Senior Living and Wheelchair-Accessible Buses and Vans — Everything You Need To Know!


We’re so thankful for all our healthcare heroes who have cared for and treated at-risk seniors over the past few years. Now, it’s time to get senior citizens back out there. From casino trips to booking tickets at local attractions, there’s plenty of early planning that goes into your activities. First, start by planning your mode of transportation! Schetky Bus & Van Sales offers a variety of bus sizes with plenty of accessibility modifications for equal access to all. Safety is always our priority, so our wheelchair-accessible vehicles are specially designed to meet national standards.

If you are a Senior Living Community Manager or an Administrator you may be interested in wheelchair-accessible vans and buses for your residents, these vehicles can provide an essential service to your residents by allowing them to travel around your larger community with ease and comfort. However, you have to be aware of the different types of transportation that are available. This blog will help you find the right one for your senior living residents and community.


Wheelchair Vans and Buses for Senior Living Communities

Wheelchair vans and buses for senior living and transportation are now becoming a standard feature in many senior facilities. No longer are you limited to a large bus with few options or a cargo van with a wheelchair lift that can make life difficult for both your residents and staff. 

Instead, wheelchair vans and buses offer the flexibility to easily accommodate a variety of wheelchairs, allowing occupants to stay seated while loading and traveling. In addition, they provide an opportunity for residents to engage in more activities within their community.


Wheelchair Vans and Buses Have Ramps or Lifts

Wheelchair passengers can travel safely and comfortably with the help of specially modified vans and buses. First, the wheelchair lift or ramp location is key in determining which van is best suited for your application. The options available are side-entry and rear-entry.  Ambulatory passengers can still enter the vehicles through the standard passenger doors, so side-entry and rear-entry refer to the wheelchair passengers’ entry points.

Each Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) model offers different advantages for your fleet. You can learn about each option below to help make the best choice.



Side-entry wheelchair vans and buses

Side-entry vans and buses are preferred by fleets when routes or services require quick and safe loading of wheelchairs, which is best accomplished on the curbside of the vehicle. The convenience of curbside loading translates into most applications though and has typically been the most popular option for transportation professionals. 

Side-entry vans and buses are vastly different from those with rear entries. With rear-entry vans and buses, the wheelchair passenger will have to travel into the street, or into the flow of parking lot traffic to access the rear-tailgate entry point. Because side-entry buses and vans keep wheelchair passengers out of heavy-traffic areas, they are generally considered a safer option. 

Loading a wheelchair passenger by simply pulling up to a curb or a roundabout is also a faster process. Parallel parking will not create any issues with side-entry vans or buses due to the fact that wheelchair access is at the curb. Rear-entry buses and vans may have difficulties finding parallel parking spaces long enough to accommodate the additional rear space needed to deploy the ramp or lift. 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, some fleets find the side-entry ramp to be a more dignified experience for the passenger, as opposed to entering the van from the rear cargo area.


Rear-entry wheelchair vans and buses

Rear-entry access vans and buses are for fleets that can spend more time loading a wheelchair passenger, and in the case of minivans, are looking to spend a little less money on the vehicle. Rear-entry vans and buses are less flexible than side-entry regarding loading/unloading passengers but serve a purpose if there are no limitations on where you can do this.

Rear-entry vans and buses can fit into any size of parking space, even standard-width spaces, whereas side-entry requires a wide handicap space to accommodate the side ramp. They can also pull back into personal driveways and meet the wheelchair customer closer to their door/garage if their driveway does not have a restrictive slope to it. Knowing the characteristics of your neighborhoods and whether there are large amounts of sloped driveways is key to determining whether rear-loading vans or buses will work for your application.

A rear-entry conversion is an easy and cost-effective way to purchase a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. It requires minimal maintenance, is easier to drive, and provides more space for long wheelchairs.

