely. I'm a complete paraplegic. I have no feeling or voluntary movement in my legs. I control the brake and gas pedal with my left hand and steering with my right hand. Every person who has had a spinal cord injury may need different vehicle adaptations. The ones shown here are fairly standard.

My E150 Ford Van
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This is the used Ford E150 van that we purchased. We were fortunate to find a van that already had a chair lift installed. The chair lift costs about $3500.00 new.

Automatic Doors
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We decided to purchase equipment to automatically open and close the doors of the van. I'm really glad we did because it makes life much easier. The automatic doors were about $1200.00.

The Wheelchair Lift
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After the doors have opened automatically (by pressing a button) the wheelchair lift begins to lower. It takes perhaps 30 seconds for the entire sequence.

The lift descends
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The lift is lowering to the ground. It requires about eight feet of clearance between the side of the van and anything parked next to it. Any less than that and I cannot get into or out of the vehicle. The "lip" at the end of the lift is in an upright position here. It keeps me from rolling off the end of the lift.

Lift on the ground
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Here, the lift is flat on the ground. The lift "lip" flattens out so you can roll right off the ramp. I have to park on relatively flat ground or the lip will not flatten properly. If it doesn't flatten, it makes it hard to get back on the lift.

Back into the lift
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Backing into the van puts less strain on the lift and positions me correctly inside the van. If I park on bumpy or tilted ground the lift lip does not flatten properly. I can get out of the van, but when I try to get back in, the lip can catch on the front casters. I usually can get in by turning around and entering the van facing the van and doing a wheelie to get the front casters over the lip.

Up we go
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There is a switch on the lift's arm. It is underneath my right hand which hides it in this picture. It controls the up/down movement of the lift. There's a similar switch inside the van on the ceiling behind and to the right of the driver.

The EZ lock
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There is an EZ lock device inside the van. It is located directly under the wheelchair when you back into the van. The wheelchair can be equipped with a bolt that hangs down. When you back the wheelchair into the van the bolt slides into the EZ lock. When it clicks into place, the wheelchair will not move around as you drive.

 Chair, bolt and EZ lock
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I have a powered wheelchair as well as a manual. The power chair has the required bolt underneath. You can see the bolt is locked into the EZ lock. The bolt is a modification to the power chair. The EZ lock is installed into the floor of the van. I don't remember the cost.
Backed into the EZ lock
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Here you see the power chair backed into the EZ lock. I can easily transfer from the wheelchair to the driver's seat except that the driver's seat is turned the wrong direction. It needs to be turned 90 degrees for me to transfer into it.
Special torso restraint
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I wear a special Velcro chest restraint to keep my body from swaying to the right or left when I go around a curve. An ordinary seat belt does not provide enough stability so I wear a special Velcro chest belt in addition to the regular seat belt. It really helps keep me upright!

Three seat controls
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Attached to the right side of the driver's seat are three switches that control the position of the seat itself. The front most switch controls forward/backward seat movement of about two feet. The middle switch controls up/down movement so that you can match the wheelchair seat height. The rear switch turns the chair around 90 degrees.

Ready to drive
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This shows the driver's seat positioned forward and ready to drive. The seat is still in a raised position. I should also mention that I have two batteries in the van. We installed a second battery that is constantly charged just like the primary battery. If the primary battery goes dead for any reason I can switch to the secondary battery to operate the lift and start the van. This is a Very useful adaptation. I left the lights on once and the second battery saved me the time and expense of calling AAA.

The hand controls
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I only need two special adaptive driving controls. Since I cannot move my legs, my left hand must control the gas and brake. The van has an automatic transmission so that I do not have to use a clutch. Steering is accomplished by using a "suicide" knob on the steering wheel. It makes tight turns easy using just the right hand. There is another round knob up and to the left of my knee. It controls both the brakes and gas.

Gas and Brake control
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The white knobbed lever is an ordinary emergency brake. The regular brake pedal is engaged by pushing the shiny black knob toward the front of the van. The gas is controlled by pressing the same knob down toward your knee. Until you get used to it, it is easy to mistakenly press that knob down when you want to turn left. Oops! This hand control costs about five hundred dollars.

Mr. Toad says Poop Poop!
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The adaptive controls cost around $5000. The used van was $14,000. Remember, everyone's injury is different, so your adaptive controls may be quite different.
I hope you find this information useful.
And now, like Mr. Toad in "Wind in the Willows" I'm ready to explore the world! Poop Poop!

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