An ever-increasing number of drivers are choosing electric or hybrid vehicles and with the Government set to ban the sale of all brand-new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 this trend will continue to grow year on year.
The popular and supportive Motability Scheme now has a number of electric vehicles available for its scheme participants ranging from small about town cars, to larger SUV’s and WAVs able to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, lifts and ramps.
Some of the major car brands, have in early 2021, made bold statements as to their vehicle portfolio in the next few years. JLR has stated that they will only offer new electric vehicles from 2025 with Volvo hot on their heels citing 2030. As there seems to be no escaping the growing number of EV’s on our roads we provide a little helpful info on what it truly means for disabled drivers.
The beauty of electric vehicles is that the search for disability and wheelchair friendly fuel stations will be eradicated, and as the popularity of EV’s grows, the infrastructure to support charging whilst you are out and about will become a whole lot easier too.
Whilst there had been some negative press towards the end of last year many of the charging point producers, installers and operators are now ensuring charging points are wheelchair accessible and that simple considerations are made such as dropped kerbs, position of charging technology and that the weight of the cables and other important factors are taken into account to ensure the accessible network is more robust.
If you use your car for work, many workplaces are beginning to support their staff by the installation of charging points. Furthermore, places such as railway stations are also appreciating the benefits of having charging points for their commuters with an increasing number of stations providing several points.
But the most important part of effective charging is having a charging point at home. With many EV’s able to do upwards of 200 miles per charge depending on traffic conditions, speed etc, plugging in every day at home is sufficient and practical for many.
To facilitate this there is currently a Government plug-in grant available through the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) which helps drivers install one of the fast-charging solutions at home. Proven to be much safer than the three-pin ‘trickle charge’ option, the Government are actively supporting home charging point installation wherever possible.
Given that it is only just over a two years ago since the first accessible charging point was installed we know that there is still much to do. But just like anything, if the demand is there, providers generally deliver.
Having home charging options also means that the car is able to maintain a high level of charge to give driver confidence when undertaking short to mid length journeys. It is perfectly possible to have a mobility vehicle as an EV – all you need to do is ensure you don’t run out of power, just as you would ensure you didn’t run out of petrol or diesel in days gone by.
However, perhaps the greatest challenge that disabled and WAV drivers face is the challenge of ensuring accessible charging points are available. Currently online portals such as ZapMap and PodPoint don’t actually specify whether the point is accessible and for whom – for us this is the greatest improvement that could be made to ensure that disabled and WAV drivers embrace EVs as desired by the Government and car manufacturers.
Electric and the environment
It’s fair to say that some of the practicalities are still being ironed out to make electric motoring easy and completely hassle free for all, not just disabled drivers, however the environmental benefits are unquestionable.
They emit less greenhouse gases and air pollutants and as the UK continues its shift towards energy generation from other natural sources rather than fossil fuels, the way in which we charge them is also better for us and better for the planet.
One area that is still requiring some more in-depth research is the effect that powered lifts for wheelchair users will have on the battery life of electric vehicles. We expect that, because our lifts use relatively little power anyway, that the effect will be small.
Although, whatever your current viewpoint electric vehicles are here to stay. They are the future of motoring across the globe and we all need to find ways to make the entire system work for us all – manufacturers, charging company’s, owners and drivers.
Equipping your vehicle to allow you to travel, either independently or as a passenger, is vitally important to wheelchair and scooter users. It ensures daily tasks such as work and shopping, or simply visiting places and people can be undertaken and, above all, enjoyed.
The team at Faiveley Vapor Ricon work hard to develop a comprehensive range of ramps, lifts and accessibility vehicle aids to suit all requirements and vehicles, but when it comes to looking for one to suit your needs it can often seem a little daunting.
However, our team are well versed in advising convertors and their valued customers on the best product available for them. Here’s a few things to think about so that together we can find the right vehicle solution for you.
What’s the difference between a ramp and a lift in terms of what they offer me?
