How Two Companies Joined Forces to Make Wheelchair Vehicles Accessible

Wheelchair users have a reason to rejoice at a re-design of an old favorite. FCA introduced the upfitted Chrysler Pacifica minivan, with the company BraunAbility, at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show.

According to a news release, in 2019, there are now 25 (more) vehicles available to be modified with adaptive equipment in the FCA U.S. Automobility Program. That is good news for customers who are in need of a new vehicle. Wheelchair users will have easier access to get in and out of vehicles with ample space for accommodating families and friends, as well.   

As head of passenger cars for FCA North America, Tim Kuniskis said in a release, this vehicle will allow FCA customers to gain the freedom to stay active.   

“We all know someone with a physical disability who needs help getting to the places and events that matter most to them.”

BraunAbility, an American manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vans and wheelchair lifts, was founded in 1963 by Ralph Braun, who had spinal muscular atrophy. When it came to the design, BraunAbility sourced its customized components from the same Tier One supplier as do major OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer), including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and these modified vehicles are held to the same safety standard as the vehicles on which they are based, including crash tests.  

Building these heavily customized vans required reimagining them completely. BraunAbility engineered an entirely new, high-strength steel subfloor to make a significantly lowered floor possible. The rear suspension is redesigned, as well, to compensate for the lowered floor and raised height. The raised ride height is disguised somewhat by body extensions surrounding the van, which integrate steps for front seat access.   

“The most spacious wheelchair-accessible vehicle in the industry, the BraunAbility Chrysler Pacifica features patent-pending AccessAbility technology, including an aerospace-inspired sliding door extension and the industry’s widest side-entry ramp, with rear-axle space innovations and cantilevered seat bases that expand interior cabin space, maximizing space for obstruction-free maneuverability for all sizes and types of wheelchairs,” according to a news release from the company.   

But the minivan wasn’t only designed for parents with kids of special needs. It was also designed with adults who have a disability but can still drive. Devices included are hand controls and left foot accelerators. The modifications in the vehicles were designed specifically to ensure a safer and more secure ride for driver and passengers.

Included in the Chrysler Pacifica upfitted are lifts, hoists, and carriers. Whether it’s scooter hoists, rear or side wheelchair lifts or outside wheelchair carriers, customers will find equipment that will fit them, their vehicle and their lifestyle. Running boards, which are designed for the safety and secure stepping space and improved traction, getting in and out of vehicles will be much easier.

Not every disability requires a customized vehicle, but the upfitted Chrysler Pacifica has become an ideal solution for those who are in need of a vehicle. One in five Americans lives with some sort of disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, including 3.8 million veterans.   

FCA also noted that the companies are partnering on an effort to promote Canine Companions for Independence, which trains and provides assistance dogs for people with a variety of special needs at six sites around the country.

PRICE:

The starting MSRP is $29,900 (plus destination fee). Seems like a small price to pay for the comfort and peace of mind that it will bring to parents and someone with a disability.  

“For Chrysler, there has always been an importance in showcasing and providing mobility solutions for people with disabilities: that is why we are the leader in this are,” said Clair Carroll with Chrysler Product Communications. “Also, it allows us to demonstrate what makes the Pacifica such a great vehicle, with its ability to provide the best solution and functionality for whatever the consumers’ need is.”

Chrysler Pacifica has also gone eco-friendly with their upfitted vans. With many transportation solutions still relying on heavy large vehicles that consume large amounts of fuel, Revability heard this concern and decided to find a solution. They introduced to the world the first Hybrid wheelchair accessible vehicle, the new Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Chassis, and it’s ready to lead the way in eco-friendly mobility transportation.  

You can search our inventory of Chrysler Pacifica’s at Miami Lakes Automall. Make sure to stop by for a test drive and see if this model and make is the car for you.

Photo Credit: detroitfreepress.com

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