wheelchair accessibility

  • Checklist for Making Your Home Wheelchair Accessible

    The ADA is the most comprehensive federal civil rights statute protecting the rights of people with disabilities.

    While ADA guidelines do not extend to private, residential homes, these guidelines are still helpful and good to keep in mind - especially when you are trying to make your home wheelchair accessible.

    Below, we’ve put together a brief checklist, based on ADA guidelines. For additional information on making your home more wheelchair accessible, we encourage you to contact our mobility specialists.



    • Doorway width of at least 32"
    • Counters no more than 34" in height, or a pull out board of that height
    • Lever hardware and faucet controls
    • Refrigerator/freezer of side-by-side style
    • Range controls in front or side


    • Sink should have at least 29" of clearance under the front edge to allow wheelchair user to pull under the sink and use the faucet.
    • Toilet seat should be between 17" and 19" inches above the floor.
    • Should be enough room for a wheelchair user to turn around (either in a 60" diameter circle or in a T-shaped turn).


    • Is the doorway leading to accessible spaces at least 32" wide?
    • Be sure hallways are free of steps or abrupt vertical changes over 1/4".
    • Be sure that at least one door to each accessible space has door hardware (levers, pulls, panic bars, etc.) usable with one hand.


    • Allow at least a 36"-wide route on each side of the bed and at the foot of the bed to allow people who use wheelchairs to transfer onto the bed from either side.
    • Make sure all bedroom doors have security latches or bolts mounted no higher than 48" above the floor so it is within the reach of people who use wheelchairs.


    • According to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the average adult wheelchair, can be up to 50 inches long and up to 32 inches wide.
    • There are different types of wheelchairs for different uses. Wheelchairs made for sport have a slightly lower seat and are wider than the average wheelchair.
    • The adult wheelchair requires 60 inches of space to make a 360-degree turn.
  • Navigating the Airport by Wheelchair: 5 Things to Know

    Have you ever tried to navigate the airport during the holiday season or some other busy time? Now imagine doing it from a wheelchair.

    Today, most airports comply with federal and state regulations to make areas accessible to those faced with mobility challenges, but there is still room for improvement. If you or someone you know is wheelchair bound, the following are some helpful things to keep in mind.

    Barriers to Travel for Wheelchair Users

    Airports can be busy and confusing places for people – especially when that person is faced with mobility challenges. Whether you or someone you love is traveling by wheelchair, pay attention to the following, potential barriers. How many of these are barriers to mobility at your local airport?

    • Terminal parking
    • Ticketing counters
    • Security
    • Transfer to aisle chair and airplane seat
    • Wheelchair storage
    • Transferring back to a wheelchair
    • Baggage claim
    • Etc.

    Tips to Better Navigate the Airport by Wheelchair

    #1 - Plan ahead.

    Barring family events or visiting friends, when you plan a trip, be diligent and consider traveling to places where there is plenty of accessibility. For example, did you know that you can take a wheelchair accessible trip to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands or the Amazon rainforest? This may mean being a little more selective in your travel destination.

    #2 - Call ahead.

    Even if you've traveled with a wheelchair before, it is still prudent to find out what sorts of restrictions may apply to you or a loved one when traveling by wheelchair. For more information, call the disability hotline operated by the US Department of Transportation at (800) 778-4838 with any mobility/wheelchair access-related questions.

    #3 - Reserve a wheelchair in advance.

    Are you traveling with an elderly parent or someone with limited mobility? Wheelchairs are available free of charge at most airports, and in most cases, an airport employee will be available to take you by wheelchair (or electric cart) to your gate.

    Reservations may be made up to a few days in advance of your flight. Simply call your local airport and let them know that you need a wheelchair. They will ask you a few questions about your level of mobility, which will help them best determine what type of wheelchair access you need. If you are traveling with someone who needs a wheelchair or who has a special type of wheelchair, this is also a good time to speak to an airport representative. He/she will help ensure that your visit to the airport goes as smoothly as possible.

    #4 - Consider a travel agent.

    If you are planning travel outside of the country or are traveling alone to an unfamiliar area, it may be worthwhile to hire a travel agent who specializes in disabled travel. Specialized travel agencies are knowledgable about and can reserve transportation, flights, hotels, tours and more that accommodate wheelchair users. In some cases, you can even request a certified travel companion and special medical equipment rental.

    As with other types of travel agents, you'll want to do your due diligence to ensure that the travel agent you hire is experienced and vetted.

    #5 - Know where to park.