Some rear-entry vehicles have a retracting system that eliminates the stress on the suspension. Folding ramps are also available. Older style applications may have a kneeling feature. In addition to the ramp, rear-entry conversions feature a rear suspension system that gives more ground clearance and makes driving over bumps easier. It can also help drivers navigate through heavy snow.




For a wheelchair to enter a vehicle, it needs to do so in a safe, comfortable manner that meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. There are two main methods for wheelchairs to enter vehicles: Wheelchair Lifts and Wheelchair Ramps.


Wheelchair Lifts

Found almost exclusively on full-sized vans and buses, wheelchair lifts are designed to safely lift the passenger from ground level and raise them into the vehicle body. A wheelchair lift is a device that raises a wheelchair inside a vehicle. It is either mounted under the vehicle or placed in a cargo area or side door. The type of lift depends on the weight and physical capabilities of the user. Once in the vehicle, the wheelchair and passenger are secured with wheelchair restraints and a passenger lap-shoulder belt. The lift is stored inside the vehicle, stowed in a folded, upright position. 

Anyone can operate lifts. The operator raises and lowers the lift with a handheld remote that controls the lift using hydraulics. A person in their 70s can just as easily operate a wheelchair lift as a person in their 20s. Wheelchair lift platforms come in a few sizes, all of which meet ADA requirements. They also come in 800- and 1,000-pound weight capacities. A lift can be manually operated or fully automated. If the lift is not fully automatic, there are emergency stop buttons that will allow the operator to stop mid-motion. This is essential for lifts that do not have continuous pressure controls.

There are other kinds of wheelchair lifts, such as internal and platform lifts. Internal lifts are more economical than their platform counterparts. You may also consider using a wheelchair ramp if you live in a rainy or snowy climate.

Wheelchair lifts are also available with a variety of other features. For example, some models feature alarms that sound if the wheelchair/scooter is not level with the vehicle or gets too close to the doorway.


Wheelchair Ramps

Ramps are most common in minivans or buses. To meet ADA requirements, the ramp is required to have a slope of 1:6. This means that the floor of the minivan must be lowered at the entry point to get the ramp to meet ADA rules. 

Ramps have fewer moving parts than lifts but require more vehicle conversion to lower the floor. A wheelchair ramp allows a passenger to navigate themselves into the vehicle. If the wheelchair passenger requires assistance, though, you may need a driver who can handle the physical requirements of pushing the chair into the van. There are two types of ramps, which we’ll discuss below.


Fold-Out Ramps

Fold-out ramps can be operated manually or electronically with a remote control. The ramp is stowed on the inside of the vehicle in a folded position and extends outward when deployed. They work well when placed over impediments such as curbs. These ramps are durable, and strong and swing out of the way when not in use to allow ambulatory passengers to enter the vehicle.


In-Floor Ramps

In-floor ramps are stowed under the floor of wheelchair vans and buses. They make for obstacle-free doorways, more cargo storage, lowered floor angles, a cleaner interior and quiet rides. Because of these features, they give users more space inside a van for 360-degree maneuverability. When deployed, the ramp slides out from under the floor and back under the floor when not in use. With this type of ramp, you can maintain open access to the sides of the vehicle. However, you’ll need more space inside your vehicle. They provide a clean, obstacle-free entry and exit

Whichever mode of wheelchair passenger loading you are thinking of using, make sure you consider your fleet’s loading situations. Also, consider whether your vehicle will be on a time-sensitive route when you select your van. 

If you have further questions or want to purchase a van, our representatives at Schetky Bus & Van Sales are here to help. We’ll happily assist you with your purchase and provide you with a top-quality vehicle at a competitive price.



As America’s longest-established, family-owned bus dealer, we are here to provide you with an extensive inventory of electric vehicles as well as standard buses and vans. Make sure to keep an eye out for Schetky electric school buses for sale and electric vans available across the country! And please reach out to us with any questions. We would love to enter into a dialogue with you. Help us make this world cleaner and greener for everyone.