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Mobility Issues

As president of The Braun Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of wheelchair-accessible vans and lifts, Nick has a deep passion for improving the quality of life for individuals with physical disabilities through mobility solutions.
View Nick's full Bio
Q:

Are Braun vans and lifts capable of handling all wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs, and scooters?


Mike from OH
A:

Hello Mike,
Your question is a very good one. Mobility isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, which is why there are so many different types of scooters and wheelchairs on the market. Similarly, BraunAbility wheelchair vans and wheelchair lifts are designed to meet the different heights, weights and personal preferences of our customers. With that said, there are some products that may fit your needs better than others. For example, if you're a taller individual who sits in a larger wheelchair, our XT (extra tall) conversion on the Toyota Sienna or Chrysler Town and Country may be a better fit for you. That's why we stress that you should visit your nearest BraunAbility dealer to have a mobility specialist on staff help you find the best fit for you as an individual. They'll ask the right questions, take the right measurements and let you try the vehicles out for yourself. If you're ready to start that process, you can find your nearest BraunAbility dealer at: http://www.braunability.com/dealer-network.cfm.

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Q:

A friend who uses a bariatric wheelchair because she cannot bear more than 80 lbs on her legs she has a sarah lift which is a Godsend. Her husband owns a mobile home and they would like to travel. Problem is she can't get in the door that enters into the living space. Can the door be widened and an automatic lift be installed?
 


Rita from CO
A:

Thank you for the question! We've had customers ask about this from time to time, and I can tell you that we have a couple of lift models that have been successfully installed in motor homes before. As you can imagine, it depends on the vehicle. Your best bet would be to visit your nearest BraunAbility dealer. They'll have mobility experts on hand who can take the necessary measurements and let you know which option would fit your needs best. If you don't know who your nearest dealer is, you can find them at the dealer page on our website: http://www.braunability.com/find-a-dealer.cfm
 

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Q:

Who is an appropriate candidate for a wheelchair accessible vehicle? How do they enhance someone's quality of life? 


A:

That's a very good question. There are over 4.3 million wheelchair users in the United States, and that doesn't even include people that use scooters! Our vehicles are typically used by individuals with a variety of disabilities or those with a mobile challenge that requires a wheelchair/scooter in order to move around. Within the wheelchair user community, you will find this includes veterans, seniors, adults and even children. Any of these folks are candidates for a converted vehicle and I'll explain why.

Getting from point A to point B is a crucial part of a person's life, no matter if they require mobility assistance or not. When that ability is taken away, it can drastically change a person's quality of life. This person could be a child who requires a wheelchair, an ailing parent or even the adult driver him/herself. A wheelchair accessible vehicle grants these individuals a level of freedom and independence to get around.

Our job is to provide them with a vehicle that will assist in their mobility and help them get to a job or a doctor's appointment. Just think of a newly married couple or a veteran returning from war with a new way of life to adjust to. Braun's goal is to develop a vehicle that is going make it just a little bit easier on someone who needs to get somewhere, and we're constantly looking for ways to make these options more safe, more reliable, and more customized to what they really need.

 

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Q:

I want to know if there is a way to take a person with a disability up stairs. 


Callixte from NV
A:

A stairlift could be the practical solution to making your life easier. Acorn stair lifts, for instance, have been installed in hundreds of thousands of homes worldwide. They are perfectly safe, totally reliable and easy to use. These stairlifts are a surprisingly affordable solution to difficulties you or your loved ones may be having getting up or down stairs. More information about stair lifts.

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Q:

My wife and I have just started to use scooters. They are compact, but have found a problem in loading them into our van from the rear. We are about to buy a 2011 TOYOTA SIENNA VAN and have the room in the back, but as I said before have a problem loading them. We both have the GO-GO Elite Traveler scooters. Do you have any solutions to this problem?
 


Robert from FL
A:

Thanks for the great question. You have a couple of options. Of course, one would be to have your Sienna minivan converted into a Toyota Rampvan. During the conversion process, the floor of your van would be lowered and a side-entry ramp would be installed. We could remove both the driver and passenger seat, allowing you and your wife to both drive and ride from your scooters. One of the main advantages to this, of course, is ease-of-access. You could travel where you need to go without ever leaving your seat or worry about storage space. Our wheelchair van conversions are the best, most reliable in the industry, and thousands of wheelchair and scooter users across the country come to us each year for this mobility solution. For a closer look at the BraunAbility Rampvan, visit our website at:
http://www.braunability.com/products/minivans/rampvan-xt/ 

You can make an appointment to try one out at your nearest BraunAbility dealer too:

http://www.braunability.com/find-a-dealer.cfm.

