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Commonly Used Terms in the Mobility Industry

Learn more about the mobility industry.

Adaptive

This term is used when a vehicle is adapted for wheelchair use. Adapting the vehicle may include raising the floor, installing a lift or ramp, adding steering or hand controls, adding turning seats and widening doors to accommodate ramps and wheelchairs.

Car Top Carrier

A device that allows a folded wheelchair to be carried on top of a vehicle, leaving the back seat open for passengers and the trunk available for cargo.

Column Extension

This modification brings the steering wheel anywhere from two to six inches closer to the driver, providing extra legroom and compensating for reduced range of motion.

Conversion

This includes all modifications that take place to make a van or other vehicle accessible and drivable for someone with a physical disability. These modifications are usually performed by a company other than the original manufacturer, such as BraunAbility, Mobility SVM or MobilityWorks. When finished, these vans are often called wheelchair vans.

Drive-By-Wire System

A system that uses computer-aided driving systems to control most functions of the vehicle, often with joystick-style driving controls.

Fold-Out Ramp

A ramp that folds up and stows in the entryway of the passenger-side sliding door.

Foot Steering Controls

These controls allow the driver to operate steering functions using their feet. Other controls, such as turn signals and windshield wipers, may also be transferred to foot controls.

Hand Controls

Hand controls allow people with physical disabilities or limited mobility to operate the gas and brake with one hand and steer the vehicle with the other. There are two main categories of hand controls: primary controls operate the gas and brake; secondary controls operate the other functions of the vehicle such as horn, wipers, radio and air conditioning. Driving controls can be either mechanical or power-supported via electronics, pneumatics or hydraulics.

For specific types of hand controls see: push/pull, push/right angle, push/twist and push/rock controls.

In-Floor Ramp

A ramp that slides in and out of a pocket built into the floor of a van. When stowed, the ramp is not visible from inside or outside the vehicle. An in-floor ramp comes with automatic controls and does not require any manual deployment.

Kneeling This is the term used when a van equipped with a pneumatic suspension lowers itself closer to the ground for easier access for people in wheelchairs and scooters.

Lift

A lift is a device that makes a vehicle accessible for wheelchairs or scooters. There are a variety of types and styles, many of which are power-supported. Features can include:

  • Automatic or electric roll stops.
  • Sensor mats installed at the vehicle’s threshold to warn users if the lift is not level with the floor of the van.
  • Manual back-up systems in case of a power failure.
  • Bridging mechanisms for boarding safely from sidewalks or on inclines.
  • Hand-held controls, on-lift controls and remote controls.

For different types of lifts, see also: platform style scooter lift, rear-entry lift, side-entry lift, occupied lift, unoccupied lift, swing-arm scooter lift and under-vehicle lift.

Reduced-Effort Steering and Braking

This modification reduces the strength needed to steer by about 40 percent and also decreases the amount of strength needed to apply the brakes.

Mechanical Hand Controls

Devices that use handles, levers and pivot points to operate the gas, brake, emergency brake, turn signal and other automotive functions.

Occupied Lift

A mechanized platform designed to raise and lower a person while he or she is seated in a wheelchair. This allows the person to enter and exit the vehicle without having to get out of the wheelchair and without the assistance of another person.

Platform Style Scooter Lift

A lift that uses a platform to raise and lower an unoccupied scooter or wheelchair. A push-button control raises the platform with the wheelchair or scooter secured by a mechanical arm. Platforms can be designed to remain outside the vehicle for transport or be stowed inside the vehicle.

Push/Pull Hand Controls

This type of hand control allows the driver to push a hand control to brake and pull the same control to accelerate.

Push/Right Angle Hand Controls

A popular choice because it requires less arm strength than the push/pull control, the push/right angle control works by pushing the control forward to brake and down toward the thigh with a slight pull toward the torso to accelerate.

Push/Rock Hand Controls

With this hand control, the driver can rock his or her hand on the top of a handle. Rocking back accelerates the vehicle, while rocking forward applies the brakes.

Twist Grip Hand Controls

These are similar to the hand controls used on motorcycles. The driver twists the handle to accelerate and pushes a lever forward to brake.

Ramp

An inclined platform that allows entry into a vehicle from a wheelchair by connecting the van to the ground. Most ramps cost less than lifts, making them a popular economical alternative among wheelchair users. Portable ramps can be mounted on most vehicles without structural changes.

Rear-Entry Handicap Van

A van that has been modified to allow entry and exit from the rear of the van. The center of the floor is lowered from the rear hatch to just behind the front seats. This provides a path straight up the center of the minivan for the wheelchair or scooter. The driver and passenger seats do not need to be modified.

Side-Entry Handicap Van

A van that has been modified to allow side entry for a person in a wheelchair or scooter. Side-entry vans feature floors that have been lowered from a point in front of the rear wheel to underneath the dashboard. The center seats are removed to allow access for the wheelchair or scooter, and a ramp deploys from the bottom of the passenger-side sliding door.

Side-Entry Lift

A wheelchair lift designed to allow access through the side of a vehicle. These lifts are desirable for city living or travel where parallel parking allows entering and exiting only at curbside.

Spinner Knob

A device attached to the steering wheel that allows the driver to make full turns without letting go of the wheel.

Steering Controls

Also known as hand controls, these special devices give the driver alternate control of the vehicle. Steering controls can be mechanical or power-supported and may include more extensive controls such as a drive-by-wire joystick that controls all driving functions of the vehicle.

Swing-Arm Scooter Lift

This type of lift operates via a mechanical arm secured to the vehicle, along with a docking device. The lift will raise and lower the unoccupied scooter or wheelchair using an electric motor powered by the vehicle’s battery. The swinging motion can either be manual or power-assisted.

Turning Auto Seating

Seats that swivel to allow people with disabilities to enter and exit the vehicle in an automated seat. Most turning auto seats are operated with a simple hand-held control that raises and lowers the seat outside the vehicle for easy transfer to or from a wheelchair. A variety of turning auto seating is available to work with nearly any size or type of vehicle.

Under-Vehicle Lift

As the name implies, this lift mounts and stays tucked under the vehicle until needed. Under-vehicle lifts offer more interior space and are aesthetically more pleasing.

Unoccupied Lift

A mechanical platform designed to raise and lower a wheelchair or scooter so that it can be transported in a modified vehicle. This type of lift is NOT to be used to raise or lower people while seated in their wheelchairs or scooters.

Zero-Effort Steering and Braking

In addition to requiring less leg strength to operate the brakes, this modification reduces the strength needed to operate a steering wheel by about 70 percent. While not precisely zero-effort, it is a significant improvement for people with disabilities or mobility issues that have reduced arm and leg strength.

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