Funding Your Accessible Van with a Grant
Funding Your Accessible Van with a Grant

Categories: Transportation

AMS Vans, Inc. Logo

By Guest Blogger Susan Hawkins, Content Manager for AMS Vans, Inc.

Mobility beyond the wheelchair is out there, but so often, it’s out of reach financially for individuals with disabilities who have spent thousands on medical care. There are several avenues that lead to funds for a wheelchair accessible vehicle or adaptive equipment for driving, like loans, government assistance, mobility rebates and grants. So what’s great about grants?

Grant money doesn’t need to be repaid, which makes it especially attractive. What’s more, grant opportunities are plentiful; relevant grant-making organizations and foundations will supply partial or complete funding on wheelchair accessible vans for sale or assistive equipment; and you can combine funds from several sources to purchase the freedom and independence an accessible vehicle provides. Obtaining a grant to fund an accessible vehicle requires patience, perseverance and a detailed application process. Though it sounds daunting, these tips will help you navigate the process:

  • Be Patient

Grant providers don’t work in your time frame. They process thousands of applications just like yours, so you may wait longer than you’d like for a response. Expressing your aggravation to the grant provider might be counterproductive. Lowering your expectations will also lower your level of frustration during your quest for grant money. If you’re prepared for progress to move slowly, you’ll be thrilled if it takes less time than you expect.

  • Be Prepared with Necessary Information

With the likelihood you’ll want to apply to several granting institutions, it simply makes sense to have your basic information gathered and quickly accessible, so you can begin filling out an application as soon as you’ve identified another potential grant opportunity. Though the requirements on grant applications vary, you’ll need personal information on all of them, such as your Social Security Number, driver’s license number (if you have one), marital status, financial information and personal background details. It’s all about expediting the application process on your end. Keep in mind that funding organizations have different policies and requirements, so you’ll need to be flexible.

  • Line up Medical Records and References

Granting institutions will want to see your medical records. Your physician can provide you with a copy. Some physicians prefer to send your records directly to the granting institution. Either way, be sure your physician understands why you need your medical records. While you’re at it, ask your physician to write a letter of recommendation. It’s not necessary, but a letter from your physician, written on letterhead stationery, can often be helpful when applying for a grant. Ask that the letter be addressed to a generic individual (“Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern”), so you can include a copy with each application.

Now’s the time to get references to support your efforts – ask close friends, neighbors, colleagues, church members and anyone who you believe will provide convincing, compelling input about your character and disability. Funding organizations want their personal perspective about your accomplishments, your attitude and how you manage your disability on a daily basis. Your references can also comment on how grant money to buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle would improve your present lifestyle.

  • Make Your Case

Your mission is to help the funding organization understand your personal history, your challenges and the impact any hardships have had on your life. Be honest and persuasive in telling your story to the grant provider (including an articulate, straightforward narrative, 1-2 pages in length), describing your plans for the funding and its potential positive effect on your future. Focus on setting yourself apart from other applicants with an emotional, inspiring account. You’re in competition for a limited amount of money, so this is important.

  • Research and Identify Appropriate Granting Institutions

You now have the necessary documents and backing to begin applying for grants. Start your research with these handicap van grants, sorted by location, medical need, veterans, special needs children and others to find one or more grants for your specific situation. If you search the Internet, use “disability grant providers,” “disability grants” and other relevant keyword phrases to find foundations and organizations. If you’re a disabled veteran, check with the Veterans Administration. Remember, you can combine sources to amass as much money as possible for your wheelchair van or adaptive equipment.

Organizations that support specific conditions often provide grants to people living with that disorder. Examples include United Cerebral Palsy, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

When you’ve identified a potential granting organization, read their mission statement and get an application form. Craft a cover letter in which you align your needs with the organization’s goals to demonstrate how you can help achieve the provider’s objectives. This is essential information for the funding organization.

  • Contact the Grant Providers

If at all possible, speak or write to the person in charge when you begin the application process to fund your handicap van. Typically, assistance programs will assign a project officer or contact person to help you through the details. Always be polite and thank them for their time. Through this direct line of communication, you can have your questions and concerns addressed. Get a contact name, phone number and email address for every organization to obtain status updates on your application. Request information on their timeline for choosing a candidate for the funding opportunity.