    Parking can be tricky at most airports. If it's your first time flying out your local airport in a wheelchair or with a wheelchair user, it may not be a bad idea to do a "dry run" the week before you're schedule to fly out. This will allow you time to get the lay of the land, figure out where to park and ask questions of airport staff while there.

    Finally - be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to navigate the airport - from the time you park to the time you arrive at your gate. Doing so will help improve your travel experience.

    For more information about mobility accessories for wheelchair users, contact Van Products today (800) 209-6133.

  • Wheelchair Accessibility on the Internet

    When searching for wheelchair accessible or handicap accessible places on the Internet, you should ask yourself the following questions, and pay close attention to the answers you find!


    Is there a wheelchair accessible entrance?

    As the person: Having a wheelchair accessible entrance is important because it will let you know if you will need additional assistance getting into the establishment.

    As the business: Businesses should only answer 'Yes' to this question if the wheelchair accessible entrance to the business is approximately one meter wide and does NOT have steps. If your business has one of more steps, you should have a permanent ramp. A moveable ramp is also acceptable. If your business has an entryway that only has revolving doors, you should always mark, 'No' to being wheelchair accessible.

    Is there wheelchair accessible seating?

    As the person: Especially if you are searching for a good place to eat dinner with family or friends, you always want to make sure that there are wheelchair accessible seating options. This ensures that you will have enough room to comfortably sit at and navigate the table.

    As the business: Businesses should only answer 'Yes' if the main area of the business can be access entirely without stairs and there is enough space for someone in a wheelchair to comfortably sit at a table. For example, if your business only had pub height tables, it would not be considered "wheelchair-friendly".

    Is there wheelchair/handicap parking?

    As the person: Having handicap or wheelchair accessible parking is important because of the proximity of the space to the place of business, but more importantly because wheelchair accessible spaces are wider to allow you to comfortably navigate getting into and out of your vehicle if needed.

    As the business: Businesses should only answer 'Yes' if you actually have designated parking spots for those with mobility needs, marked by an official placard, sign, and/or painting on the ground.

    Is there a wheelchair accessible elevator?

    As the person: It is unrealistic to expect every business or place that you visit to be on one level. However, it is reasonable to expect that if a business deems itself 'handicap-accessible' and is located in a multi-level building - it should have a wheelchair-friendly elevator.

    As the business: Businesses who are multi-storied and who claim to be wheelchair accessible should have an elevator that is large enough to accommodate a wheelchair + other passengers. If you do not have an elevator at all but have more than one story, you cannot claim to be wheelchair-friendly.

  • Wheelchair Accessibility & Physical Disabilities in the Sports Arena

    In the past, those suffering from disabilities often faced several limitations. Nowadays, however, advancements in technology and the introduction of new equipment and accessories have all but eliminated these limitations and have allowed for greatly increased mobility among those suffering from a wide range of disabilities.

    Today, we have wheelchair vans, scooters, handicap accessible buildings, and disability-friendly places of business that serve the approximately 600 million people, or 10% of the world’s population, who are disabled.

    Carving a Path for Physical Disability in Sports

    Looking back, wheelchair-based sports seem to have gotten their start after the Second World War, when those who were confined to wheelchairs became frustrated by their situations and decided to get involved in sports as a way to release some of their unchanneled energy.

    In 1946, the California Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America played the first match of wheelchair basketball.  Not long after this event, word spread about disabled persons getting involved in sports [source].

    Sports were subsequently introduced as a critical part of rehabilitation, a fact that allowed them to evolve into recreational sports, and from there, into the competitive sports we see today, such as those in the Special Olympics.

    Wheelchair Accessibility and Adaptive Technology

    Ralph Braun is a man who perfectly exemplifies how wheelchair accessible vans, vehicles, and accessories paved the way to allow so many physically disabled persons the opportunity to experience real mobility.

    Braun, who had been diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy as a child, was unable to walk. By the early 1960s, he invented the world’s first electric scooter, and by 1966, he had created the first wheelchair accessible vehicle by creating a wheelchair platform lift and hand controls that were added to an old postal van [source]. By 1991, Braun (now with his own company), had introduced the first wheelchair accessible minivan.

    Today, countless disabled persons throughout the United States (and the world) rely on wheelchair vans and other adaptive technology to help them participate in sports and to function independently. From archery to cycling and from rafting to surfing, there is no longer a limit on what sports physically disabled persons can participate in. This fact is thanks, in great part, to wheelchairs, wheelchair vans, and the continued improvements to adaptive technology.

