Sunday, July 7, 2013

Evolution in Accessible Vehicles

For the past 3 years my husband and I have been using my Toyota Matrix to get around town, and the country for that matter. He transfers out of his chair into the passenger seat and I fold down the seat and cram (literally) his chair into the hatch, then off we go! We make it work but it's not ideal, and over time, especially with his disability progressing this repeated procedure is taking a toll on all of us (including my car). Living in FL presents added problems. Seeing as the exterior of my car is a blazing 1,000 degrees on a normal day my husband's poor hand gets burned (or close to it) trying to transfer. We attempted several adaptions here, a rubber jar opener to protect his hand, an ove'glove and then finally and most effectively- a leather wheelchair glove. My girlfriend once got in the passenger seat and asked "Did you give MJ a ride home, because I think he  forgot his glove"? Funny. Long story short it's time to save ourselves and upgrade our vehicle!

I don't know about you, but I just can't bring myself to drive a mini-van! Thus, we took a trip over to the dealership and checked out two vehicles, the VPG MV-1 and a converted Honda Element. The Honda Element looks great and they did a nice job with the conversion. However, we were really surprised how cozy (small) it actually seemed on the interior.  Once up the ramp Nygel had to wiggle around a bit to get his chair far enough to the left to allow room for the ramp to come up. It wasn't too bad, and probably just required some practice to make it smoother. Once situated, the tie downs were simple and this was already a big improvement over our usual routine!  Getting out was much easier, it's definitely a contender. 

Next we checked out the VPG MV-1 and wow that really blew us away. The body structure on the MV-1 reminds me of a larger version of the black cabs in England. The really fantastic thing about this vehicle is that it was designed top to bottom specifically for wheelchair passengers, and they really thought of everything. There is a short and long ramp that extended by button, lights on the door eliminate any blind-spots when using the ramp at night. The air suspension and great visibility provided a very smooth ride. This big boy has a V8 engine and really cruised even though it's a heavy vehicle (the Element had an almost identical weight but only a 4.6 cylinder engine). On the interior there was enough room for Nygel to do a full 360 in his chair which made moving around and getting into position incredibly easy. This is the dream vehicle.

The dealer gave us some great info on funding that I want to pass along to my fellow Floridians:
  • FAAST-Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology is a lending source that provides loans ranging from 3,000$ to 30,000+ to disabled FL residents in need of assistive equipment! This great program only works with disabled individuals (and their family members) to grant loans for everything related to adaptive equipment ranging from vehicles,  to home renovations, and medical equipment. 
  • Additionally, we learned that if you get a prescription stating that it is medically necessary for you to have a wheelchair accessible vehicle you don't have to pay sales tax on the purchase up to $200,000.00! Score.
Both these awesome vehicles come with a hefty price tag of 35+ (used) and we are pinching pennies left and right to save up. Additionally, we also started a page on go fund me to raise money. We have some great friends, and I always say "you can bank on the kindness of strangers" and its gotten us through many hiccups away from home. Check it out, and you can even help the cause if you want!

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