Navigating life in a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) can significantly enhance the freedom and independence of individuals with mobility challenges. This guide focuses on the practical aspects of operating WAVs, offering detailed insights to empower you to confidently utilise these vehicles, thereby enhancing your quality of life.

Getting to Know Your WAV

Before diving into operation, it’s crucial to familiarise yourself with the unique features of your WAV. This includes understanding the ramp or lift system, the wheelchair securing mechanisms, and any customised controls designed to accommodate drivers and passengers with mobility challenges.

Operating Your WAV  – Vehicle Entry and Exit 

Using Ramps and Lifts

To ensure safe and smooth entry and exit for wheelchair users, it’s essential to familiarise yourself with your WAV’s ramp or lift operation. Follow these steps:

  1. Deploying the Ramp/Lift: Engage the ramp or lift mechanism by either manually unfolding the ramp or using the automated control switch for the lift. Ensure the device fully extends and securely locks into place before use.
  2. Boarding: Guide the wheelchair onto the ramp or lift platform, heading in straight to avoid tilting. When the wheelchair is positioned at the bottom of the ramp, the electric inertia belts should be attached to the front of the wheelchair, using the tested belt points, before the wheelchair is pushed into the vehicle (this does not apply to lift conversions).  Wheelchairs are pushed onto and off of the lift without the attachment of belts. For lifts, press the button to raise the platform once the wheelchair is securely positioned
  3. Retracting: After entering the WAV, retract the ramp manually by folding it back into its storage position, or use the lift’s controls to lower the empty platform back into its resting position.

Adjusting Seating Arrangements

To accommodate wheelchairs comfortably and safely, WAVs offer flexible seating configurations. Consider these adjustments:

  • Remove or Reconfigure Seats: Some WAVs have removable or foldable seats to create space for the wheelchair. Use the designated levers or buttons to adjust these seats accordingly. If seats are adjusted within the vehicle then it is imperative these are locked securely into place before use and the vehicle is driven.
  • Secure the Wheelchair Space: Ensure the designated wheelchair area is clear of obstacles and the floor is flat to provide a stable base for the wheelchair.

Securing the Wheelchair  – Positioning and Locking

Once inside, position the wheelchair in the designated space, typically marked on the floor. Use the following steps to secure it:

  1. Secure Position: The wheels on the wheelchair should not be locked when inside the vehicle – the attachment of the front belts when outside the vehicle stops it from rolling.
  2. Use Securing Straps: Attach the wheelchair securing straps to the designated points on the wheelchair frame. After attaching the wheelchair belts the user’s lap and diagonal belt should be used.  It should come across the shoulder and across the stomach – it should not rest on the armrests of the wheelchair. Tighten the straps until there’s no slack, ensuring the wheelchair remains stationary during transit.

Safety Checks

Before starting your journey, perform these safety checks:

  • Verify Strap Security: Double-check that all straps are tightly secured and the wheelchair is immovable.
  • Check Occupant Safety: Ensure the occupant has their seatbelt on and that it’s properly adjusted for comfort and safety.

Driving Your WAV

Adaptive Driving Controls

WAVs may be equipped with adaptive driving controls to accommodate drivers with mobility challenges. These can include:

  • Hand Controls: For those unable to use traditional pedals, hand controls allow for the operation of brakes and accelerator using levers mounted near the steering wheel.
  • Steering Aids: Attachable aids make steering easier for drivers with limited arm strength or range of motion.

Manoeuvring and Parking

Driving a larger WAV requires additional consideration:

  • Practice Makes Perfect: Spend time practicing driving your WAV in a safe, open area to get accustomed to its size and handling.
  • Parking: Look for designated accessible parking spaces that provide extra room for deploying ramps or lifts.

Utilising Advanced Features

Leverage your WAV’s technology to enhance your driving experience:

  • Navigation Systems: Use built-in GPS or smartphone apps for directions and traffic updates, making travel easier and more efficient.
  • Backup Cameras: These provide a clear view of the area behind your WAV, essential for safely reversing and parking.

Customisation for Comfort

Customise your WAV for maximum comfort and accessibility:

  • Ergonomic Adjustments: Consider seat cushions or steering wheel covers designed for comfort during long drives.
  • Personalisation: Add personal touches like interior lighting or custom storage solutions to make your WAV feel more like home.

