The Honda Element is well-known for its rugged, Spartan interior. It’s a functional vehicle that doesn’t include a large number of added inside features. However, when one modifies an Element for use as a wheelchair van, there are number of specific additions that can improve access and the driving experience for wheelchair-bound drivers and passengers.
It’s not the first thing people think of when they consider wheelchair van access, but the standard doors and locks on most vehicles can pose a significant challenge to handicapped drivers. The handles are often in inconvenient places and can be hard for those with limited hand strength or range of motion to use. The doors themselves can be heavy and unwieldy.
That’s a problem resolved by automatic and keyless entry systems for some vehicles. That’s tricky with the Element. The same suicide doors that make its use as a small footprint wheelchair van possible are resistant to powered operation. A remote system can unlock the doors, but it would require special customization beyond what most are willing to do in order to create a true automatic entry system.
The Element is receptive to another popular conversion, however. One can lower its floor in order to increase clearance, accessibility and headroom. Some wheelchair vans use raised roof and raised door conversions. That’s not necessary with the Element. Lowering the floor will usually resolve any problems.
The Element is a small vehicle. The little crossover only handles four passengers. When the Element is converted for wheelchair van use, that number shrinks. In order to make entrance and exit possible--and to allow the wheelchair user to get to the driver’s seat, it’s usually necessary to remove one or more of the passenger seats.
That’s an easy job with the Element. The seats are built for multiple configurations and are made to be removable.
Additionally, owners may want to make other seating changes. The front passenger and drivers seats may be removed to allow access to the area by someone in a wheelchair. Others may opt to install swivel or transfer seats to make the transition from wheelchair to driver’s seat easier.
Securing the Wheelchair
Once the wheelchair user is in the vehicle, it’s important to anchor it securely. Element drivers can use any of the popular methods of keeping the chair in place.
Budget conscious drivers who can handle the physical demands may opt to use traditional manual tie downs. Others may use electric tie downs to facilitate the process with less physical effort. Tie down users who’d like additional wheelchair user restraint may use four-point tie downs with seatbelts. Element owners can also use EZ Lock docking systems. These require the addition of a bracket to the base of the wheelchair that is then lined up with a sturdy locking mechanism. The chair stays in place until it’s intentionally released.
Driving the Honda Element Wheelchair Van
It’s important for Honda Element wheelchair vans to be customized for each driver’s exact needs. That can involve the use of alternative steering systems or hand controls.
Those unable to use a standard steering wheel can install more convenient hand controls. Others may benefit from the installation of low- and no-effort steering systems that allow drivers to use the wheel without all of the usual physical exertion.
If a wheelchair driver has problems operating the accelerator and brake pedals, they can modify the Element by using hand controls. This popular adaptation improves the mobility of many wheelchair users.