Traveling through the outback

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles - An Overview

When it comes to getting around, a car is just about as convenient as it gets, especially if you're a wheelchair-user.  Personal accessible transportation for wheelchair-users comes in the form of WAVs, or 'Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles' as they're known.  If you're a newly-qualified disabled driver and you'd like to know more about the options available to you, here's a brief guide to WAVs.

Choosing a suitable Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Most vehicle manufacturers have a range of vehicles that are adapted for use by wheelchair-users.  Before you begin browsing garage websites for a suitable WAV, it's important to be clear on what qualities you want the vehicle to have.  For example, if you need to be able to drive whilst seated in your wheelchair and you want to carry passengers too, you'll need a large, people-carrier style vehicle.  Clearly, this will be more expensive to run and you'll need a driveway or garage that's large enough to accommodate it.  If you intend to travel primarily alone, a smaller vehicle will be easier to manoeuvre and cheaper to keep on the road.

Make a list of any special adaptations that you might require, such as

  • manual or automatic transmission
  • rear or side access options
  • access ramps
  • vertical lifts or winches
  • manual or electronic tie-down for your wheelchair
  • other steering or braking adaptations

Some of the things you need come as standard on most WAVs, whereas others will be additional options that you'll pay more for.  Be prepared to haggle - most dealerships will happily do a good deal in order to make a sale!

If you can't decide which vehicle to go for, it's a good idea to hire one for a short period so that you can trial it before parting with your cash.

Types of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

There are two main types of WAV.

Internal or drive-from-wheelchair vehicles

'Internal' WAVs are designed to be driven by the wheelchair-user.  You could choose a design that facilitates transfer from your wheelchair to the driver's seat, or if you prefer, you could remain in your wheelchair and drive from it without the need to transfer.  The second option saves you the hassle of stowing your chair away while you drive, only to have to transfer again when you arrive at your destination. 


Motorised trikes allow the driver to access the driver's seat via an electrically-powered rear ramp.  You then drive the vehicle from your wheelchair without having to transfer.   Trikes can also be converted to allow you to transfer into the driver's seat if you prefer, and your wheelchair can be stored elsewhere on the trike. 

Trikes are fun to drive and cheap to run, but have the disadvantage of being open to the elements.  However, an all-weather canopy is an optional extra you could consider if you're planning on using the vehicle all year round.

In conclusion

A wide range of personal accessible transportation options are available for newly-qualified disabled drivers.  Have a chat with your local mobility centre for advice on what's out there, or check out local dealerships to see what special deals on WAVs are available.