Tips for travelling in a wheelchair-accessible vehicle
Wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) play a crucial role in providing independence and mobility to individuals with disabilities. These specially designed vehicles offer the convenience of transportation while accommodating wheelchair users. However, driving a WAV comes with its own set of considerations to ensure safety, comfort and compliance with accessibility regulations. Whether you are a seasoned WAV owner or a newcomer to the world of accessible vehicles, we at Fish Insurance have assembled some valuable tips to help you feel more confident when driving or travelling in a WAV.
Brush up skills with a WAV driving instructor
Driving a WAV requires familiarity with its unique features and adaptations. Consider working with a WAV driving instructor who can provide specialised training tailored to your needs. They will help you understand the vehicle’s functions, such as ramp or lift operation, securing the wheelchair, and making necessary adjustments for optimal driving comfort. Professional instruction will enhance your driving skills and boost your confidence on the road.
Stay updated on accessibility driving regulations
Accessibility driving regulations may vary between countries and regions, so it’s essential to stay informed and up to date. Familiarise yourself with the specific rules and guidelines governing WAV usage in your area. For example, in the UK, WAV owners must meet specific criteria to qualify for certain exemptions, including parking concessions. Keeping abreast of the latest regulations ensures compliance and avoids any potential issues while travelling.
Plan the route in advance
Before embarking on a journey, plan your route with care. Take into account the accessibility of roads, parking facilities, and amenities along the way. Research wheelchair-friendly attractions, rest stops, and accessible restrooms to make your travel experience smoother. Planning ahead allows you to identify potential obstacles and find alternative routes or parking options if needed, ensuring a stress-free trip.
Be aware of accessible parking needs
Accessible parking is crucial when travelling in a wheelchair accessible vehicle. Research and identify accessible parking spaces along your route and at your destination. Ensure these spaces are designed to accommodate WAVs with sufficient space for ramp or lift deployment. Familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations regarding accessible parking and ensure you have the necessary permits or documentation to use these spaces legally.
Perform regular vehicle maintenance
Just like any other vehicle, WAVs require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and safety. Schedule routine inspections of the vehicle’s mechanical components, including brakes, tires and ramps/lifts before going on a long trip. Regular servicing helps identify and address any potential issues before they become major problems. Additionally, make sure to keep the interior clean and tidy, as a clutter-free environment promotes safety and accessibility for both the driver and passengers.
Consider driver and passenger comfort
Driving long distances can be tiring, so it’s important to prioritise comfort for both the driver and passengers. Invest in ergonomic seating options that provide adequate support and reduce fatigue. Consider installing additional accessories such as back cushions, lumbar supports or seat covers to enhance comfort during extended journeys. For passengers, ensure secure wheelchair tie-downs and seatbelts are properly adjusted to maintain stability and safety throughout the trip.
Familiarise yourself with vehicle documentation
Take the time to thoroughly review the vehicle documentation provided by the manufacturer or conversion company. Understand the operation manuals for any adaptations or modifications made to the WAV. This knowledge will empower you to troubleshoot minor issues, understand the vehicle’s limitations, and make informed decisions while driving. Should any questions or concerns arise, consult the manufacturer or a WAV specialist for clarification.
Familiarise yourself with entering and exiting your WAV
Ensure you are comfortable and confident when entering and exiting your WAV. It is recommended to practice this near your home before your trip. Take the time to become familiar with the ramps, controls, straps and any other equipment required to load and secure your wheelchair. Always ensure that your wheelchair is securely fastened and stable before embarking on your journey.
Establish an emergency contact
Having the contact details of a trusted friend or relative who is not accompanying you on the trip is beneficial. Share your itinerary with them, so they know your whereabouts. Storing these details on a mobile device, such as setting up an emergency contact and medical ID on an iPhone, ensures easy access to the information in case of emergencies. Additionally, keep a physical copy of these details in your WAV for extra precaution.
It’s also a good idea to have any details of your WAV Insurance provider and breakdown cover, should you need them.
Estimate travel durations
Creating an itinerary helps you anticipate the duration of different segments of your trip. While unexpected traffic delays can occur, having a plan allows you to prepare accordingly. Knowing the estimated travel time enables you to pack necessary items and plan for rest breaks.
Pack mobility aids, equipment, and medication
Once you have an idea of how long your trip will be, you can determine what items to bring. It is advisable to pack spare mobility aids, equipment, and sufficient medication in case of unforeseen circumstances or longer travel durations. WAVs are designed to accommodate these essential items, making it easier to bring everything you need for your journey.
Take breaks as needed
Do not hesitate to take breaks whenever necessary. Whether it’s for meals, drinks, or restroom visits, prioritise your comfort and well-being. Pushing yourself beyond your limits is unsafe and diminishes the enjoyment of your trip. Remember, this is your excursion, so make sure to savour every moment.
Communicate your preferences to fellow travellers
In addition to informing your travel companions about necessary stops, breaks, meals, and restroom visits, express your desires for the trip. Let them know what you hope to experience and if there are specific ways they can support you, making the journey more enjoyable. Don’t hesitate to communicate your needs openly and honestly.
Consider a WAV insurance specialist.
When purchasing insurance for your WAV it’s important to fully understand your policy. Unlike regular car insurance, WAV’s and their users may have additional needs which you may want to consider.
We’ve assembled a guide to help you shop around for WAV insurance. This guide asks some important questions that you may want to check when browsing the various policies available to you. Some of these questions include:
- For what value is the WAV insured?
- Does your insurer know about the modifications?
- Does the policy value cover the cost of the modifications?
- What will happen if you’re involved in an accident?
- Is there cover for a courtesy car that is suited to your disability needs?
You can read our full guide “Drive a WAV? Are you sufficiently covered?” here.
To browse our full range of specialised policies, visit our WAV insurance page.