Side vs Rear Entry Wheelchair Access Vehicles – Which is Better?

The most common question we are often asked when it comes to wheelchair access vehicles (WAVs) is whether to go with a rear or side entry?

Everybody’s needs are unique so here we will explore the differences and reasons why you might choose one over the other.

On the outside, the differences seem obvious and somewhat unimportant; side entry vehicles use the sliding side door while rear entry vehicles use the lifting tailgate as their main point of access for the wheelchair user. While there are certainly some technical differences from the production and engineering point of view, it’s only in the day-to-day use of the vehicle that you, as the user will really notice the pros and the cons. So, let’s take a closer look:

  • Vehicle Access:

Where will your vehicle be parked? Where do you usually go in your vehicle? If your car will be primarily parallel parked on the street and accessed from the footpath, you may prefer a side entry ramp to reduce the need to be on the road. If you have full access from a garage and/ or driveaway, either a side or rear entry vehicle might be suitable – depending on the space available beside and/ or behind the car. Think about how you’ll get from your home (or any other destination or venue) to the vehicle to help you decide on side or rear entry.

  • Parking:

What venues and locations do you visit regularly and what’s the parking like? Most supermarkets and shopping centres have disabled parking available, however sometimes these spots are in awkward positions – next to poles, columns, and even other parked cars, which could make side entry and exit tricky or impossible.

While those rock star, street disabled parking spots right in front of the pub are a bit longer/wider than regular spaces, you may still find yourself trapped by other vehicles if they park too close. Identifying the common places, you will need to park and access your WAV can also assist in deciding whether a side or rear entry is better for you.

  • Storage:

Do you need to carry extra equipment like a lifting machine, commode, sports or camping gear? If you require ample storage space in the rear area of your vehicle, a side entry could be the better option so you or your carers don’t need to remove items for you to be able to enter or exit the vehicle in your wheelchair. Of course, if you do choose a rear entry WAV, there are other options like roof racks that can provide extra storage space when required.

  • Your Wheelchair:

How big and nimble is your wheelchair? Keep in mind that entering from a side entry may require you to manoeuvre or swivel your chair to face the front of the vehicle and unless your wheelchair can turn on the spot, this can be difficult. Entering straight through the back is easier as you can wheel yourself straight into position, however, exiting usually requires reversing out, something that may be awkward for some wheelchair users. An Automobility modification can be provided with a winch to help with the entry and exit. Smaller wheelchairs may find side entry easier but might still prefer the rear version for other reasons.

  • Modifications and Cost:

Rear entry vehicles are generally less complex conversions than side entry and for that reason are usually a lower cost. Funding bodies like NDIS will consider the cost/benefits of a conversion as part of any funding application

  • Vehicle Options:

We’d rather do a few things exceptionally well, than offer a bit of everything at a lower standard – that’s why we work with a select range of VW and Kia vehicles.

The 2021 Kia Carnival is our latest WAV offering which features rear entry. However, our VW modifications include the Caravelle, Transporter and Multivan are all suitable for both a rear and side entry ramp installation. VW Caddy is only available in rear entry.

We know that other companies offer modifications to vehicles includeing Chrysler, Renault, Toyota and Mercedes vans. If you prefer one of these brands – please make sure they have been tested to meet Australian Standards requirements and regulations, not overseas ones!

  • So how do you choose the configuration that works best for you:

There is a simple answer to this complex question and it is – trial the vehicle and conversion with your family, carers and health professionals. That will help you better understand which configuration works best for your daily needs.

Our goal is to enable an active and healthy lifestyle and provide freedom, independence, and accessibility for every wheelchair user. We know that each of our customers’ vehicle needs, and lifestyle is unique and understanding these requirements is the first and most important step in our consultation process.

If you need help selecting the best wheelchair vehicle or van for you, call our team on 1300 660 773 for a FREE consultation and demonstration session, in person on online.

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