As a wheelchair user one of the biggest banes of my life is non-disabled people telling me (and other physically challenged people) what they need and how to live my life. Despite never spending a day in a wheelchair the so called expert will confidently make sweeping statements that just do not work!!
What is the reason for this rant? Well a few months ago Honest John in the Telegraph was asked to suggest a car suitable for a young wheelchair user just getting their first car. Why ask Honest John when there are specialists in this field I don't know, but ask they did!!
The recommendation was a Ford B-Max because of the lack of side pillar and also and here I quote from Honest John's own review of the vehicle "And the disabled can stash a wheelchair behind themselves without having to summon help." Imagine the scenario - you have successfully transferred yourself into the driver's seat and your wheelchair is now outside the car and lower than you are (this might not seem a big problem - but if I lean out too far I fall out.............) and you are going to put the wheelchair on the seat behind you - how?
Picture if you can, or best of all try to lift a folded pushchair (which are much lighter than most wheelchairs, although mine is probably is as light) and without using your legs for balance twist and place it on the back seat behind the drivers seat............. Il est impossible. Use your seatbelt I hear you say - tell me how can you reach around behind you with a seatbelt holding you in?
Like most wheelchair users that I know I place my wheelchair on the passenger seat, by lifting the chair minus its wheels over myself and hooking the footrest over the headrest - you can if you so desire put the seat belt around the chair, but I have found that there is no need the chair 'ain't going nowhere man'. Stash the wheels in the foot well and viola - job done!
Forgetting the problem of putting a wheelchair on the back seat the lack of side pillar is a real bonus, it means that lifting the chair up and over is not restricted by the said pillar - currently I have extra rails so that I can push the driver's seat way back, giving me the extra space I need to manoeuvre said chair. So the lack of pillar seemed a real plus but the back door slides out and backwards - so how easy would it be to open the door from my chair. Thursday I visited a local Ford Dealership with this in mind - the car is everything I had hoped for - I could open both doors and the space for the wheelchair manoeuvre was fantastic - BUT and it is a BIG BUT the back door cannot be closed from the driver's seat!!! Ford in their wisdom do not provide an electronic closure..................