The thing about automotive mobility conversions is that very few people with a disability require identical modifications. In other words, no two disabilities are alike.
Probably the best way I can explain this is by introducing you to my friend Tommy. As I told you in my previous letter, my injury was due to a car accident, where I sustained a level C4-C5 injury. My friend Tommy is also a quad, whose injury is also a level C5. But the similarities stop there. We both have very different abilities, range of motion, and sensitivity in our four extremities. Differences like these translate into the differences for each of our vehicle modifications and adaptive equipment. Both of us have the possibility of independent driving with the use of adaptive equipment, but the design and operation of that equipment would be very different, and so would our van modifications.
The very first step in determining the best vehicle and modifications for your own disability is to meet with a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) and locate a mobility equipment dealer to provide the modifications. The next step is to determine if its a new or used vehicle that’s best for you. I’ll be meeting very soon with my local CDRS, but in the meantime, I have been able to meet and begin work with my local BraunAbility Authorized Dealer, Team Adaptive, Inc., to begin looking at the various vehicles and vehicle conversion options available to me.
Now, through this process you’ll hear me use two terms, “conversion” and “modification.” While these terms are often used interchangeably, a conversion generally refers to the changes made to the vehicle’s chassis, i.e. the lowering of the floor, the raising of the roof, and the redesigning of interior seating. A modification, on the other hand, generally refers to the adaptive equipment that is placed in the vehicle specific to the individual’s disability and needs.
Last summer I had the opportunity to try out the conversion package done on a 2013 Honda Odyssey done for another local quad. Monday’s meeting with Team Adaptive gave me the opportunity to try out the conversion done for a 2013 Toyota Sienna, and can I say, “Wow! What a difference!” Both vehicles had excellent conversion, stylish and sleek, and designed for durability and function, and while at first look the conversion appeared identical, they were not! See if you can spot the difference in the picture below:
The photo on the top is the Honda Odyssey and the image below is the Toyota Sienna. The Honda’s conversion affords six more inches of floor space in the van’s center than the Toyota. Still don’t see it? Take one more look….The Honda’s conversion concaves inward in the center under the thrid row seating, while the Toyota’s conversion remains straight. Part of this difference is the style of conversion, the other part is the vehicles chassis design; the Honda has a interior floor length of 57″ while the Toyota’s is 51″. Those six inches meant the difference between my wheelchair fitting. In the Honda I was able to make a full turnabout in my wheelchair. In the Toyota, well, lets just say, “Sorry, Team Adaptive, if I made any scratches…”
Still, it was good for me to be able to compare these conversions first hand. Just as no two injuries are alike, neither are two conversions. I’ll be meeting with a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist soon to begin looking at the available modifications that fit my disABILITY and needs, and will continue narrowing down my options to the best vehicle purchase for me.