  • Stay Organized and Aware

With multiple applications at different stages in the process, it’s essential to keep track of your documents and deadlines. You should be able to put your hands on documents and paperwork at any given moment. Devise a system to remind yourself of important dates and deadlines, and be sure everything is submitted on time. Stand out from other applicants by demonstrating your desire to earn their financial assistance – meet all deadlines and stay up-to-date on the status of your applications.

Keep copies of all of your applications (electronic or paper copies, or both), and save any confirmation numbers or application numbers you may receive in a safe, readily accessible place. You may be asked for them at some point.

It may take time and effort to get the funding you need for a wheelchair van or adaptive equipment, but it’s absolutely worth it to gain the freedom and independence that can change your life.

For More Information:

For a state by state list of financial aid opportunities to help purchase an accessible vehicle or pay for changes to a current vehicle to make it accessible, please visit http://www.amsvans.com/financing-handicap-vans/grants or http://www.themobilityresource.com/financial-aid/financial-aid-map-portal/.

Susan Hawkins is the content manager for AMSVans.com, which sells new and used wheelchair vans nationwide with a guaranteed low price on all newly modified AMS-brand wheelchair van models. AMS Vans sells and converts wheelchair-accessible vans at prices often thousands of dollars lower than the competition. AMSVans.com also accepts trades, and rents and buys vans at competitive prices. Find adaptive mobility equipment solutions and handicap vans for sale at http://www.amsvans.com/.

32 Responses to Funding Your Accessible Van with a Grant

  1. seo says:

    I have learned some good stuff here. Definitely value in bookmarking this for revisiting in the future. I wonder how much effort it takes to make this kind of excellent and informative website.

  2. Arlean B. says:

    I live at Mark Twain in Enfield, CT. The only transportation we have is Dial A Ride and sometimes they are not able to take our chairs. There are too many walkers, so they take up the wheelchairs postion. I feel the disabled are forced to stay at home. It’s like we are in the way because we aren’t supposed to be seen. – Arlean B., Enfield, CT

  3. Brenda Lee C. says:

    Thanks. Learned about accessible van funding from a Facebook post by Laftofhic (Louisiana Family to Family Health Information Center). Will share with disability rights communities, including “disAbilityVOICE – Disability Rights Advocate” http://www.facebook.com/DisabilityVOICE.

  4. Donald M. says:

    No one truly understands the impact of disability until it touches them or a loved one directly. Reliable transportation is essential to work, health, and to the overall quality of life. Though all state vocational rehabilitation programs do not provide vehicle modfication and adaptive equipment funding, and those that do are not all equal, they do have the expertise to assist individuals with locating comparable benefits, i.e. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, Social Security work incentives, community action, and other specific state and local programs. Accurate, actionable information is crucial for those in need of this service.

    No one wants to have a disability, nor do they want to live in poverty or have to beg for assistance. We must treat each other with the dignity and respect as members of our extended village family, for we know not what our future life circumstances my hold for us. It can and often does happen in an instant.

  5. Rod says:

    Hey y’all,

    Thanks for the blog post and the information on accessible vans. It is worth a try to fill out the paperwork for a grant. I will save my information in PDF on my computer so that I can quickly send it to new opportunities as I discover them. Y’all are great!

    God bless,

    Rod

  6. Eric says:

    I think it is genuinely unfair that the wheelchair accessible vehicles or any other customised car for disabled people comes at such a price, if anything it should be the opposite! I hope you can find the grant you want and wish you all the luck in the world.

  7. Jordan V. says:

    Another great place to look into if you are looking to finance a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle is at Rollx Vans. They are based in Savage, MN.

  8. Jodi Wolff says:

    Hi Susan,

    I just wanted to let you know that MDA does not provide grants for accessible vehicles. However, we do help coordinate resource referrals and can guide families in need towards grants and funding agencies in their community.

    Jodi Wolff
    Director of Clinical Services, MDA

  9. Carrissa J. says:

    One more idea…it might be wise to refer individuals with specific questions to an independent living center. All states have them and they are specifically designed to be able to answer specific questions and be an information and referral source.

