Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

Many disabled people benefit from the independence and freedom that a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) provides. Although it is often a difficult decision, going from a standard vehicle to a WAV, most people say they would never go back. However, once the decision has been made the next step is to find the WAV that is most suitable, and with so many makes and models available it can be difficult to know where to start. To help, many vehicle convertors and organisations have written WAV buying guides, the majority of which are available on-line. Having read a number of these, they are indeed very useful, giving lots of good advice and information, but to my surprise none of them mention PAS 2012, which is something I believe is essential information when choosing a WAV.

What is PAS 2012?

PAS 2012 stands for Publicly Available Specification. It was developed by the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Convertors Association (WAVCA), according to guidelines set out by the BSI (British Standards Institute).

When the first WAV’s came into production most conversions were rudimentary, addressing only access and basic securing of the wheelchair. However, the WAV industry has grown enormously and with an ageing population the number of disabled people requiring both wheelchair accessible taxis and personal private vehicles is only going to increase. It is therefore important that there are standards which customers can trust when purchasing a WAV and therefore PAS 2012 was introduced.

Accreditation to PAS 2012 concentrates on the elements of vehicle design and manufacture that a WAV owner will be particularly interested in. These include structural integrity, the fitting of lifts, ramps and winches, testing and fitting of wheelchair securing systems and ground clearance. It also addresses the amount of space a wheelchair user needs for access and comfort inside the vehicle and service guidelines for demonstration and handover.

PAS 2012 has been one of the criteria for a new WAV model to be available on the Motability Scheme since 2012 and is also a popular benchmark with local authorities, charities, and care home groups for all their WAV purchases. There are currently 55 models in the UK which hold the PAS 2012 Accreditation.

Is PAS 2012 the same for every vehicle?

As part of the PAS 2012 accreditation wheelchair tie-downs and anchorages must meet a high level of safety testing, but historically these were only tested with an 85kg wheelchair. Since the likelihood of a powered chair weighing less than 85kg is remote PAS 2012 has two tests; one at 85kg and one for wheelchairs up to 200kg, although many WAV convertors will also test to weights in-between. As the standard PAS 2012 accreditation only insists on PAS testing up to 85kg in terms of tie downs it is important for customers with powered chairs to check with the convertor if the vehicle has been additionally tested to accommodate the weight of their wheelchair.

PAS 2012 is also limited to WAVs in which the wheelchair is restrained using four-point strap type tie-downs as there is a lack of technical data for other types of wheelchair tie-down equipment.

Is this information readily available?

When choosing a WAV it is important to make sure the vehicle will suit you and all your requirements, including checking that your wheelchair can be carried safely. All WAV convertors will be able to tell you what wheelchair weight the vehicle has been tested to, although there is no handy guide to tell you. Motability Operations Ltd say they currently do not publish whether a vehicle complies with this additional testing however this is something being considered for future development.  In the meantime, they recommend customers talk to their WAV convertors to discuss wheelchair compatibility with their individual needs.

Allied Mobility is the leading manufacturer of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles for the UK and Ireland. They have tested to 200kg on models such as the Peugeot Horizon, Ford Freedom and Ford Independence. A spokesman said: “Ultimately, the safety of passengers is of paramount importance and we warmly welcome anything that helps to ensure this. The PAS 2012 benchmark should also assist customers who are potentially not aware of what vehicles or restraints are most suitable for their particular wheelchair which has to be of benefit for anyone choosing a new WAV.”

Is PAS 2012 applicable to drive-from wheelchair WAVs?

PAS 2012 is not applicable to drive-from-wheelchair WAVs, because such WAVs are always bespoke, taking into account an individual’s ability to access the WAV and drive it. Wheelchair tie-down arrangements and driving controls for these WAVs would be difficult to standardise, however, some of the requirements of PAS 2012 can be usefully applied to drive-from-wheelchair WAVs insofar as their basic level of accessibility is concerned.

PAS 2012 is something that not many disabled people will currently be aware of, but it is definitely something to check when you are considering a WAV. Although many vehicles do now hold the accreditation it is still a question worth asking to ensure you are travelling in the safest possible vehicle.

This article was submitted by:

Helen Dolphin MBE LLB BSc
Independent Mobility Consultant
Twitter: @mrsflipper1001