About Vehicle Wheelchair Lifts

By Linda Ray

  • Overview

    About Vehicle Wheelchair Lifts
    Adults with lower body mobility disabilities who are confined to a wheelchair can easily learn to drive a car or van using hand controls. The seat can be removed and locking hardware installed to hold the chair in place behind the wheel, or a captain's seat can turn providing easy transfer access. It is getting in and out of the vehicle that often presents the biggest challenge. Vehicle wheelchair lifts make access possible for driving chair users and passengers alike.
  • Function

    Electric wheelchairs and scooters are very heavy and difficult for anyone to lift into a truck, van or bus. Vehicle wheelchair lifts can ease this burden with powered lifts. An internal lift with a powered ramp provides access to the vehicle, allowing wheelchairs to be pushed right up into the van.
  • Types

    External lifts can be attached to the outside or interior of a vehicle that can pick up the chair and move it into position in the vehicle. These are electronically powered and can be attached to the back of the chair and pulled up with a pulley system. Other types use a platform on which the chair rests and is lifted with hydraulic lifts. The chair can be slid into the bed of a truck or be anchored to the lift and carried outside. Lifts can be lowered from the side door of a van or bus onto which a wheelchair bound person can cruise on and be lifted into the vehicle without ever leaving the chair.


  • Features

    Customized hydraulic systems are available that make the entire van "kneel" to the pavement before releasing a ramp. A person in a wheelchair runs the entire operation from a remote, providing complete independence. After rolling into place in the van, the remote is used to reverse the operation, raising the ramp and righting the van.
  • Benefits

    To avoid additional debilitating injuries from lifting wheelchairs by the wheelchair user or assistants, vehicle wheelchair lifts should be considered. Besides providing more independence for the wheelchair bound and increasing mobility options, the lifts also can protect the expensive chairs that often get banged up when being slid in and out of vehicles.
  • Considerations

    Costs for customized accommodations on vans can be very expensive, running thousands of dollars, prohibiting many from taking advantage of the benefits. Most automakers will provide discounts and rebates to handicapped drivers needing adaptive equipment. Check with the dealer or contact programs, such as the GM Mobility Program or the Ford Mobility Motoring Program. External lifts that can be attached after market, while less effective, are more affordable, starting as low as $250.
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