For people with disabilities who depend on a wheelchair or motorized scooter to get around, having a wheelchair-accessible vehicle can make an enormous difference to their freedom and independence. But the prospect of paying for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle often makes this amazing mobility aid seem out of reach.
So-called “wheelchair vans” come with all sorts of modifications and tools to accommodate people with disabilities. Just a few examples include motorized wheelchair lifts and ramps, lowered flooring, wheelchair and scooter restraint systems, advance hand controls for driving the vehicle, and so on.
While these adaptations and technologies create new transportation possibilities, they obviously also add significantly to the cost of wheelchair-friendly autos. Fortunately, though, there are a number of places to turn to get help paying for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
Start at a Mobility Van Dealership
Sure, it’s not exactly standard procedure to count on auto dealers and salespeople to save you money. But when it comes to paying for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, things aren’t the same as on a regular car lot.
Mobility dealers understand that many people with disabilities and their families don’t have much room in the budget for a new, highly modified vehicle. So, they make it their business to know about local, state, and federal sources of financial aid—aid that doesn’t exist for people purchasing standard vehicles. Of course, the dealership doesn’t care who the money comes from, they’re just happy to make more sales by helping customers afford their wheelchair-friendly van.
So, consult a dealer of mobility vehicles near you. Your salesperson will point you in the right direction for financial assistance, and may even be willing to help you with applications and other paperwork.
Contact State Divisions of Federal Agencies
Various Federal organizations disperse funds to help people with disabilities acquire a wheelchair van. This is done through state chapters, which have offices spread across the state. Contact the closest state office of the following agencies and ask how you can get help paying for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle:
- Aging and Disabilities Resource Centers
- Americans with Disabilities Act Centers
- Area Agencies on Aging
- The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
- Statewide Independent Living Councils
- Department of Health and Human Services
Other possibilities may be available to you or your loved one depending on circumstances. For example:
- State Offices of Vocational Rehabilitation often offer monetary assistance to residents who need a wheelchair-friendly vehicle to get to work
- The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) might help you buy a wheelchair van if you or a loved one became disabled in the course of US military service
- If you or your family member collect disability payments through the Social Security Administration, financial aid may be extended through the Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) mobility program
Turn to Organizations Dedicated to Particular Disabilities
Disability-specific nonprofits and organizations promoting awareness and supporting research are good resources for finding help paying for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. Get in touch with state or local chapters of associations dedicated to the relevant disability. Some offer grants, fundraising, or other assistance directly, but even those that don’t provide money themselves can direct you to appropriate points of contact. Often, staff or volunteers at the organization are happy to help you assess your eligibility and submit applications for aid.
Check with Children’s Charities and Agencies
If you have a child with a disability who uses a wheelchair or motorized scooter, numerous children’s organizations may be willing to offer you assistance for getting a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. Some of these fit into the disability-specific category. Just a few generalized groups to contact include:
- The Administration for Children and Families
- The Disabled Children’s Relief Fund
- Easter Seals
- The Midwest Special Needs Trust
- The M.O.R.G.A.N. Project
- The President’s Choice Children’s Charity
- The United Healthcare Children’s Foundation