If you or a loved one are disabled and depend on a wheelchair or other mobility aid, your independence and quality of life can greatly suffer if you don’t have a car or van that allows you to get around. Lacking a wheelchair-accessible vehicle may mean you can’t consistently go to work, run errands, visit friends and family, get to doctor appointments, and otherwise do the things people need to do from day to day.
Handicapped-accessible vehicles are no ordinary vehicles. There are plenty of different accessibility modifications and technologies installed, like ramps and lifts, wheelchair restraint systems, lowered floors, and state-of-the-art hand controls, just to name some. And while these adaptations provide increased freedom for people with disabilities, they also drive up the van or car’s purchasing price.
Accessible vehicles tend to be fairly expensive. So, many people who could greatly benefit simply go without, assuming that such a vehicle is out of reach. This is particularly true since many people living with disabilities have to get by on tight budgets.
However, if you know where to look, there are lots of sources of financial assistance that can put a wheelchair-accessible vehicle within reach.
Mobility Van Dealers
Dealers may have a reputation for squeezing consumers for as much money as possible, but your mobility dealer can be an excellent ally when it comes to saving you money. Professional dealers serving people with disabilities are typically well acquainted with a variety of local resources that can help pay for your accessible vehicle. Many even assist with paperwork. After all, they want to sell you a vehicle, so it’s also to their benefit to help you as much as possible.
A number of Federal programs offer financial assistance for purchasing a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. Information and aid are administered through state chapters. All of the following organizations have divisions in every state and are worth inquiring with:
- Aging and Disabilities Resource Centers
- Americans with Disabilities Act Centers
- Area Agencies on Aging
- The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
- Statewide Independent Living Councils
- Department of Health and Human Services
Other possibilities may exist, depending on your circumstances. If you deal with any particular Federal agency, ask if they can help or direct you to relevant resources. For just a few examples:
- If you need a handicapped-accessible vehicle to get to your job, your state’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation may be able to help
- If you or your loved one’s disability is a result of US military service, there’s a good chance you qualify for monetary support through the VA
- If you or your loved one collects disability pay through the Social Security Administration, you might qualify for aid through its Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) mobility program
No matter what disability you or your loved one suffers from, there is almost certainly at least one major association dedicated to awareness, research, fundraising, and patient support. These organizations sometimes directly administer grants, low-interest loans, or other forms of financial aid. But even those that don’t can steer you toward appropriate local, state, and/or national resources and possibly even assist you in dealing with them and filling out required forms.
If you have a minor son or daughter with a disability, many charitable children’s organizations are standing by to help your family and to improve your child’s quality of life. Below are several examples of well-known organizations in this category that can help you acquire a handicapped-accessible van or car:
- The Administration for Children and Families
- The Disabled Children’s Relief Fund
- Easter Seals
- The Midwest Special Needs Trust
- The M.O.R.G.A.N. Project
- The President’s Choice Children’s Charity
- The United Healthcare Children’s Foundation
Applying for Financial Assistance
When you identify potential sources of financial aid for buying a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, talk to a representative about your eligibility. You can potentially lose a lot of time and cause some unnecessary stress applying for aid that you don’t qualify for if you miss something in the fine print.
Once you determine your eligibility, proceed carefully through the application process. It’s different from organization to organization, and some are far lengthier and more complicated than others. Pay close attention to the instructions and submit all the documentation and information required.
Be persistent and send out as many applications as you can. Keep copies of everything, and stay organized. Good luck!