Hitting the Road with the Freys

Amy Frey in her new wheelchair accessible minivan

Planning a vacation or shopping for a flat screen TV can be taxing. The process can take a day, a weekend, a week; involve hours of research, countless conversations with friends, family, and sales persons; and conclude with the difficult final decision. Now what if you were buying a wheelchair accessible minivan? For some, this can take years!

Meet Malcolm and Lyne Frey. They began the hunt for an accessible van for their daughter, Amy, over two years ago. The Frey family is young and active and was in need of a vehicle that was comfortable, safe and reliable. We recently spoke with Lyne to learn more about their search for the perfect van.

The Freys originally went to an accessible vehicle dealership for a quote, but were discouraged by the prices. At that time, they were not aware of the different types of conversions, ramps, and add-ons, making it difficult to determine what their family needed. But once Amy got bigger, it became difficult for the Frey family to travel.

The Freys are a family of five; Malcolm and Lyne have 3 daughters, ages 11, 8, and 9 months. Amy, age 8, is a beautiful and happy girl. Malcolm and Lyne learned that Amy had microcephaly, cerebelar hypoplasia, and global development delays when she was just 8 months old. She functions at a 3-12 month-old level and began using a wheelchair shortly after her 4th birthday. Amy is now starting to walk and explore but is still dependent on her wheelchair for mobility and travel.

The Frey family’s day to day life is very busy. With 3 children, they are constantly on the go and morning and nightly rituals can take hours. Lyne says that things have changed drastically with a wheelchair user in the family. Stairs and curbs are viewed in a new way. Everything takes longer and the family takes up space wherever they go. Lyne does note, however, that she gets the good parking spaces!

The Freys revived their search this spring and bought a rear entry, short floor from Savaria. Having the accessible van has made a huge difference in the Frey’s daily living. Before the van, it was quite a process to get Amy in and out of the family vehicle. Now all they need to do is wheel Amy into the van and buckle up. Lynn and Malcolm actually argue over who gets to do it! With traveling so much easier now, the family plans on taking a trip to Niagara Falls this summer in their new van.

“Buying with Savaria was easy,” Lynn says. The family lives about an hour away from our Brampton offices so their sales representative, Ryan, drove the van down to Amy’s school so that the family could take Amy for a test drive.

When asked what advice she would give to other families searching for an accessible van, Lynn replied “get educated.” Learn about the types of vans, conversions, and ramps and think about which is the best choice for your family.

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Getting Started with Accessible Minivans

Savaria Side Entry Van


What type of accessible minivan is right for you? Use this checklist to find out and see a few FAQs too.


Choose a side entry conversion if…

  • You have a wide driveway or you park on the street
  • You want a power assisted ramp
  • You want or need driver capabilities for wheelchair passenger
  • The wheelchair passenger will be sitting in the front passenger area

Choose a rear entry conversion if…

  • You are looking for the most cost-effective solution
  • You have limited-space parking (single driveway)
  • You would like to have second row ambulatory passengers
  • You have a larger wheelchair (ease of access)


How much does an accessible van cost?

The cost can be split into two parts: vehicle cost and conversion cost. The vehicle cost will vary based on individual preferences and whether or not you buy a brand new van. A minivan could range from $15,000 to $60,000. Similarly, depending on the type of conversion and which options you’d like, a conversion may cost anywhere from $16,000 to $27,000.


Can I get my current van converted or do I have to buy an accessible minivan ready-to-go?

You may be able to convert your current van depending on the brand and its condition. The best thing is to call your local conversion dealership or the manufacturer directly and ask them if yours is a model that can be converted.


Are accessible minivans safe for passengers in wheelchairs?

Yes. They are just as safe as traditional minivans. Any reputable converter of wheelchair accessible vans will have performed seat belt tests and crash tests (front, side, and rear impact) to comply with federal safety requirements (FMVSS and CMVSS). You should not be hesitant to ask for a copy of these tests when you are purchasing a vehicle.