  10. Carrissa J. says:

    This article is somewhat misleading. Though you provide several resources that might assist with modifications to a vehicle, there are very few, if any, that will actually purchase the vehicle for someone. Specifically in my state, Kentucky, for example. The resource listed is Kentucky Assistive Technology Loan Corporation. First of all, that resource is not a grant, but a loan, and will have to be paid back. Secondly, it is specifically a resource for modifications, not to purchase the vehicles themselves.

  11. JMG says:

    The sad reality is, is that there is no resource that will actually give you new van. The article, while meant to be helpful, is actually misleading. I work for a disability resource center and I have been asked this question a million times! People are under the impression when you become disabled there is a fairy Godmother who bestows a gift of accessible transportation. New vans are very expensive. You will have to go through financing to obtain your van, BUT there are resources that will help cover modifications depending on certain criteria specific to your disability. The resource guide is helpful to locate funding that might cover those costs.

  12. Susan M. says:

    I’d like to see a show of hands of people who have actually, truly received enough money from this “grant” method to make a purchase realistic? Can’t see any hands? That’s because this really doesn’t work for anyone! A few thousand is only a drop in the bucket, even it if it does happen, when you consider the total cost of an accessible van! I resent able-bodied individuals giving false hope and information to people who feel desparate because of their situation.

    Consider that a newer-type van (not brand new of course!) without driving controls starts at about 45K and goes up steeply in price (to more than 90K with driving controls!), there needs to be a reliable support for people who REQUIRE accessible vans! Piecing together vocational rehab, plus “grant money,” plus a lower-interest loan may result in a very close proximity to enough money for a van, but this is not a confident solution either! Why is the United States still so backward when it comes to allowing people with different needs to be the “same” as everyone else? My husband needed hand controls (only) when he was 25 years old. He needed a wheelchair accessible van with a computer driving system since he was 35. We’re now 53 & 54 respectively. He has two college degrees, was a meteorologist, a teacher, and now a successful business owner. Our only help has been vocational rehabilitation, which is consistently inconsistent with their funding and decisions regard “whether he needs private transportation” (as opposed to riding the public bus!) We’re old pros, yet we fight for any level of assistance, from all different sources, every single van, and it’s never easy. It takes about 8 – 10 years to get a “new” vehicle due to all the fighting we have to do! It is more than we can deal with some times! Our current van, a 2010 Chrysler, cost 95K with the computerized no-effort system and Voc Rehab paid 45K and we paid the rest. Our payment is as high as if we were driving a Lamborgini or a Rolls Royce! They told him he’d not be getting any other monetary assistance from them ever, due to his age. So, we’re taking exceptional care of this van and praying by the time we need another one that this country can assist productive, contributing citizens in a respectful, decent manner.

  13. Sharon C. says:

    Where are they gonna park those accessible vans? All of these wonderful resources to help wheelchair users get out of the house, and the recipients are going to be hit with barricades to “Van Accessible” parking. The Americans with Disabilities Act has failed to protect drivers needing to off-load wheelchairs from vans because other drivers of cars and motorcycles can take the Van Accessible parking spaces. Most drivers don’t know or care what Van Accessible spaces are meant to accommodate. Law officers and government officials nationwide inform those seeking equal access that anyone with Handicapped licenses can park in Van Accessible spaces. Accessible van drivers are often forced to park in back of lots over two regular parking spaces in order to make room for offloading their wheelchairs. Many like myself have received parking tickets from police for illegal parking! The U.S. Access Board needs to reform Handicapped Parking in America!

  14. Everett G. says:

    Good afternoon guys:

    We sure do need some kind of leads as to grant providers as we have tried to find one for years.

    My wife is in condition and has been for MANY years where the only way she can only be moved from her wheelchair or anything else is with a Hoyer type lift so it is not possible to get her in and out of a car without lifting her, and she has regular doctors visits scheduled.

    We are over 45 miles from the nearest town at all so until a very short time ago when we bought a Ford Windstar ramp van with over 250,000 miles and NO RAMP to fix. I had to get help from a neighbor to help load her as I am 85 years old and after sitting all these years, she weighs about 240 pounds.

