Pros and Cons of Wheelchair Lifts for Commercial Wheelchair Vans

When looking for wheelchair lifts for commercial vans, it can be challenging to know whether a wheelchair lift or a wheelchair ramp van conversion is right for your transportation program.

When looking for wheelchair lifts for commercial vans, it can be challenging to know whether a wheelchair lift or a wheelchair ramp van conversion is right for your transportation program. Commercial wheelchair platform lifts such as the BraunAbility Century Series lift are often installed during wheelchair van conversions. They are designed and tested for use in paratransit applications.

At MoveMobility, we use the BraunAbility Century Series hydraulic wheelchair lift in our PL Classic and TL Classic wheelchair van conversions. While the lift is not the only equipment installed during the van conversion, it is an important one. The lift is the part of the conversion that allows a wheelchair to access the van.

In this article, we will review the pros and cons of a wheelchair lifts for commercial vans.

Wheelchair lifts for commercial vans - Rear access
Image of Rear Lift Ram Promaster

Pros of Wheelchair Lifts for Commercial Vans

Aside from giving wheelchair users direct access to a van, wheelchair lifts for commercial vans have a host of advantages you should consider when deciding if a van with a lift is right for your program.

Minimal user effort required

A powered wheelchair lift does not require much physical effort from drivers or caregivers. In many cases, it can reduce the potential for staff injury. All you need to do is position the wheelchair on the lift, secure the safety belt, and use the hand pendant to control the lift’s movement.

As its name implies, a wheelchair lift elevates the wheelchair to be level with the floor of the vehicle. The passenger then enters the vehicle and is secured for travel. You use the reverse process when the passenger exits the van.

Improved stability

Some wheelchair users may feel insecure riding up and down on a platform lift. To reduce feelings of anxiety, BraunAbility has made its Century Series lift more stable and durable. This provides a smoother raising and lowering experience for users.

Heavy-duty design wheelchair lifts for commercial vans

Heavy-duty wheelchair lifts such as the BraunAbility Century Series are designed for public transit use. This industry-leading lift has a 1,000 lb lifting capacity, which lifts some of the largest and heaviest wheelchairs. A commercial wheelchair lift ensures that your van is accessible to riders with almost any mobility device.

Ford transit with rear hydraulic Braunability lift for wheelchair access by Movemobility
BraunAbility Century Series

Large platform size

Another benefit of a commercial wheelchair lift is its platform size. Wheelchair van lifts come in different platform sizes to best suit the most common mobility needs that you serve.
MoveMobility typically recommends the BraunAbility Century Series platform lift. Being one of the largest commercial platform lifts at 54 inches long and 34 inches wide, this lift accommodates large, heavy wheelchairs.

Accessibility for many mobility needs

Platform wheelchair lifts for commercial vans are not reserved only for wheelchair users. Ramps require physical effort, so going up and down a ramp incline may not be possible for those living with disabilities.

By using a wheelchair lift in your van, you will provide access for individuals using wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and other mobility devices.

Safety features

A tested and certified wheelchair lift has many safety features built into its design. These include a spring-loaded mechanical roll stop, safety belt, and alarm. Each feature is designed to keep your riders safe while using the lift and prevent staff injury.

Cons of Wheelchair Lifts for Commercial Vans

While wheelchair lifts make it easy for drivers and caregivers to load wheelchairs into a van, there are things you should be aware of before deciding whether a lift or ramp conversion will best suit your clients’ transportation needs.

Wheelchair lifts for commercial vans - Rear access - Man operating BraunAbility wheelchair lift on MoveMobility T6 Ford Transit side entry wheelchair van.
Operating BraunAbility Lift

Cold weather performance

If the lift is not used frequently during cold weather, it may freeze up or become less reliable. Some wheelchair lift users experience performance issues operating wheelchair lifts during winter. Dirt, snow, ice, or debris may collect on the lift, so cleaning and regular maintenance is required to keep your wheelchair lift operating at its best.

Requires frequent use

To keep your wheelchair lift in tip-top shape, it is recommended to raise and lower the lift once a week to maintain its hydraulic system, even if you are not transporting wheelchairs. This helps prevent mechanical parts from seizing up.

Leaving the wheelchair lift unused for weeks or months can result in issues when you come to next use the lift.

Maintenance of wheelchair lifts for commercial vans

As with any equipment with mechanical systems, a powered wheelchair lift requires regular maintenance. This includes lubrication and checks for potential issues. You will need to set aside time and budget for maintenance and safety checks of your lift.

Time to load/unload passengers

While a wheelchair lift offers convenience and requires minimal effort from operators, it typically takes longer to load and unload wheelchair passengers. The time to raise and lower the lift can take a few minutes longer than simply pushing wheelchair passengers up a ramp. 
If your organization is looking for the most efficient way to load and unload mobility passengers, you may want to consider the P Series accessible vans.

Wheelchair lifts for commercial vans - Rear access - Ford Transit with wheelchair lift and dual leaf entry doors.

Rider experience

As previously mentioned, elderly wheelchair users and persons with disabilities or conditions such as dementia may feel anxious using a lift. The feeling of being suspended a few feet above the ground may be uncomfortable for some users.
If your clients may be hesitant to use a wheelchair lift, a van with an accessible ramp such as the P3 or P4 may be a more suitable option.

Review of the Pros and Cons of Wheelchair Lifts for Commercial Vans

Now that you have reviewed the pros and cons of wheelchair lifts for commercial wheelchair vans, you may have decided whether a lift or ramp would be best for your program. 

While a wheelchair lift may not be the most efficient option for loading passengers into a full size accessible van, it is a convenient solution that requires minimal caregiver effort. Finding the right accessible van conversion mostly comes down to your riders’ mobility needs and how the vehicle will be used.

If you still aren’t sure whether a wheelchair lift is right for your accessible van, contact us at 844-951-3808 or by using the button below:

If you’d like to learn more about what to consider when buying a wheelchair accessible van for your organization, visit our Resource Centre.


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