Supply-chain shortages are making it hard for parents of children with disabilities to get wheelchair-accessible vans
- Supply-chain shortages are making it difficult to get cars and car 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 shop time was short, but for my family of five, it's not always so simple.
We drive a Toyota Sienna BraunAbility, a modified wheelchair-accessible van. It's the only way that 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 automaker industry are making it difficult to find basic replacement parts for cars and vans that need repair. Families who need a specific type of transportation to get around, like mine, are left with few options.
Repair parts are hard to find
Our van was towed to the dealer months ago, and we waited for the part to arrive. We received several notifications of a potential due date, but that day came and went. Each time, the estimated arrival date in the computer system at the dealer reverted to "TBD."
We were lucky enough to secure a loaner van in the interim, but not everyone is so fortunate.
Danielle Dapuzzo, a single mother from New Jersey, drives a modified Honda Odyssey, but the driver's-side sliding door isn't in use because of a broken motor. The part is nowhere to be found, with no expected delivery date.
"The van is functional," Dapuzzo said, "but I'm forced to use the passenger-side sliding door to climb over my daughter in her wheelchair to get to her gastronomy tube and colostomy. I have no choice but to use the van multiple times a day because I drive her to and from school."
The replacement part for our Toyota Sienna finally arrived in early May, almost five months after we put in an order. My family is thrilled to have our van back. But we will most likely need a new van soon, and there are few options on the market.
Vans are difficult to come by and expensive
Aside from having trouble obtaining replacement parts, parents of children with disabilities are having 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 leap in cost.
Joey Enos and his wife, Anna MacNeil, want a Ford Transit XL for their son who has disabilities and uses a wheelchair to get around. As far as modified vans go, Enos said, "At first, I tried to get a van already converted, but the showroom was completely empty."
Nicole Bryson, the owner of FTMobility, explained further, "The semiconductor shortage is having a profound impact on the ability to locate vehicles to convert. It is nearly impossible to find one locally, so we end up placing orders for the inbound units that have no firm estimated dates of arrival."
Enos was willing to expand his search to other types of cars even though they may be bigger than his initial needs, but even when he expands his search, he's still unable to get transportation that works for his family, he said.
"Having very specific needs is making it so much harder. Each kid is different, and I feel each vehicle should be adjusted for it, but we are being asked to compromise because of lack of inventory," Enos said.
Bryson said: "Aside from the shortage of inventory, prices are sky-high. Suggested MSRP means nothing as auto dealers nationwide are charging over sticker."
Enos still doesn't have transportation for his son, who is getting older and needs a van that can comfortably accommodate his wheelchair, especially since Enos suffered physical injuries, including a herniated disk, related to lifting his son.
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