    About Van Products

    Van Products, Inc. provides freedom of mobility to physically challenged individuals throughout the Southeastern United States with wheelchair accessible vehicles, lifts, ramps, hand controls, and other handicap-accessible accessories. Visit one of our two showrooms in Raleigh, NC or Wilmington, NC, or speak to a representative today by visiting our Contact page.

  • Wheelchair Ice Skating: Cool Off This Summer

    Need to cool off this summer but don't want to just sit around inside your house? Try wheelchair ice skating! What a fun way to have a good time with friends without scorching. Have you ever been wheelchair ice skating? What is your favorite wheelchair-accessible activity?

  • Disability Resources: Housing Facts and Statistics

    Our goal is to support our community in every way possible, including providing you with the resources and information you may be looking for. We’ve pulled together some statistics about the housing market opportunities for peoples with disabilities in an effort to keep your life moving in all facets. In addition to offering resources, we want to promote awareness about accessibility and encourage continued growth toward a more wheelchair friendly environment no matter what market you are looking into. Across the country, people with disabilities face challenges finding affordable and accessible housing on low incomes. Often, remodeling and ramp construction is necessary to make homes accessible, and these reconstruction projects come at a cost. When you are on Supplemental Security Income and living without a stable salary, facing the housing market is challenging to say the least.

      • People with disabilities who rely on SSI as their sole source of income continue to be the nation’s poorest citizens. In 2008, the annual income of a single individual receiving SSI payments was $8,016—equal to only 18.6 percent of the national median income for a one-person household and almost 30 percent below the 2008 federal poverty level of $10,400.
      • In 2008, as a national average, a person receiving SSI needed to pay 112.1 percent of their monthly income to rent a modest one-bedroom unit. People with disabilities were also priced out of smaller studio/efficiency units which averaged 99.3 percent of monthly SSI.
      • Since 1998, the amount of monthly SSI income needed to rent a modest one-bedroom unit has risen an astonishing 62 percent—from 69 percent of SSI in 1998 to 112.1 percent of SSI in 2008.
      • In 2008, 219 housing market areas across 41 states had modest one-bedroom rents that exceeded 100 percent of monthly SSI, including 25 communities with rents over 150 percent. Between 2006-2008, the number of market areas with modest rents higher than SSI rose from 164 to 219—a 34 percent increase. For the first time, there were 3 housing market areas—Honolulu (HI), Columbia City (MD), and Nantucket County (MA)—where SSI recipients needed to spend over 200 percent of their income for a modest 1- bedroom housing unit—not only an impossibility, but absurd.
      • Since 1998, the value of SSI payments compared to median income has declined precipitously—from 24.4 percent of median income in 1998 to 18.6 percent in 2008—while national average rents have skyrocketed. The national average rent for a modest one-bedroom unit rose from $462 in 1998 to $749 in 2008 —an increase of 62 percent.

      We hear you. We know the housing market is tough, so we want to provide you with affordable mobility solutions that save you money and give you the freedom you deserve. What resources are you in need of? Is there anything specific you want information on?

  • Strides in Wheelchair Accessibility

    At Van Products, our goal is that individuals with impaired mobility, whether from birth, a recent accident, or only temporarily during physical therapy, have the comfort of knowing that there are options. We are active proponents of accessibility awareness and want to keep you up to date on accessibility news. Here are a few of the most exciting stories from this spring:

    More Freedom Through Technology: Wheelchair users need the ability to roll across many different types of terrain and researchers at Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering have been studying and testing new technology that will detect different and difficult types of terrain and automatically adjust traction and control settings on a wheelchair so that movement can proceed safely.

    Traveling With Ease Locally and Internationally: Don’t be daunted by traveling in your wheelchair. We’ve collected a few of our favorite travel tips to highlight a few exciting opportunities.

    University and Workplace Handicap Accommodations: The Raleigh area is home to three universities and each one has distinctive services which they offer to those students who may be disabled.

    Each day at Van Products we come into work and have the privilege of guiding people through the process of bringing mobility into their lives. We want to do everything in our power to make accessibility a priority in America. Well-equipped handicapped accessible vans are the first step to getting you moving.

