We recently had a chat with Nathan Murphy, caregiver and VMI owner. His family uses their VMI van to transport their son, Peyton, who relies on a power chair for mobility.
You purchased your first WAV (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle) in 2016, how did Peyton get around before you owned one?
Before our VMI converted van, Peyton used a manual wheelchair. I would pick him up to transfer him into our minivan, and then we would have to take the wheelchair apart and put it in the back of our van. This was a frustrating process and limited Peyton to using a manual chair.
How has driving a WAV changed your daily routine?
Our VMI WAV (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle) makes it a lot easier to get Peyton out of the house. As a caregiver, it has removed the burden of tearing down his wheelchair every time we travel together. The van has even allowed Peyton to start using a power chair, which is better for his independence. At one point, we had to transport his wheelchair on a wheelchair hauler but couldn’t fit the whole family in that vehicle– no longer a problem with our WAV. Finally, I feel that Peyton is safer in the WAV than in our old stock vehicle. He is able to sit in his own chair which means I don’t have to worry about seating position, his headrest or not sitting on the correct cushion. I love that Peyton is able to travel in his own chair, where he is most comfortable.
What advice would you have to potential WAV buyers who may be on the fence?
Purchasing a WAV is life changing and you have to do it. Not only is it incredible for your own well-being as a caregiver, but also for the person with a disability. With our WAV, Peyton has gained mobility and an incremental step toward his goals and independence. He loves that his power chair gives him the ability to self-propel and that he is in charge of where he goes and what he sees.
Handicapped parking can be abused. Do you have any stories about particularly difficult situations?
I have absolutely seen these spots abused. The most frustrating situation is when people are parked in the stripes or when motorcycles or shopping carts are left there. A lot of people don’t understand what the extra space is for or the implications of their actions. When we can’t open our ramp, Peyton’s access is taken away.
As an experienced WAV driver, what are your tips and tricks if you can’t find an open handicapped spot?
If I can’t find a spot and there is someone to help me watch Peyton, I will unload him first using the side ramp and then pull the car into the spot. If it’s just me, I will usually park out in the back of the parking lot and hope nobody parks beside us. Sometimes my wife will take up two spots toward the back of the lot which ensures access to our ramp.