A less involved option is one recommended by a good friend and President of Bruno Mobility, Mike Bruno. He suggests the Bruno Curb-sider VSL-6900, which he says allows for maximum flexibility when loading and unloading scooters. You can find more information about that products at: http://www.bruno.com/vehicle-lift-curb-sider.html. There are a few requirements in terms of operator ability, so it's best if you could visit a Bruno dealer to demo the lift and see if it's a good fit for you and your wife. You can find your nearest Bruno dealer at: http://www.bruno.com/
 

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Q:

I served in the Navy for 20 years. I am now disabled, but not because of the military service. I am eligible for Navy medical and used that along with Medicare to get a power wheel chair at no cost to me. Now I'm looking into getting a wheelchair van, Dodge or Chryler preferred. I'm now on Medicare and have low income. We have a small Chevy pick-up, but my wife is now having problems getting the wheelchair in and out of it because the ramps are too steep. Our Chevy is 10 years old and is starting to have mechanical problems and should be replaced. I guess my question is, "How do I qualify for a wheelchair van when we don't work and have no credit?


Ron from MI
A:

When we hear from customers who have financial challenges and can't afford mobility equipment, we recommend exploring a few other options. Many of our customers have had success securing support from other nonprofit organizations, especially disability-specific charities like Easter Seals, MDA, MS Society, etc. Many states have organizations that MAY also provide assistance and advice when seeking transportation equipment. I'd also recommend contacting your local VA office for advice on benefits you may qualify for. One additional possibility is applying for support from The Ralph Braun Foundation. Established by Ralph Braun to help those who can't afford mobility equipment, the Foundation is still under formation and will begin accepting applications this year. If you're not already, please become a fan of BraunAbility on Facebook. We'll be posting updates on the Foundation and when applications will be accepted. You have all our best wishes as you seek to overcome this challenge.

 

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Q:

I purchased a used 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan for my dad from an auction, we could not afford a new one, it has a manual ramp so he can get in it with his power chair, I was told by the person inspecting the van that it had an air bag to lift it up and I find myself putting air in the bag 2 or 3 times a day—if not it will bottom out. Can you give me some advice on what to do?
 


Pat from MD
A:

For an answer to a technical question like this, I went to Cory Winn, who manages the vehicle group in our product support department. According to Cory, a 1996 Dodge operated by an air system is probably one of our competitor's vehicles. He says that if you have to continually add air to the system, then the bags are leaking and the only solution is to replace them. If, however, it's actually a 1995 Braun Entervan, you can go to your nearest BraunAbility dealer and have them replace the air system with a spring system. If you don't know who your nearest BraunAbility dealer is, you can find them by searching at this link: http://www.braunability.com/find-a-dealer.cfm. Thank you for the excellent question, and hope you're able to find a solution soon. Please let me know how it works out!

 

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Q:

I am looking for a product to help my mom. There is one step she has to go up to get to the landing where she can sit on the chairglide, which takes her upstairs. When I orginally put in the chairglide she could get up the one step, Now she cannot. Is there a product that can help? 


Mary from NY
A:

While BraunAbility does not offer mobility products for the home, a good friend of mine and CEO of Bruno Independent Living Aid, Mike Bruno, has an answer for you. According to Mike, because your mother can no longer handle stepping up onto the first step, a new custom/curved rail stair lift is the best solution. This type of stair lift can run all the way from the bottom level through the mid-landing and up to the top without any steps for your mother or you to worry about.

A second, less expensive option would be to install a second straight stair lift to help her just the one step. The down side is that she would still need to transfer to the existing stair lift.

If you'd like to see demonstrations of these products, you can find them at www.bruno.com, along with a search box to find your nearest dealer. Thank you, Mike, for your help, and I hope one of these products gives your mother the help (and peace of mind) you both deserve! 

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Q:

I have a VW Eurovan and want to have the passenger seat changed. I need a swivel seat to face the door, slide out and lower for me to stand up. I use a wheelchair but never feel safe using the lift and being tied down for long trips. I live in Vancouver, Canada and Mesa, Arizona. I want to drive both ways in January 2011. 


Jean
A:

Hello Jean,

To get the most thorough answer, I conferred with my friend Mike Bruno, President and CEO of Bruno Independent Living Aids. Bruno and BraunAbility offer complementary products that serve people with disabilities. Bruno leads the industry in specialty seating, and according to Mike, they have a product called the Turny Seat that works for a version of the VW Eurovan (model years 1999-2003) in the front passenger position. For more information on the Bruno product line, including demonstration videos, visit http://www.bruno.com. I highly recommend reviewing the Turning Automotive Seating (TAS) videos. Then, click on the "Find a Bruno Dealer" tab at the top of the homepage to locate a dealer in the Phoenix and Vancouver areas. These experts will give you the answers you need to make your trip and answer any other mobility questions you may have. Thank you for the question and have a great trip in January. Those are two wonderful cities! 