Maintenance Tips for Your WAV – Regular Check-Ups

Regular maintenance checks are crucial for the longevity and reliability of your Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle. Focus on these key components:

  • Lift/Ramp Mechanism: Inspect the lift or ramp regularly for any signs of wear or damage. Lubricate moving parts according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure smooth operation.
  • Wheelchair Securement System: Check the straps, belts, and other securement devices for fraying, wear, or damage. Replace any compromised components immediately to maintain safety.
  • Adaptive Equipment: Test all adaptive driving controls, such as hand controls or steering aids, to ensure they are functioning correctly. Look for any signs of looseness or difficulty in operation that could indicate a need for adjustment or repair.

Scheduling regular professional inspections can help identify and address issues before they lead to breakdowns, ensuring your WAV remains safe and operational.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Even with diligent maintenance, WAVs can encounter operational challenges. Here’s how to identify and address some common issues:

  • Ramp or Lift Stuck: If the ramp or lift fails to deploy, check for obstructions or debris that may be blocking the mechanism. Review the owner’s manual for troubleshooting steps, which may include resetting the system or checking for electrical issues.
  • Securement System Failure: If straps or securement devices do not hold the wheelchair in place securely, cease using the vehicle and inspect the system for damage. Replace any defective parts and test the system thoroughly before use.
  • Adaptive Control Malfunctions: Should any adaptive driving controls begin to fail, refrain from driving until a professional can assess and repair the issue. These systems are crucial for safe operation, and any malfunction can pose significant risks.

When facing persistent or complex issues, it’s always best to consult with a professional technician who specialises in WAVs. They can provide the expertise needed to ensure your vehicle remains a reliable mode of transport.

By adhering to a regular maintenance schedule and addressing issues promptly, you can ensure that your Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle continues to provide safe, comfortable, and reliable transportation, empowering you to navigate life with confidence and independence.


Operating a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle opens up a new horizon of independence for those with mobility challenges. With the right knowledge and skills, you can master the operation of your WAV, ensuring safe, comfortable, and enjoyable journeys. Embrace the freedom that comes with understanding and utilising your WAV to its fullest potential.


FAQs on Operating and Maintaining a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV)

Q: How do I properly use the ramp or lift on my WAV?
A: To use the ramp or lift, ensure it’s fully extended and securely locked in place before use. For ramps, guide the wheelchair in straight to avoid tilting. For lifts, secure the wheelchair on the platform, then raise or lower it using the controls. Always follow the specific instructions provided by your WAV manufacturer.

Q: Can I adjust the seating in my WAV to accommodate a wheelchair?
A: Yes, many WAVs have flexible seating configurations that allow you to remove or reconfigure seats to create space for a wheelchair. Use the designated levers or buttons to adjust the seats, ensuring they are locked securely in place before driving.

Q: How do I secure a wheelchair inside a WAV?
A: Position the wheelchair in the designated space and use securing straps attached to the frame of the wheelchair. Tighten the straps to remove slack, ensuring the wheelchair remains stationary during transit. Always double-check strap security before starting your journey.

Q: What adaptive driving controls are available for WAV drivers?
A: WAVs may be equipped with adaptive controls such as hand controls for brakes and accelerators, steering aids for those with limited arm strength, and other modifications to assist with driving. Familiarize yourself with these controls and practice using them in a safe area.

Q: What should I consider when driving and parking a WAV?
A: Practice driving your WAV to get accustomed to its size and handling. When parking, look for accessible parking spaces that provide extra room for deploying ramps or lifts. Utilize your WAV’s backup cameras and navigation systems to aid in safe maneuvering and parking.

Q: How can I customize my WAV for comfort?
A: Consider ergonomic adjustments such as comfortable seat cushions or steering wheel covers, and personalize your WAV with interior lighting or custom storage solutions to enhance comfort and make your WAV feel more like home.

Q: What maintenance checks should I perform on my WAV?
A: Regularly inspect the lift or ramp mechanism, wheelchair securement system, and adaptive driving controls for signs of wear or damage. Schedule regular professional inspections to address any issues and ensure the reliability and safety of your WAV.

Q: What should I do if I encounter operational issues with my WAV?
A: For issues like a stuck ramp or lift, check for obstructions and refer to your owner’s manual for troubleshooting. If securement systems fail or adaptive controls malfunction, consult a professional technician specializing in WAVs for assessment and repair.

Q: Where can I find professional maintenance and repair services for my WAV?
A: Seek out technicians or service centers that specialize in WAVs. Many WAV dealerships offer maintenance and repair services, or they can recommend trusted professionals who are experienced in handling WAV-specific issues.

Q: How does proper operation and maintenance of my WAV enhance my mobility?
A: Mastering the operation of your WAV and adhering to a regular maintenance schedule ensures that your vehicle remains a reliable mode of transport. This enhances your independence, safety, and the overall quality of life by allowing you to confidently navigate life with mobility challenges.





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