Accessible Road Trip: Auto Access Products to Get Clients Moving

Gearing up for a road trip this summer might just prove more difficult for those who use manual or power mobility equipment. To help your clients get on the road, Home Health Products offers a view tips on the ins and outs of automotive access products.

Products that Lift

Lifts provide a functional way for getting heavy power chairs and scooters inside or onto a vehicle. Clients can choose from outside lifts, inside lifts and a new breed called hybrids that incorporate qualities of both.

"While there are inherent benefits to each of the three styles, and all three can accommodate both power chairs and scooters, it is often the client's mobility, combined with their vehicle choice and mobility device that will determine the best mobility solution," says Chad Williams, president, Harmar Mobility, Sarasota, Fla.

Williams says the three types of lifts have the following benefits:

  • Outside Lifts — The simplest of the lift solutions, outside lifts require no vehicle modifications and come in a wide variety. "It is possible to find a solution for most vehicles and mobility devices," says Williams. Another benefit: Precious cargo space is spared because the mobility device is transported outside the vehicle rather than inside.
  • Inside Lifts — Drilling into the vehicle is required for inside lifts, but these devices enable the client to transport a power chair or scooter inside the vehicle. Wireless remotes and fully powered models make these lifts a great solution. "They are often considered a more convenient mobility solution, particularly in areas prone to inclement weather," says Williams.
  • Hybrid Lifts — Known for their convenience and ease of operation, hybrid lifts provide simple installation and wireless remote controls. "These platform-style lifts are mounted in a vehicle's interior and combine the convenience of drive-on, drive-off simplicity with the added protection of storing a mobility device inside a vehicle," says Williams.

Clients with limited mobility can appreciate the convenience and minimal user effort required by auto lifts, says Williams. "The auto lift makes their mobility equipment mobile, allowing the user to take their chair wherever their car can take them."

Products that Ramp

Ramps serve a similar purpose as lifts, but are a bit more affordable. "Vehicle access ramps … are an affordable alternative, but require a greater degree of strength and mobility from the consumer," says Williams. "Very often, ramps are purchased in conjunction with a lift as part of a complete mobility solution. … The access ramp levels the terrain once they get where they are going, as the world is not yet ADA compliant."

Three basic ramp types include flat, solid ramps, folding ramps and roll-up ramps. Greg Moll, national/international sales and export manager, Roll-A-Ramp, W. Fargo, N.D., says the latter is a newcomer to the market, but all offer the same function. "The basic principle of the ramp hasn't changed," he says. "What has changed is the design and technology. There are several choices for customers when determining their need. Will they be moving it often from place to place? How much weight can they handle? Weight and ease of handling is different among the different ramps, and it pays to research before making a decision. Is it one that needs to be mounted into a vehicle or one that is folded or rolled up and stored in the vehicle?"

Moll recommends that dealers consider the following when fitting clients with ramps:

  • Type of mobility equipment — Does the client have a manual or electric wheelchair and will he or she require assistance going up the ramp?
  • Type of vehicle — Is it a minivan or a full-size van?
  • Dimensions — Consider the door opening, ground clearance and rise (distance from the ground to the floor of the vehicle) to determine the length and width of the ramp.

"It's all about options," says Moll, "and having the dealer serve the best interests of the client by offering them all."

Products for Pediatrics

"Both lift and ramp products will work well with pediatric mobility devices," says Harmar's Williams, "but again, it is often a question of finding the solution that will work with each customer's particular vehicle and mobility device combination. Even for a perfectly healthy parent, loading the mobility device up a ramp and then finding space for the device and the ramp can be challenging."

Moll agrees that transportability and usability are key for pediatric products. "The type of ramp that works best for pediatrics is one which is easy to handle and easy to move or transport," he says. "Most likely, the child is on the move with all the different activities kids may be involved in, and it should be easy to work with and not be burdensome. Watch for something lightweight, yet very strong."

Williams says that dealers must "gauge a client's present and future needs when recommending lift and ramp products. Is the client considering a new vehicle purchase in the near future? Will they be upgrading to a larger power chair or scooter? Do they use one vehicle primarily, or are there two different vehicles to take into consideration? By taking the time to address the long-term lift and ramp needs of the client, a provider can be certain that the customer receives the mobility solution that best fits his or her needs now and in the future."

Photo Caption: The Toyota Scion xB, photographed at Advanced Mobility Systems of Texas Inc., Fort Worth, comes equipped with a ramp and a seat that swivels for transferring — all modifications directly from the manufacturer.

Cool Products from The Braun Corp.

Cool Products from The Braun Corp.

For wheelchair users who are able to transfer
The ChairTopper automatically folds and stores a conventional folding wheelchair inside a weathertight car-top compartment. Available in a driver or passenger side model, the ChairTopper is a great solution for those who don't want to drive a van. A hand-held control operates the folding, lifting and storing of the wheelchair, taking only 30 seconds to complete the cycle. A universal mounting system ensures that the device will fit most automobiles and light trucks.

Companion Seat
Ideal for seniors with limited mobility
The Companion Seat assists when extra help is needed boarding a domestic minivan. Using the original vehicle seat, the power base extends out the door 20 inches and tilts forward a full 6 inches to make boarding safe and easy. When not needed, it functions as a normal passenger seat. A hand-held control with a single toggle switch controls the automatic functions, allowing the passenger or an attendant to operate the seat. The seat rotates manually, then extends and lowers automatically.

For more information on these and other Braun products, call (800) THE-LIFT or visit

This article originally appeared in the June 2006 issue of HME Business.

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