    The van is about completely worn out and rusted out bad, and as I said it is over 45 miles one way to town so we are taking a chance every trip.

    YES we need about anything that is dependable that is set up or can be set up even with a lift, which I do have, so that she could drive her electric wheelchair into. The problem with most standard vans is that the top of the doors are too low to drive one into and she is not able to bend over enough to get through the door.

    She is on both Medicare and Medicaid and we are living about day to day as we are totally broke, but own our property.

    Has ANYONE got any IDEAS????

    Thanks,

    Leroy G. in Preston, NV.

  15. Pat S. says:

    Can you email the application?

  16. Danny L. says:

    I’m disabled and have a hover round. I need a truck or SUV. I do not need a van or all the stuff to drive with, as I can drive and walk about 30 feet and they have ramps to drive the chair into the back of the truck or SUV, so that would save some money. I’m thinking $5,000-6,000 should take care of everything. It would be a god send. I’m Danny L. Pls advise me about what I need to do.

  17. John says:

    According to the government, I make $100.00 a month too much to qualify for extra medically needy assistance. They blessed my with $16.00 a month in food stamps. I did everything I was supposed to do, paid into disability since I was 15 years old, voted, had the 2.5 children, owned my home. I got hurt doing my job as a deputy sheriff after 9.5 years of spotless service, always going above and beyond. The sheriff decided I could no longer do my job and let me go. Since I was appointed and not employed, there was no fight. Since then forcing myself to work in excruciating pain and suffering, I found myself crawling to my truck. I applied for disability and was turned down 5 times. The judge thought if I lost weight, I could go to work at Walmart, saying hello. I lost everything from my home, then my wife and children. I have been fighting to survive ever since. I know if I can get a wheelchair van, I may be able to gain part of my life back. Can you please be more specific about these grants? At the lousy $1,200.00 a month I make now, I have no hope. That is reality.

  18. Sandra S. says:

    I have a disabled son who is wheelchair bound. He has had to use his credit cards to get groceries and meds. His SSI at this point just covers all his bills, but we know his rent, ulitities, phone are all going to increase. He has a computer and cable, but that is his life line. Are there any grants or loans he can get to payoff his credit cards where the Interest rate won’t eat him alive? I bought a handicap van so he could at least come to my house and be with the rest of the family, but I can’t help him anymore. I’m afraid he is going to get very depressed as he has also had tongue cancer and surgery. He has limited use of his hands and people come in and get him up showered and bowel program. He gets tired of sandwiches, but that is about all he can fix as he can’t open packages or boxes. I’m at a loss on how to help him or even if there is any way to.

  19. Martha B. says:

    Please list the grant providers.

  20. Monica S. says:

    Appreciated the article on grants. Currently do not require a chair, but a walker. My medical story is extensive and complicated. The main issue is cushings disease from a pituitary brain tumor. My body mass produces cortisol, i.e. steroids, in abundance. This has caused crumbling, dying bones and cartilage in most joints. Among other things, now rheumatoid arthritis. Could greatly use easy to control hand devices. Do you see any hope for such a grant?

  21. Mary B. says:

    I need a way to carry a power scooter or power wheelchair. Without a way to take these with me, I am stuck at home. It would be so nice to live a halfway normal life and be able to go places with my family. I haven’t been on a vacation or anywhere in about 4 years. It makes me sick when these companies call me to see if I want a scooter or power chair. I tell them that without a way to take it with me, that one would be useless.

  22. Virginia S. says:

    I have not been able to get a wheelchair yet – for financial reasons. That would also be the problem with getting a van that would help me. As stated, I have no money for any of these. To be honest, I’m not sure about giving out Social Security, which I understand is necessary. Anyway, you can I would like to see any thing you have that would identify your corporation. Thank you for your assistance. I’m sorry about my concerns on this issue. Thank you.

    • MissSue says:

      Why worry about your ss number? No one will steal when they see you don’t have anything to protect.

  23. Eric says:

    Listing some of these grant providers would have been helpful.

  24. Paul S. says:

    More info please.