Our lifts and ramps permit access in a variety of ways and gives vehicle providers choice in the type of access assistance they provide. Lifts are available to cope with the most rigorous demands with lightweight options available which offer unparalleled interior access with their non-intrusive space saving footprint.
An alternative way of accessing the vehicle is the installation of a ramp which offers economical access for a variety of vehicle types. Suited for wheelchair and mobility scooter users, the ramps permit greater independence, have easy to use controls, are lightweight and are easily removed from vehicles when not required.
How easy are they to fit and do I need a particular type of vehicle?
Our ramps and lifts are all easy to install – we ensure the right equipment is specified for your exact requirements and one of our third party convertors will install the lift or ramp for you and support you with ongoing maintenance. There is not a specific brand or model of vehicle that you need, however we can advise on equipment sizes and the vehicles available that will accommodate most.
How do I travel safely once inside the vehicle?
We have a number of winches, restraints and specially adapted floor options to ensure your wheelchair or mobility scooter can be firmly anchored in the vehicle. This will ensure that you, and other vehicle occupants can travel safely and that as a passenger your ride can be smooth and pleasant.
As a driver, what options do I have?
Our hugely popular Six-way Power Transfer Seat makes the transfer from wheelchair to either driver or passenger seat convenient and easy, saving valuable time and ensuring safety at all times and enhancing independence for its users.
Easy to install, the seat base can be fitted in new vehicles or as a retro-fit product and, with its easy to operate fingertip controls, the seat can be pivoted in six different directions giving users a tailor made approach to alighting and disembarking vehicles.
A happy customer
Fiona Briglmen, who has an Auto Electronic Ramp, part of our R Series range, found our ramp to be particularly beneficial in accommodating her Terrain Hopper wheelchair.
“I find it hard to explain just what a difference this has made to my everyday life – exercising my assistance dog and just getting out on my own without having to rely on other people,” said Fiona Briglmen. “It is this type of ‘can do’ attitude and determination to find workable solutions that has set Faiveley Vapor Ricon apart from all its competitors. I cannot praise them enough and look forward to working with them in the future.”
Our aim is to try and minimise the stress and worry that travel can bring by developing reliable, easy to use products that really do make life more simple for everyone who uses them. It’s important to us that we play our part in making the world not only more accessible, but accessible with comfort and simplicity so that everything from daily tasks to foreign holidays have the potential to be safe and accessible with ease.
These are unprecedented times for everyone but we appreciate that there may be some that will find the current situation more challenging than others.
We will continue to support our customers and update our social media channels in the usual fashion.
However, whilst we may be experts in lifts, ramps and accessing transport solutions, we are not in how to handle the current health situation. But there are lots of people that are so, we thought it would be useful to put together a list of links that we think you may find helpful.
Clearly, the information is changing daily so it’s important that you keep checking to ensure you stay up to date.
Stay safe and we’ll stay in touch bringing you our usual mix of anything we think you may find helpful.
UK Government – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults
If you are supporting disabled workers this may be useful – https://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/media-centre/news/coronavirus-advice-for-supporting-disabled-employees-and-customers/
Sometimes, amid all the preparations for the big day, it’s a great idea to step back a little and indulge in some festive fun! Whether it’s a trip to a bustling Christmas market for food, festivities and fizz; or a more gentle approach with a visit to a stately home, there is lots to do across the UK.
We take a look at some of the most popular, all of which provide accessibility in different ways.
Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London
One of the biggest Christmas events these people have really thought about how to make it fun for all. There are access ramps, accessible toilets, allocated disabled car parks and even a wheelchair access pod on the giant wheel! It’s a great festive frenzy and with something for just about everyone much fun can be had whether you visit for an hour or the entire day.
Frankfurt Christmas Market, Birmingham
On until 23rd December, this amazing market is a cacophony of all things Christmas – food, music, drink and gifts as well as Santa too. There is an accessible route that avoids steps and accessible toilets so a visit here can be a true pleasure.