When it comes to accessible minivans, there are a lot of options to consider. Take some time to think about your needs today and consider if they may also change in the near future. It is helpful to know what you are looking for and then work to find a vehicle that fits your criteria. And don’t be shy about asking questions. Dealers and manufacturers are there to answer your questions and help you find the right wheelchair accessible minivan for you.

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Technology Developments Improve Life for People with Disabilities

Michal Prywata and Thiago Caires, AMO Arm Creators. Photo by James Kachan

It’s quite common to hear people say that they couldn’t function without their phone, or that their life is on their laptop. But for some, life really does rely on technology. For people with disabilities, technology provides the ability to move and communicate. And for them, the constant evolution and development of technology is invaluable. Recent breakthroughs are creating new opportunities and provisions, moving us forward on the path to accessibility.

In 2011, two Ryerson University undergraduate students created a new prosthetic arm that is controlled by the user’s brain signals. The Artificial Muscle-Operated Arm sends a signal from a headset to a miniature computer in the arm to activate the required movement (more information here). The developments of young people give promise to an accessible future.

Another great example is Nike’s new product: The Nike Sole. This adapted running shoe works with the Flex-Run Foot, a prosthetic foot designed for runners by the orthopedic company Ossur. The sole slips over the flex foot to work like a traditional running shoe, providing support, traction, and absorb shock. Nike has been working with Ossur and marathoner Sarah Reinersten since 2006 on this new development that promises to change the running experience for people with prosthetic legs/feet.

In similar news, NASA technology has been adapted and applied by a company called Alter G. The company created a treadmill for persons with disabilities: the M320 and P200. The machine allows users to adjust the body-weight reduction up to 80% so that they are able to support themselves while walking or running, some for the first time ever.

And lastly, new web and smartphone applications are being developed every day to serve people with disabilities. One of the more recent apps is the Rick Hansen Global Accessibility Map. It is an online rating tool where consumers can submit and obtain reviews on community accessibility. The app is designed to raise awareness about the importance of improved physical access to public spaces.

Accessibility is ever-changing. And with new technology and developments, we can achieve accessibility in new and exciting ways!

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Is web content just one click away?

If you were asked to picture your idea of accessibility, what would you see? An entrance way with a ramp? A building with an elevator? What if you were asked to picture a person with a disability? Is he or she in a wheelchair? We often think of accessibility as physical access for people in wheelchairs. But it has a much broader scope.

Web accessibility extends beyond physical space. The power of the web lies in its universality; access for everyone is an essential element. The ability to “be online” is an integral part of our lives: we pay our bills, we shop, we read the news, we interact with friends, etc. In fact, there are businesses that exist almost entirely on the web (Amazon, Google, eBay). Yet many services and websites are not accessible to groups of people with certain disabilities.

Potential users may include persons who are color blind, partially or completely blind, hard of hearing, or deaf. Users may also have limited mobility in their upper body or a learning disability.

These individuals most likely encounter barriers to their online navigation on a daily basis. Things like small text and poor color contrast could impact those with color or partial blindness. For deaf people, multimedia components may be difficult to access without captions. Sites that require a mouse to navigate present a barrier for persons with limited mobility. And complicated writing may provide difficulty for anyone with a learning disability.

So what can you do? Simple changes can include altering your page and text colors so everything is clear and easy to read. Make sure to underline your links or add a symbol or picture so that people who are color blind can easily identify them. Another easy one is adding captions to your images, audio clips, and videos. And lastly, write simple sentences that are easy to read and to understand (in a decent-sized font!)

If you are more advanced in the IT department, check out ways to alter your code to allow for keyboard navigation and screen-reader compatibility.

The web is such a big part of our daily lives that it has become a necessity. It provides access to almost anything you can think of. The phrase “Google it” is probably expressed once every few seconds around the globe. So now it’s our turn to provide access to the web!

For a quick review of accessibility on our site, check out the video below






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