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Q:

We have an overweight and sickly senior female that uses a walker to get around. We recently noticed that when she arrives and departs from our facility the attendants are using a wheelchair lift to get her on and off the van. Is this a safe procedure?

 


Larry from NY
A:

To answer Larry’s question, I consulted our internal expert on safety at BraunAbility, Barry Wolff. Here’s what he had to say: “Wheelchair lifts are not strictly designed to assist individuals who use wheelchairs so the name is somewhat of a misnomer. In reality, wheelchair lifts are designed to assist passengers with limited mobility. In most cases, these passengers use a mobility aid (walkers, crutches, even guide dogs), but not always. Safety depends on how the wheelchair lift is utilized. In this specific case, I would advise the passenger to hold onto the lift handrails while the wheelchair lift is being raised or lowered. Alternatively, if the transit agency or passenger is uncomfortable with this method, he or she should sit in a wheelchair while on the platform. In my experience, many transit providers have a manual wheelchair onboard to facilitate this.” 

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Q:

My mother has osteoarthritis and recently suffered a DVT, which has limited her mobility further. She has difficulty pivot transferring. My car, a 2007 Honda, seems difficult for her to enter and exit. I am considering a wheelchair van, but am concerned about the height of the passenger seat—31"—for access if she regains the ability to transfer. Is a wheelchair van the correct choice? Is it possible to pull the passenger seat back, have her enter via the ramp and return the seat to it’s standard position? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

 


Jim from WI
A:

This question is a great example of the many factors that go into making the decision to purchase a mobility product and is best answered by a mobility sales expert. I went to Matt Ritter of Superior Van and Mobility for the answer. Here is what Matt provided:

For a more accurate answer, I'd ask a few additional questions:
What kind of wheelchair does your mother use?
If she doesn't use it regularly now, will she eventually rely on it more often?

If your mother does regain the ability to transfer, could it possibly become an issue again in the future?
To begin with, it's a common practice for our dealers to ask clients where they see their mobility needs in the next three to five years. We use this information to help us recommend the most appropriate and cost effective option that will work for them today as well as tomorrow. In many cases, cars are no longer the best option. A wheelchair accessible vehicle offers more space to transport wheelchairs and scooters.

If your mother is currently using a wheelchair and may need to in the future, I would recommend considering a wheelchair van like the BraunAbility Entervan or BraunAbility Rampvan. This option allows her to use the accessible vehicle now and, if she begins to rely on her chair more often in the future, then she has a handicapped van that can still meet her needs. If you purchase a vehicle and modify it without considering the future, you could wind up trading sooner than you think and possibly taking on the burden of negative equity.

To answer your question about the front passenger seat, the best way to get your mother in the front passenger seat of a BraunAbility Entervan or BraunAbility Rampvan is to install a passenger side transfer seat base. This powered seat base is installed under the driver or passenger factory seat and allows the factory seat to slide back and swivel toward the interior of the van, simply by moving a toggle switch. The process is remarkably simple: with the touch of a button, the sliding door would open, the van would begin to kneel (lower) and the ramp would deploy. At this point, your mother would drive up the ramp into the van. After sliding the transfer seat base back, your mother would be able to make a lateral transfer from her chair to the vehicle seat. Now she would be ready to swivel the transfer seat back toward the front and slide forward to the final position. In the event that she no longer wanted to transfer and needed to ride from her wheelchair, your mobility dealer could simply remove the transfer seat base, and she could ride from her chair in the front passenger position.

As you can see, there are many considerations to keep in mind when it comes to mobility. It's always best to contact your local BraunAbility dealer to discuss your individual needs and preferences in detail. This will give you the opportunity to ask specific questions and test out a wide variety of mobility products. Oftentimes clients find the answers to their mobility problems through a product they'd never considered before they'd visited a BraunAbility dealership.
 

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Q:

When loading a wheelchair onto a wheelchair lift should the rear of the chair be facing the rear of the lift or the front of the lift?
 


James from NY
A:

The abbreviated answer to this good question is to follow the instructions included with the wheelchair lift in question.

