Company cars are a valuable asset for businesses and a great perk for employees, including those using wheelchairs. When purchasing a new vehicle, business owners may not consider mobility inclusive options at first, but they are well worth the investment.
On the outside, they look like standard vans, minivans and SUVs. On the inside, they are equipped with ramps and special safety features to allow wheelchair users to ride in safety and comfort.
Various accessible vehicles are on the market today, and there are a few different accessibility options to choose from, as well. No matter the model, having a company car configured for team members in wheelchairs will help promote inclusivity and offer limited-mobility employees the same transportation opportunities as everyone else.
Additionally, fully-able workers may have to transport family members using wheelchairs in a company vehicle, like children and elderly parents. There are several things for business owners to consider when choosing a mobility inclusive car for their team.
1. Budget and Age
The first thing to decide on when researching wheelchair-accessible cars is a budget. It is important to note that this has to include the initial price of the vehicle as well as the cost of wheelchair-accessible conversion alterations.
Depending on the company’s budget, this may mean business owners should consider purchasing a used car instead of a new one. The lifespan they hope to get out of the vehicle plays a role, as well. If they prefer to save money initially, a used car may be the better option. Others may choose to pay more for a new model with the intention of getting more use out of it in the long run.
2. Type of Vehicle
After settling on a reasonable budget, the next step is selecting the best type of vehicle. Wheelchair-accessible cars are most often vans or minivans, but there are SUV options, as well. Choosing a specific model depends on a few factors, described in more detail below. While certain kinds may be eliminated by budget, others may be a better fit for a business’s needs based on usage and where the vehicle will be stored.
If the car will be sheltered in an employee’s home garage, a minivan or SUV would be ideal because they are smaller than standard vans. Similarly, if the vehicle will be used to transport multiple limited-mobility passengers, a larger van with more space would be the way to go. Within the broader type of vehicle, the right model for a company may depend on brand tastes. Business owners may find that their logo design for the car looks better on an SUV, for example.
3. Side or Rear Entry
This is the most important practical consideration that business owners will need to consider in the selection process. Wheelchair-accessible cars come in two varieties: side or rear entry. Both are added through conversions from regular vehicles, where the original is altered to accommodate whatever ramp, loading equipment and safety fixtures are needed. Many accessible mobility companies sell cars with conversions included.
In a side entry car, a ramp extends from one of the vehicle’s back doors. From this loading configuration, people who use wheelchairs can ride in either a passenger or driver position. These are the most popular conversion types due to their versatility.
The one drawback for some consumers is that side entry conversions require more structural alteration to the vehicle itself. They also need plenty of space beside the car for getting in and out. However, this is a key advantage if employees will be using parallel parking. Side entry is also necessary if the vehicle will be driven by a team member who uses a wheelchair.
Rear entry vehicles have a ramp that extends from the car’s back hatch. In this configuration, wheelchair passengers ride in the back. Rear entry conversions require fewer changes to the vehicle itself and allow easy access in regular parking spaces as well as narrow driveways. Due to how the ramp is integrated into the car, this loading configuration does not enable people who use wheelchairs to drive the vehicle.
4. Seating Arrangement
The ramp configuration of wheelchair-accessible vehicles is also connected to the desired seating arrangement and number of passengers. If the main purpose of the car will be for employees in wheelchairs to drive it, a van or a minivan with a large backseat area isn’t necessary. On the other hand, if business owners have multiple disabled team members to transport or need to carry two wheelchairs, certain models are better designed for this than others. Either way, this decision mainly comes down to who will be driving.
5. Traditional or Electric Engine
Electric vehicles are becoming more popular. As of 2018, over 1 million electric cars were on the road in the U.S. These are no longer a niche option and are slowly beginning to make their way into the wheelchair-accessible market. While no fully electric cars are currently available for accessible conversion, there are a few great hybrid options to choose from. These include hybrid editions of two of the most popular wheelchair-accessible minivans, the Chrysler Pacifica and Toyota Sienna.
Hybrid vehicles are run on a combination of traditional fuel and electric battery power. While they aren’t as environmentally friendly as fully electric versions, they are still an improvement over conventional engines. In addition to being better for the planet, hybrid vehicles use significantly less fuel than gas-powered cars, which will save business owners money. Additionally, electric vehicles require slightly different maintenance, but it is considerably less than what is needed for traditional cars.
Where to Get Started
Purchasing a wheelchair-accessible company car is a choice that employees and companies alike can benefit from. They are meant to be a show of appreciation from business owners to their team members. Including a mobility inclusive vehicle in the company fleet will allow everyone to take part.
The best way to begin shopping for an accessible vehicle is to do thorough research on employees’ needs as well as the mobility market. Business owners should chat with any wheelchair users on their team to get input on what features may be most helpful in the new company car. Wheelchair-accessible models mean your whole team will be able to hit the road, and no one will be left behind.