Edinburgh Christmas Market, Scotland
Whilst some of the gradients here are quite steep almost all of the market is accessible with ramps at all entrances, access parking and accessible toilets. The Christmas tree maze is wheelchair accessible as is Santa Land, and sensory back packs are available in two sizes for children and adults.
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
One of the most popular stately homes when it comes to Christmas, this year’s theme is Amelia Earhart and Phileas Fogg. The house is accessible and, should you wish to view the gardens too, an accessible route can be provided. Eight wheelchairs are available for hire but should be booked in advance. And, for the first time this year, quiet days have been held; the second and final one will take place on 2nd January 2020.
Lapland UK, Berkshire
Yes, you read this right; there is a little bit of Lapland in a forest near Ascot! With rave reviews, it’s a wonderful experience to see just what Santa and his Elves do and what a lot of work they have to undertake each year to make Christmas magical for everyone. Whilst the experience is accessible it is worthy of note that it is in a forest environment and therefore is subject to individual requirements as to whether it is deemed suitable for your own personal needs. It is particularly recommended that you call or email ahead to determine suitability, access and facilities.
Santa’s Snowflake Grotto, Westfield Shopping Centre
What’s not to like about Santa’s Grotto and this one is simply spectacular. Visitors are transported to the Snow Factory where the Elves make all the snow in the world, and they can also visit Santa and make their own Christmas decoration. The experience is fully accessible although it is recommended that each wheelchair user has their own helper; admission for the helper is free though.
Cardiff Christmas Market, Wales
If you fancy getting a fix of a Christmas Market and are around South Wales the Cardiff Christmas Market is certainly an option. There is Blue Badge Parking and a free City Centre Mobility Scheme that takes elderly and disable passengers around the pedestrianised zones of the market. There is a number of accessible toilets although opening times should be determined prior to your visit as it does depend on the time of day and night that you are there.
Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, Lake District
Imagine boarding a train and taking a magical Christmas journey complete with Santa and his Elves. This scenic rail route is guaranteed to put you all in the festive mood and is pretty much accessible. Stations at the beginning and end have accessible toilets and eating facilities with wheelchair accessible carriages available for pre-booking.
Wherever you visit this festive season and whatever you do we always recommend doing your own research and calling ahead to ascertain if the visit will suit your own personal needs or those of the person you’re going to surprise.
Wishing you all the happiest of Seasons!
Emmie Roberts at Courtside Conversions, a customer of ours who supports WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicles) users across the UK, discusses what to consider when choosing a WAV and the benefits that can be enjoyed.
Having the vehicular provision to travel brings a new dimension to the lives of many wheelchair users. It restores a sense of independence that may have been temporarily inhibited and for many can permit the return to a more independent lifestyle.
Many people living in rural locations are not serviced by regular public transport routes and can become more isolated and find it difficult to get reasonable connections for basic activities like shopping or going to a barbers/hairdresser. Courtside Conversions supply vehicles to Community Transport groups across the UK, these fantastic organisations which are often supported by volunteer drivers offer an invaluable service helping to create a positive impact on individual wellbeing by reducing loneliness and isolation and improving general quality of life for those which otherwise would not be able to get out and about.
But what do you need to consider when choosing a WAV?
Depending on the use of the vehicle there are a few fundamental considerations that must be made. For example, a vehicle which is going to transport a couple of disabled school children every day is likely to require a very different specification to a vehicle which will be transporting patients on a stretcher bed, perhaps to and from hospital. Different platform lengths and safe working loads are an important consideration.
Many vehicles can be adapted now to support wheelchair travel providing they offer enough space and enough access through the rear doors. When a smaller vehicle is adapted perhaps for individual use, due to the low roof, the floor of the vehicle is lowered to increase headroom for the wheelchair passenger and to ensure that the ramp is not too steep.
Courtside do offer vehicles already adapted for sale but prefer to build each vehicle to the customer’s exact specification and requirements. There are other companies in the industry which offer strict specifications which cannot be changed, but having the flexibility to make changes to things is likely to result in a wheelchair accessible vehicle that fits the purpose rather than making the purpose fit the vehicle, which can have negative effects on the wheelchair users.
