Supply chain shortages make it difficult for parents of children with disabilities to get wheelchair-accessible vans

  • Supply chain shortages make it difficult to obtain cars and spare parts.
  • People who need wheelchair accessible vans don’t have many options when shopping for transportation.

In December, my family’s Toyota Sienna needed a part replaced, but it was nowhere to be found. Normally we’d use our Honda Accord, rent a local van, or even use an Uber if the estimated shopping time was short, but for my family of five, it’s not always that simple.

We drive a Toyota Sienna BraunAbility, a modified wheelchair accessible van. It’s the only way my family, including my 9-year-old son who has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, can get out of the house together.

Supply chain shortages in the auto industry make it difficult to find basic replacement parts for cars and vans that need repair. Families that need a specific type of transportation to get around, like mine, have few options.

Replacement parts are hard to find

Our van was towed to the dealership months ago and we’ve been waiting for the part to arrive. We received several notifications of a potential due date, but that day has come and gone. Each time, the estimated arrival date in the dealer’s computer system returned to “TBD”.

We were lucky enough to get a loaner van in the meantime, but not everyone is so lucky.

Danielle Dapuzzo, a single mother from New Jersey, drives a modified Honda Odyssey, but the driver’s side sliding door is not used due to a broken engine. The part cannot be found, with no expected delivery date.

“The van is functional,” Dapuzzo said, “but I have to use the sliding passenger side door to climb over my daughter in her wheelchair to access her gastro tube and colostomy. I didn’t no choice but to use the van several times a day because I drive it to and from school.”

The spare part for our Toyota Sienna finally arrived in early May, nearly five months after we placed an order. My family is delighted to find our van. But we will most likely need a new van soon, and there are few options on the market.

Vans are hard to find and expensive

In addition to having difficulty obtaining replacement parts, parents of children with disabilities have difficulty finding a vehicle that works well for their family at a reasonable cost. Local areas may have programs that pay for the modification, but even with that help, since van prices are at an all-time high, some families can’t make that cost jump.

Joey Enos and his wife, Anna MacNeil, want a Ford Transit XL for their handicapped son who uses a wheelchair. Regarding the modified vans, Enos said: “At first I tried to get a van converted, but the showroom was completely empty.”

Nicole Bryson, owner of FTMobility, further explained: “Semiconductor shortages are having a profound impact on the ability to locate vehicles for conversion. It’s nearly impossible to find one locally, so we end up spending orders for incoming units that have no firm estimated arrival date.”

Enos was willing to expand his search to other types of cars, even though they may be larger than his initial needs, but even when he expands his search, he is still unable to get transportation that works for his family, he said.

“Having very specific needs makes it much more difficult. Every child is different, and I think every vehicle should be adjusted accordingly, but we are being asked to compromise due to lack of inventory,” Enos said. .

Bryson said, “Besides the shortage of inventory, the prices are exorbitant. The suggested MSRP means nothing, because car dealerships nationwide charge more stickers.”

Enos still has no transportation for his son, who is aging and needs a van that can comfortably accommodate his wheelchair, especially since Enos has suffered physical injuries, including a herniated disc, related to the raising her son.

Jaclyn Greenberg writes about his experiences parenthood as well as challenges related to accessibility and inclusion.


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