Review originally written for the New Mobility Blog and posted here with permission.
I’ve been hearing about the new wheelchair accessible vehicle by the Vehicle Production Group called the MV-1 for about a year now, and actually, when we were in Chicago last week, I saw the semi parked on Navy Pier. Apparently VPG decided to go on a cross-country promotional tour in order to get to Washington, DC in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I had not heard any specifics about this vehicle until I did some hunting around online and it will certainly fill a particular need for the disabled and mobility impaired, but it’s not for everyone.
I’ve mentioned before that I am currently the proud owner of a Braun Entervan and have been absolutely in love with it since I got it over 5 years ago (I had 2 previous accessible minivans of different conversions before, but this one is my favorite). It fits my needs perfectly. The downside is that it’s a very expensive vehicle (and I have a “low end” conversion).
With all the press about the new MV-1, it seems like an appropriate time to write about wheelchair accessible vehicles, what to look for, and how to decide which route to go.
There are other accessible/adaptive vehicle manufacturers besides Braun and generally in the same price range (a new vehicle will begin at $50,000; used wheelchair vans can be purchased via Ebay or wheelchair van dealers for less and sometimes can be quite good deals). Braun (and other) vehicles can be driven by disabled drivers with adapted seating, steering, and gas and brake options (which add to the cost). However, some of those costs can be defrayed by state and federal grants which are designed to help disabled people go to work (to learn more about this, contact the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation in your state). Also, these accessible minivans come from a variety of existing vehicle manufacturers, in particular, Chrysler, GM, and Toyota.
From the looks of things on their website, it seems that the MV-1 will start at about $40,000 for a new vehicle and is designed for the disabled or elderly passenger (*not* primary driver). The accessible vehicle utilized universal design concepts, which means that the design is meant to be used equally as easily for able-bodied and mobility impaired passengers. It is their own vehicle design, not a custom design of an existing car model. One of the positive aspects of the MV-1 is that it also can be multi-purpose, most specifically as part of a taxi or other municipal fleet of cars which can be used by able-bodied and mobility impaired folks alike.
So now we revisit the topic of this post…if the person driving the vehicle is disabled, then going with a Braun is probably the best solution due to the ability to customize the minivan for the person directly. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a vehicle to transport a disabled, wheelchair using person and/or an older family member who no longer drives, the MV-1 is worth looking into with the caveat that it is a brand-new vehicle to the market and not everyone feels comfortable with purchasing the first year model of a new car.