Accessible Van Woes

I’m very thankful for having a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. My power wheelchair-accessible van has a side entry ramp which allows me to drive my Edge® 3 Power Wheelchair with iLevel® right into my vehicle.

With side entry accessible vehicles, your ramp is folded inside of the vehicle. Once the middle van door slides open, the ramp falls to the ground, allowing you to exit the vehicle. When you close the vehicle door, your ramp goes in first. Once your ramp is in the vehicle, then the sliding door closes behind the ramp. If your ramp does not work for safety reasons, you can just push the ramp out manually. Once I get in my vehicle, I pull up to the steering wheel and my chair locks into the floor of my van, allowing me to drive right from my power wheelchair.

Last week, I scheduled a pickup at my local grocery store. I have a button on my key fob that brings the wheelchair ramp down, so I hit the button and drove my power wheelchair right into the van. It was a beautiful day, 80 degrees and sunny. I was feeling good until I got to the grocery store. I put my van in park, turned everything off. I hit my ramp button and my door opened but nothing happened with the ramp. So, I hit my ramp button again. Still the same thing: the door opened but my ramp didn’t move. So, I tried to push the ramp out and it was stuck, blocking me from getting out of my van.

I’m always very calm in situations and try to think of everything. So, I closed my side door. I started my van and tried the process all over again. Unfortunately, this did nothing. But now my van door was stuck open and I couldn’t reach the door to close it. Plus, my car is getting very hot in the Florida sun and I’m stuck inside. Do I call 911? At this point, I had completely forgot about my groceries, so I called the store and explained the situation. Someone came out to my car and they were very nice and accommodating. They even offered me water but I was afraid I would have to go to the bathroom if I drank anything and I couldn’t get out of my van. The store employee was able to get my van door closed, at least. So, I drove home.

Once I arrived home, I called my van dealership in Long Island, New York. The service technician asked me if I had anyone to help disengage the ramp. Thankfully, I had a family member at the house and he was able to pull the electric fuse to my ramp, allowing the ramp to function manually. Apparently, the ramp sensor went bad causing the ramp to seize. When this happens, it overrides the manual deployment of the ramp, causing the ramp to lock and trapping me inside. So, thankfully we know what’s wrong but how I get it fixed? I’m in Florida, not New York.

I called one of our Quantum® reps and asked if he could recommend a dealership that sells our products and services wheelchair accessible vans. Thankfully, he had just the place. I scheduled an appointment the next day. You will never guess what happened the next day: the last tropical storm of the season. So, I had to drive an hour in the middle of this storm to make my appointment. At one point, I pulled over because the rain and wind were so bad. Thankfully, the technician at the van repair shop knew exactly what was wrong. Unfortunately, the dealership had to order the part and it was on back order for two weeks. So, I won’t be able to drive anywhere for two weeks. It’s not that big of a deal. This whole experience reminded me to be thankful for the good people we come across in our lives and the connections we have.

About Josh McDermott: Josh is a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. He is a public speaker and has served as a goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Josh lives in New York and loves to travel. Click here to learn more about Josh.