But for a more thorough response, consider the following: The passage of the ADA in 1990 mandated that public-use wheelchair lifts must permit both inboard and outboard-faced loading. While we make our customers aware of this mandate, we still recommend boarding with the customer facing outward (away from the vehicle) for several reasons. Keeping the occupant’s weight closer to the vehicle makes the occupant feel more secure and stable and allows the lift to operate more efficiently. Also, facing outward eliminates the chance that the occupant’s feet/foot rests accidentally come in contact with the vehicle while the platform is in motion. Additionally, most occupants would feel safest facing outward, especially when unloading, so they can safely steer the wheelchair onto the platform and anticipate the arrival at the outer-roll stop. And one final logistic point, those passengers with large wheelchairs or scooters sometimes cannot fit on the platform if their footrests are not allowed to overhang the platform by facing outward.

The bottom line: We want our customers to feel as safe and secure as possible while using Braun lifts, whether for private or public use. If you are considering a wheelchair lift, Braun offers several options for a variety of different situations, like, for example, the size of your wheelchair or scooter, how often you have other passengers and what type of vehicle you use. Take a look at our selection guide of wheelchair lifts at: http://www.braunability.com/wheelchair-lifts.cfm.
 

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Q:

Is there a way you can place a swivel chair in the car to make things easier or widen the door for dad to enter into the car or a device like a handle bar for him to grab and rely as a place of strength to enter into the car?
 


Zainab from TX
A:

Your father's mobility challenge is one shared by thousands of people and, depending on a variety of factors (the vehicle, your dad's size and strength, family and support structure, etc.), the solution may vary. A swivel chair, like Bruno's Turny Seat, is certainly one option. These mobility chairs can be installed into your minivan and will articulate out of your vehicle, assisting your father as he enters and exits. Widening the door is another story. This generally is not recommended or practical given the structure of the original vehicle. Actually, any modification to the base vehicle should not be done unless performed by a qualified wheelchair accessible vehicle converter/manufacturer. As for installing a handle for added assistance, consider this only after consulting a NMEDA (National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association) QAP-certified mobility equipment dealer. You can find the dealer closest to you by searching the 'Locate a Dealer' tab on http://www.nmeda.org. These dealers are experts in auto-mobility and can help you find a solution that meets your needs. Remember, make sure the dealer you select is QAP-certified to guarantee the highest quality standards are met!
 

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Q: I just recently became disabled and I don't know where to begin looking for tools to help make my mobility easier.
A:

When your personal mobility becomes an issue, the restrictions placed on your daily life can sometimes be overwhelming. Whether you've suffered an accident or are recovering from a medical condition, the result is the same: There are suddenly limits on where you can go, what you can do, who you can visit. As you face these new challenges, it may seem easier at times to skip engagements and make excuses.

While things may never be exactly like they were before, know that there are solutions out there. Thousands of people in your situation have decided to focus on the things that make life worth living, refusing to let limitations on their personal mobility get in the way. They have chosen to stay in touch with the people and places they care about most with the assistance of mobility aids.

An occupational therapist (OT) or physical therapist (PT) can help guide you through the many options available, and the web can also serve as a great resource for finding information about mobility products. There are many associations and networks that can provide valuable information on how to make mobility easier. Here are two examples:

  • WAPD (World Association of Persons with Disabilities): www.WAPD.org
  • Disability Travel and Recreation Resources: www.makoa.org
     
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Q: Do you have any tips for shopping for a wheelchair van?
A:

Shopping for a new wheelchair van can be overwhelming, but these tips will offer helpful suggestions and the guidance to get you started:

  • The first and most important step is to set up an appointment with a mobility specialist at a BraunAbility dealership near you. These experts can assess your ability and lifestyle and recommend the best vehicle to meet your needs.
  • Insist on seeing all of the wheelchair van options available. Whether used or new, rear-entry or side-entry, Chrysler, Toyota or Honda, there is an option that’s right for you, all with different features, functions and price-points.
  • Be prepared to spend a good deal of time assessing these different options. A mobility expert will carefully analyze your needs and work with you to decide on the best, and it’s a thorough process.
  • Go with a manufacturer with a respected history and reputation for customer satisfaction. Make sure they meet appropriate federal safety and regulation standards and offer local service from quality dealers. Also, your dealer should be certified by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) and accredited by the Quality Assurance Program. This will guarantee exceptional service and emergency support for your vehicle long after the sale.
  • Research wheelchair vans online, but it’s not a good idea to purchase an accessible vehicle online. There are so many variables to consider—interior space, doorway height, ramp width, etc, and it’s imperative you try out the van in person. This is an expensive, life-changing vehicle, not a recreational gadget! Don’t risk quality and satisfaction by relying on a picture to make a decision.

For more advice, check out our Top 10 Tips to Consider When Shopping for Mobility Conversion Upgrades, which was recently published on Edmunds.com.
 

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