The smile on Keenan’s face and the twinkle in his eyes speak volumes about what he thinks of his new Renault Kangoo. He knows that, when he is loaded into the Kangoo, it usually means he is off to visit somewhere fun.
Keenan was born with severe cerebral palsy, and is now 12 years old. When he first started getting too heavy for his mom, Kay, to lift him in and out of their car, they bought a Renault Kangoo, took the seats out of the back and used a homemade ramp to push Keenan into the car.
This worked fairly well, but the ramp was cumbersome and steep and still took a lot of effort to get Keenan into the car.
When it came time to replace that Kangoo his Dad, Stuart Grey, heard of second-hand adapted vehicles available from the UK, through Cape Mobility. After investigating every option, they decided that this was the most cost effective vehicle that would suit their needs, and they have been very happy with their decision.
Dick Mahaffey has also recently imported a second-hand Kangoo through Cape Mobility. Dick suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and is now wheelchair bound. He is unable to transfer from his wheelchair into a vehicle and has been virtually house-bound for many months. He is delighted with the level of independence that it has given him and says he would recommend it to anybody in a similar situation.
When it comes to finding an affordable way of transporting a person in a wheelchair Cape Mobility, run by Geoff Dear, have come to the rescue. Geoff has been in the second-hand motor industry for many years, his specialization being sourcing specific vehicles for clients. The vehicles that Stuart and Dick ordered took approximately three months from ordering to delivery.
With the current exchange rate, a two year-old Kangoo - with the passenger adaptations similar to Dick and Stuart’s vehicles - costs in the region of R160,000 including all shipping and handling costs.
The vehicle that Geoff has mainly focussed on for his South African clients is the Renault Kangoo as this provides an affordable solution. Unfortunately the Kangoo has been discontinued in SA, but it is still possible to have them maintained.
Geoff’s Kangoos come with an automatic gearbox. This is the same gearbox and engine that is used in the Renault Megan, so repairs should not be a problem. When importing vehicles it is always the buyer’s responsibility to check that the vehicle they intend to buy can be serviced in SA'
Most conversion companies position the wheelchair user near the middle or rear of the vehicle and this is the standard conversion implemented in the Kangoo.
Some conversions can have the wheelchair positioned in the passenger seat next to the driver, such as the conversion below on a VW Caddy.
This positively affects communication with other passengers and can be more comfortable as there is less sway in this position, but much more space is lost inside the vehicle due to the conversion.
The ramp design and shape of the floor cut-out is aimed at providing an optimal gradient to push the wheelchair up, while at the same time not taking up too much space inside the vehicle.
Some vehicles have an electronically lowering suspension which shortens the required length of the ramp. The floor cut out also reduces the length of the ramp required.
An important consideration is whether to position the wheelchair on a flat or angled section of floor. If it is flat it means that the access ramp needs to be steeper or longer.
If it is angled at the chair position then the gradient of the ramp can be less steep as it can extend further into the vehicle, however this may affect the comfort of the person riding in the wheelchair.
The choice of floor shape should ideally be made according to the wheelchair design, the individual’s posture in their chair and their tolerance of sitting at a slightly reclined position. It is important to have a comfortable wheelchair to be transported in and it should ideally have a head rest to prevent whiplash in the case of sudden braking or being hit from behind. There are also variations in the ramp design between the different conversion companies. These range from manual to electronic ramps that open and close at the touch of a button, solid or folding ramps which give unrestricted vision out the rear window. Counterweights or springs are sometimes used to make the manual ramps easier to fold in and out.
When selecting an adapted vehicle it is important to first check the height of the person in their wheelchair to ensure that they will fit inside the vehicle. They normally sit higher than a person on the seats, so visibility may be limited out of the windows.
The lowered floor gives additional headroom inside the vehicle, but it also means that the ground clearance will be less – so if you regularly travel over roads with speed humps you will need to ensure that you have enough clearance. A lowered floor may require the fuel tank to be modified or replaced, reducing its size or changing its shape. This may affect the accuracy of the fuel gauge.
Due to the current import process, these second-hand adapted vehicles can only be imported in the name of a specific client, and they need to be paid for in Pounds Sterling. Unfortunately the banks will not usually provide finance for vehicles being bought outside of the country. This means that the buyer must be able to raise the cash themselves.
Geoff Dear is best contacted via email, firstname.lastname@example.org, as he travels a lot. Dick (051-444-0077, email: email@example.com) and Stuart (email: firstname.lastname@example.org, 082-570-4113) are willing to give people information and advice should they be interested in purchasing a similar vehicle.