When choosing your vehicle, you should consider the type of wheelchair access you would like installed. Courtside can fit wheelchair ramps, internal lifts or under floor lifts but some models are only suited to particular access options. Manual ramps for example, are only suitable for a handful of front-wheel drive vehicles. If a ramp was fitted to a rear wheel drive vehicle the ramp gradient would be far too steep. When fitting a ramp we normally accompany this with an electric winch to help pull the wheelchair into the saloon of the vehicle. The type and weight of the wheelchairs being transported is also an important consideration.
Courtside can recommend which type of vehicle would be best for you. These days almost all vehicles can be converted in some form or shape, however there are particular vehicles which are more suited to a wheelchair accessible conversion.
Safe and Secure
Safety is also of the highest consideration and securing the wheelchair during travel is imperative. This can be achieved with restraints and a range of system components can ensure the correct solution is found for differing requirements and vehicles.
This of course can differ between domestic and commercial use vehicles and the team at Courtside Conversions is on hand to offer support and guidance pertaining to individual and legislative requirements.
Conversion companies are also well placed to offer advice on the types of lifts, ramps, hoists and vehicles available and the configurations that can make vehicles work for a whole host of needs.
As with your vehicle, it is important to ensure the ongoing maintenance of all components of vehicle support equipment. Each manufacturer will have individual servicing requirements to continue the validation of the guarantee but we, along with other conversion operators can support this process to ensure your vehicle continues to offer the support and assistance you demand from it.
The Lifting Operations Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) are a set of regulations created under the Health and Safety at Work Act and is legislation which covers the use of lifting equipment. The purpose of the regulations was to reduce the risk of injury from lifting equipment used at work
Owners or people responsible for the safe operation of a lift at work are known as ‘dutyholders’ and have a responsibility to ensure that the lift has been thoroughly examined and is safe to use. Lifts when in use should be thoroughly examined every six months if, at any time, the lift has been used to carry people.
The benefits that WAV’s bring are immeasurable in terms of independent or supported travel, the ability to enjoy employment and social experiences and revoke the perceived limitations that being a wheelchair user has.
The conversion process is simple and straightforward and by choosing an experienced company like Courtside Conversions it can be just a matter of weeks until a whole new world of travel and accessibility is unlocked.
As one of the market leaders for vehicular access, Faiveley Vapor Ricon enjoys strong relationships with many well-known brands operating in the disabled marketplace – especially those serving wheelchair-users. One of these is Enable Holidays – the award-winning specialists for accessible holidays abroad.
We’re delighted that Enable’s managing director, Lynne Kirby, has agreed to be our first guest blogger here by providing her five top tips for planning a stress-free accessible holiday.
Five Top Tips for Planning an Accessible Holiday Without the Stress
Planning a wheelchair-friendly holiday shouldn’t be stressful but unfortunately, sometimes, it is. Finding, booking and planning it all can put some people off entirely – and we can definitely understand why. To make it easier for you, I’ve written up five of our top tips for a stress-free accessible holiday.
1) Decide what type of accessible holiday you’re looking for.
While looking at destination photos might be a bit more fun, taking the time to consider which type of holiday will best suit you is an important first step. Relaxing on an accessible beach is ideal for some people, but you might prefer the idea of a river cruise or a city break full of sight-seeing opportunities. Before you start planning the finer details, make your decision on this.
2) Find your dream destinations (yes, more than one).
Grab a notepad and a cup of tea, open up our Destinations page and make a list of the places you’d most like to visit. Are you all about Amsterdam? Ready to leave your heart in San Francisco? Looking to go to Ibiza for a party in the Mediterranean Sea? Don’t just look at photographs – ask friends where they’ve travelled to, read up on the accessible activities on offer in the locations you’re interested in and don’t forget to factor in flight time (we offer short-haul and long-haul destinations, and even UK options, so you can choose what’s best for you). The more choices you have written down, the better – it’ll make things easier later down the line, especially when cost becomes a factor.
