Honda currently manufactures two different vehicles that are regularly converted for use as wheelchair vans. The Honda Odyssey minivan is an extremely popular choice in accessibility circles. The Honda Element is developing a strong following among those who are prepared to sacrifice passenger and storage space in exchange for distinctive styling and superior handling.
Mobility Access Choices
There are two common methods for getting in and out of a Honda wheelchair van. One can utilize either a wheelchair lift or a ramp. Let’s examine both options in light of each individual vehicle to provide you with insights regarding the best option to meet your needs.
Lifts are a heavy-duty way to facilitate wheelchair access. These sturdy devices have a motorized platform upon which the wheelchair user rolls. Once engaged, the lift will pick up the wheelchair and its user until the reach the appropriate height for wheelchair entry. Lifts are particularly popular with disabled individuals who use heavy power scooters and similar mobility devices.
Lifts offer the additional advantage of a small footprint. A ramp must extend out from the vehicle for several feet in order to maintain a safe slope. A lift, on the other hand, drops directly from the side of the vehicle, reducing the amount of space necessary for deployment. That makes lifts a good choice for those who often find themselves loading and unloading in tight spots.
The Honda Element will not support a lift. It’s too small. The larger Odyssey can utilize an externally stored lift device when it’s configured for rear entry. Most Odyssey users opt for a wheelchair ramp instead, however. That’s true for a few reasons.
First, side entry tends to be more popular that rear entry. The Odyssey can’t support a side-entry ramp. Second, lifts tend to be much more expensive than ramps. Third, ramps can be quite big and even Odyssey users who are working with a rear-entry arrangement may not be interested in toting one around, attached to the rear of the vehicle.
How About Ramps?
There are many different kinds of wheelchair ramps suitable for use with an Odyssey. One can opt for lightweight, portable options. Unfortunately, these often lack durability. Heavier manual and spring-assisted ramps are durable, permanent solutions but they lack convenience. We recommend powered foldout ramps for most Odyssey buyers. These ramps can be extended and retracted with the push of a button that activates the unit’s motor. They work well and retract under the vehicle when they’re not being used. They also provide maximum accessibility for disabled drivers. A powered option may be a key to allowing a wheelchair bound driver to utilize his or her vehicle without assistance.
The Choices For Honda Element
Unfortunately, that option may not be ideal for Honda Element users. The Element features center-opening doors that splay to provide adequate access space via a ramp. However, those doors can’t be opened and closed automatically. That means that the driver either will be capable of handling a manual or spring-assisted ramp or will have someone else with them who is. After all, someone needs to operate those doors. In many cases, Element wheelchair van buyers opt for a compromise--a spring-assisted ramp. These ramps require less effort to deploy than do manual versions, while avoiding the higher costs of fully automatic versions.
We recommend automatic powered foldout ramps for Odyssey owners. They offer the most overall benefit and effectively encourage maximum accessibility. Honda Element buyers will want to go with a manual or spring-assisted ramp. While lifts can be a valuable asset, they’re not available for side-entry Odysseys or Elements and not everyone is interested in rear entry or hauling an external lift on their vehicle.