  • Summer Vacations: Traveling With a Wheelchair

    wheelchair accessible beach vacationSummer in North Carolina means grabbing your sunscreen, slipping into your swimsuit and heading to the coast to soak up the sunshine.
    Heading to the beach is a great chance to spend time with family and friends and get a change of scenery. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy relaxing on the beach.
    Check out our beach access guide for tips on planning your getaway:

    • Make sure the beach has accessible ramps. Some beaches also offer surf chairs.
    • Once you are on the beach, make sure your chair can navigate safely in surf and soft sand. You may want to consider purchasing or leasing an all-terrain wheelchair.
    • When booking your hotel, describe the specific features you need, such as a roll-in shower and elevator access. Don’t be afraid to ask for measurements like door width, bed height or floor plan.
    • Take a chance to research restaurants in the area, and call ahead to make sure they are handicap accessible.
    • Beach communities are more than just sand and surf, so look for other accessible activities like miniature golf, parks,or museums.

    Living in the Tar Heel State means the beach is just a short drive away. Van Products wants to help you get there. Give us a call today to hear more about our fleet of wheelchair vans.

  • Overcoming Mobility Challenges: Testaments to the Human Spirit

    “Disability.” For many, the word is loaded with preconceived notions. By definition meaning an inability to pursue an occupation because of a physical or mental impairment, disqualification, restriction, or disadvantage. Unfortunately, the word disability is often synonymous with idea of inability. To us, that seems like the wrong perspective to have. Mobility impairment, for example, may be challenging, but has produced some of the most inspirational stories and unique experiences (like wheelchair tai chi!) around.

    This happens because there are people who completely redefine the meaning of disability. These people achieve, succeed, and excel both in spite and because of their disabilities. Refusing to cower in the shadow of their seeming disadvantages, these people provide testaments to the indomitable human spirit that can rise to the challenge and surpass it.

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt The 32nd President of the United States and the only president to serve four terms in office, F.D. Roosevelt is one of the most beloved U.S. presidents, as well as one of the most admired U.S. citizens. Diagnosed with polio (or Guillain-Barre syndrome), Roosevelt became paralyzed from the waist down. However, he taught himself how to walk using iron leg braces. Undeterred by his illness, he was best known for successfully leading the United States through the Great Depression and WWII (as depicted in the clip below from the movie Pearl Harbor).

    Bethany Hamilton Now a professional surfer and award-winning athlete, Bethany Hamilton’s career could have been cut short after a shark bit off her left arm. However, rather than abandoning her dreams, Bethany kept surfing, winning 1st place in the 2005 NSSA National Championships and, in 2008, started competing professionally in the Association of Surfing Professionals. Her determination has made nationwide news as she has been featured on such shows as 20/20, Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Tonight Show, and many others.

    Stephen Hawking Diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease at 21, Stephen Hawking subsequently lost his abilities to walk, talk, swallow, hold his head upright, and breathe without assistance, leaving him almost completely paralyzed. Despite these physical barriers, Hawking became a world-renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist whose work is not known only within academia, but also within popular culture through his various publications. Hawking is best known for his contributions to the fields of cosmology and quantum gravity, specifically related to his knowledge of black holes.

    What is your favorite success story? What motivates you to overcome challenges?

  • Mobility Caregiver Tips: Making Your Home Wheelchair Friendly

    Renovating a home for wheelchair accessibility can seem handicap accessibilityoverwhelming, but Van Products offers a few tips on how you can turn a challenge into an opportunity to create freedom of movement in, around and out of the home for a wheelchair user.

    Ramps are important Most homes have steps toward an entrance. Installing front, side and even back ramps will give a wheelchair user greater opportunities for independence. Be sure to screen contractors and ramp providers carefully to get a long-lasting and safe product.

    Smooth floors, ease of flow between rooms Remove all loose rugs and carpets, and check transitions between rooms for ease of movement and safety. Study the furniture placement, and use a chair to test the width of different pathways in the home.

    Check your bathroom for function Roll-in showers are available for purchase, or a plumber may be able to adapt your current shower. Specially made bathtubs, with a rise of just a few inches, are examples of products available for ease of use. These kinds of tubs fill and empty water quickly.

    Access to technology, the basicsmobility products Use universal remote controls for televisions and other electronic devices. Adding “Clapper” devices to turn lights on and off will also allow wheelchair users control of conditions when entering or exiting a room.

    Check your dining arrangement Arrange your seating to create space and ease of movement for a wheelchair around your table and kitchen area so the wheelchair user can assist with meal preparation and cleanup, if they so choose.

    Getting from one place to another inside or outside the home doesn’t have to be challenging or frustrating. Explore the opportunities that wheelchair vans can provide. Whether you decide to rent a van or purchase, let Van Products assist you.

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