3) Think about the type of accommodation you want.
There are so many options for accommodation – from self-catering apartments and villas to 5* luxury hotels. The accommodation you choose will be your home away from home while you’re abroad, so it’s worth thinking about it and making sure it’s what you want.
It’s not just the style of adapted accommodation that’s so key here – there are other factors to consider, too. Think about how close you’d like to be to shops and attractions, and whether your preferred accommodation choice will have the right accessible features for your mobility requirements.
When you book with Enable Holidays, our advisors will take the time to talk through these factors with you and use their knowledge to find the best options for you. Since we carry out our own accessibility audits, we’ll be able to advise you on everything from door widths to bed heights, and we guarantee the adapted accommodation when you book, so there won’t be any nasty last-minute surprises.
4) Get your details ready.
If you’re a wheelchair-user, make sure you have detailed measurements of your chair to hand during the planning stages – we can use these measurements to find the best airlines and accommodation options for you and it’ll take the hassle out of the later stages of the process for you. If you’re taking any other equipment or medical supplies, make a list of these details, too, to streamline the planning stages.
5) Make sure you’ve got it covered.
Remember to ensure your passport will be in-date, any visas you might need are arranged and you’ve got insurance to cover things like medical emergencies, travel delays, the loss of valuables and any damage that may happen to your mobility equipment – while these eventualities are unlikely, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you’re travelling to an accessible destination in Europe, getting an EHIC card is a fantastic idea. Our advice is to get one sorted before Brexit if you’re going to need one, as that increases your chances of being able to use it after the UK leaves the EU.
We’ll be here for you every step of the way and take the stress out of planning your holiday – we want you to enjoy your accessible holiday, not worry about it, which is what really sets us apart.
Easter is always a great school holiday to enjoy but this year it’s particularly great due to the fact that it falls so late in the typical time period.
This means that the weather should be better and the days longer giving more time for fun activities and visits to new places.
To make these days out as much fun as possible we know that accessibility and facilities for wheelchair users will make all the difference. And, with that in mind, we’ve found a handful of visitor attractions that are really geared up for making it a great day out for all the family.
A walk on the wild side
London Zoo has the accreditation of being the most accessible visitor attraction in the UK; not bad given that it’s been open for over 170 years and has 12 listed buildings! It just goes to show that where there’s a will there’s a way and there are also several accessible facilities to make visits as enjoyable as possible. Meanwhile, the UK’s first ‘walk through’ safari park, Yorkshire Wildlife Park, is fully accessible with many facilities to support wheelchair and disabled visitors.
Art and culture
A little bit of art and culture goes along way and we are blessed with some fantastic museums and art galleries across the country.
The iconic Tate Modern in London was given a high rating as an accessible visitor attraction in Euan’s Guide whilst Motability listed the best accessible museums in the country including Churchill War Rooms in London and the International Slavery Museum in London.
Many smaller attractions have also given great consideration to the accessibility of their visitor attractions not just in a physical and practical sense but also in terms of supporting those who have limited hearing or sight such as permitting guide dogs, induction loops and Changing Places facilities.
A right royal occasion
Royal Yacht Britannia is a wonderful trip down memory lane and a great insight into the place where the Queen spent many happy years with her family. De-commissioned in 1997 her home is now on the waterfront, just minutes from the City of Edinburgh. Surprisingly accessible it’s a great experience with a central lift taking you to all floors. And if your wheelchair is less than 670mm wide, you can enjoy the whole tour and even tea, cake or a delicious lunch on board.
We know that there are lots of places to visit near where you all live and our advice is to always call ahead, or visit the website to find out everything you may need to know to allow you to have a great day out. We are glad we can play a small part in allowing you to explore and enjoy and if you use one of our ramps or lifts please tweet us a picture @vaporriconltd whilst you are out and about.