For companies looking for safe and dependable transportation for passengers of all abilities, accessible minivans provide great value. Drivers have ample space to accommodate both wheelchair and ambulatory passengers without sacrificing maneuverability.
There are two common types of minivan conversions: rear-entry and side-entry. While both offer accessibility, rear-entry vans are quickly becoming the preferred choice for commercial fleets and caregivers. Here’s why a rear-entry minivan is the better choice for many mobility customers.
More Cuts and Options
A minivan is made accessible by upfitting an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) vehicle to include a ramp, wheelchair retractors and tie down, and other alterations. For example, FR Conversions produces conversions on two OEM minivans: the Toyota Sienna and the Chrysler Pacifica/Voyager.
The Chrysler Pacifica/Voyager rear-entry conversion is built in two different cuts (or conversion sizes): a Short Cut and a Long Cut. The Short Cut can accommodate a single wheelchair while the Long Cut fits two wheelchairs or a stretcher. FR also builds a side-entry conversion on the Chrysler Pacifica/Voyager that accommodates a wheelchair user in the driver, front-passenger, and second-row positions.
FR Conversions’ Toyota Sienna can be built as a Short-Cut and Long-Cut as well. The company offers Sienna rear-entry conversions on both the previous generation fuel minivan and on the current hybrid model. The hybrid Sienna combines accessibility and fuel economy, which makes a lot of sense for vehicle fleets looking to reduce operating costs.
Easier Passenger Entry & Orientation
One of the biggest differences between rear- and side-entry minivans is, of course, the point on the frame through which wheelchair passengers enter.
In a side-entry minivan, wheelchair passengers enter via sliding doors on the curbside of the vehicle. This provides curbside access, allowing a customer to take a wheelchair passenger from a sidewalk or driveway directly into the van via the ramp. But since the wheelchair passenger enters perpendicularly to the vehicle, they must rotate 45 degrees once inside to face forward, thus increasing load-in time. Unlike rear-entries, side-entry minivans allow for the wheelchair passenger to be seated as the front passenger. While this configuration may make sense for some families, it’s not a benefit for transit agencies.
In a rear-entry minivan, wheelchair passengers enter via the rear of the vehicle. They are already facing forward, so there is no need to reorient upon entering. This allows for faster loading and unloading of passengers compared to side-entry vans. Rear-entry vans feature a lightweight, spring-assisted manual ramp — which means there are no motorized parts that can potentially wear down.
In Short Cut rear-entry conversions, the wheelchair passenger is secured in the third row, with the second row available for ambulatory passengers. In a Long Cut, the wheelchair passenger is seated in the middle of the second row with two ambulatory passengers on either side. (A second wheelchair can fit immediately behind, in the third row.)
No matter the cut, ambulatory passengers utilize the side doors to enter just like they would in an unconverted vehicle, making rear-entry vans much more conducive to taxi commissions and other businesses that transport a multitude of different passengers each day.
Value, Safety and Usability
FR Conversions prides itself on delivering exceptional value, safety, and usability with all of its vehicles — and this is particularly true of our rear-entry models. No one understands both commercial and caregiver needs quite like FR. Our rear-entry vehicles:
- are manufactured by way of a minimally-invasive conversion process that involves far fewer parts than a side-entry conversion
- retain the maximum number of OEM components, making replacement and warranty issues quick and easy to resolve
- feature superior driving dynamics identical to that of an unconverted van
- have a “no rattle” ramp to provide a whisper-quiet ride
- benefit from an exterior powder coating for rust mitigation
- meet and exceed safety standards and are subjected to rigorous crash testing
- are quality controlled through vertically-integrated production — keeping drivers in the field and generating revenue
For these reasons and many more, a rear-entry accessible minivan could be the best option for your mobility needs. To find out for sure, contact us today.