The saga of the vehicle

Posted by Karen - April 7th, 2018

We’re in the process of getting our first ever wheelchair-accessible vehicle. As with so much else concerning our daughter’s fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), it’s been a long drawn out process…

It all started last summer when Miranda, then age 12, had a major FOP flare in her left leg. Prior to that point, we had known that a wheelchair-accessible vehicle was in our future, but it was kind of hazy, far off in the distance. And then, when Miranda’s left hip and knee became entirely fused in 2017, it suddenly became much, MUCH harder to get our daughter in and out of our existing car and minivan. It turns out that working hips, knees, and ankles are surprisingly vital for this process – who knew? Anyway, we could still travel with Miranda in each of our two Hondas, but it was getting quite a bit more difficult. What sprung into focus was that we really needed a vehicle which could hold a person already seated in a wheelchair. The need for a wheelchair-friendly means of daily travel had sprung profoundly into focus.

We began our¬†quest in early 2018. My first question was hey, why couldn’t we simply convert our existing Honda Odyssey? Ha – that was a pipe dream, as it would cost $80,000. 80 K, and you don’t even get a new vehicle! Obviously that wasn’t the way to go. We would need to buy a vehicle which was already adapted.

My first foray into looking at “conversions”, as they are referred to, was to meet with a sales guy who specialized in Dodge and Toyota minivans. We looked at various issues, including: do we want back or side entry? Automatic ramp vs manual ramp? How much internal space for maneuverability does the vehicle have? I asked also about new vs used minivans, and was told that used minivans are hard to come by. Hmm, there was lots to think about.

Next up I met with a sales person for a vehicle called an “MV-1″. This is a different sort of vehicle – looks kind of like a small SUV, and its claim to fame is that it’s not actually “adapted” for wheelchair use, but instead is designed to be wheelchair accessible right off the factory floor. No conversion required.

Now interestingly, it turned out there were a few used models available for sale in Canada. This was good to know, because OMG, new vehicles (whether the converted minivans or the MV-1s) cost between $70,000 and $90,000 – staggeringly expensive.

At the end of the day, we decided to buy a 2014¬†model MV-1. This price was right – significantly lower than a new one – but that wasn’t the only factor. Without going into detail, there were a number of features which we especially liked.

This is not the vehicle we bought, but ours is basically identical to this one.

This is not the vehicle we bought, but ours is basically identical to this one.

The wheelchair sits in the front passenger position, with sturdy straps which anchor to the floor.

The wheelchair sits in the front passenger position, with sturdy straps which anchor to the floor.

The vehicle had to be shipped out from Ontario, and then just over a week ago, the big day came. We were to take possession! My husband and I drove out to the dealership, got the sales and insurance documents finalized, got a tutorial on how to hook up a wheelchair inside, and then I was finally ready to drive it away. With a sense of real excitement, I put the key in the ignition, turned it over, and – nothing. Dead! Well, this was a shock… I went back and told our sales guy, who tried it himself, and also couldn’t get it to start. So, they jumped the battery, and the vehicle started right up. Our sales guy said he hoped this was just a fluke, but said that if it happened again, their dealership would of course replace the battery.

With that assurance in mind, I set off to drive 50 minutes across the city (plenty of time for charging) to take Miranda to her art class. The MV-1 turned out to be very pleasant to drive, and easier than I had expected to handle. But – upon arrival, I turned off the vehicle, and then decided to try and turn it back on. Nope, no go, dead again! I couldn’t believe it. I ended up spending the next hour waiting for the BC Automobile Association roadside assistance to come and help.

Now interestingly, when the BCAA guy arrived, he tested the strength of the battery, and it turned out to be fully charged. Huh… OK, so maybe not the battery. He tried a few things, but also couldn’t get the vehicle going. Through this process, we also noted that the vehicle wasn’t responding to the computer-chip key, and I had to lock the door manually. This made me wonder if the problem somehow stemmed from an improperly programmed key? Anyway, BCAA towed the vehicle back to the car vendor, and I alerted our sales vendor (who was extremely apologetic).

Our new MV-1 has spent the past 10 days being assessed and repaired at a garage in Burnaby (not on our dime, but rather the car sales company’s, thank goodness). Our sales guy told us the problem turned out to be a crack in a battery post (??), which caused intermittent starting difficulties, plus a key which was somehow not programmed. Both issues were supposedly fixed, and we were to have the vehicle delivered to us late this past week.

There was, however, no sign of the vehicle by Friday. I contacted our sales guy, who said he would look into it. He did so, and then told me that in fact the garage had had to order one additional new component from “back east”; supposedly this bit is to be shipped to them early this coming week and installed, and then the vehicle will be ready for us by mid-week.

Hoo boy. All I can say is that it’s a good thing we didn’t urgently need this vehicle, since Miranda can still get in and out of our existing cars, albeit with difficulty.

Here’s hoping this week will be the charm, and the end of this tale!


One Response to “The saga of the vehicle”

  1. Marilyn Hair says:

    Congratulations on getting Miranda’s W/C van. It looks great and should serve you for many years. After years of getting down on the floor to tie down, we got an “EZ Lock” which is a box in the floor of the van and a post attached under the wheelchair. The chair locks in and no tie-downs are needed, only a seatbelt. It was installed by a conversion dealer for a few hundred $$. You could add that anytime.

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