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Campaign Calls for Safer Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles


  • Published: 2012-05-15 (Revised/Updated 2014-01-24) : Author: Disabled Motoring UK
  • Synopsis: No Compromises safety campaign will urge buyers of wheelchair accessible cars to demand sled testing certificates to check a vehicle is as safe as possible.

Disabled Motoring UK is gearing up to campaign for a change in legislation that will improve the safety of wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs).

The charity believes it is a moral and human right for people who travel in a wheelchair to be able to purchase a converted vehicle that has been properly tested and is as safe as the original car.

The 'No Compromises!' safety campaign will urge buyers of wheelchair accessible cars to demand sled testing certificates - the only way to check a vehicle is as safe as possible. The campaign will also seek to change legislation so that only 'sled tested' vehicles can be sold.

Worryingly, the industry has seen up to 50 per cent of conversions that have passed other less significant tests fail the vital sled test.

A sled test is similar to the crash testing seen on TV - a dummy is strapped into a wheelchair within the car, which is then put through head-on collisions to check that both the belts and their fixings are strong enough to withstand a real-life accident and keep the wheelchair user secure.

The reason testing is so vital after conversion to a wheelchair accessible vehicle is because converting a car is a complex process involving significant structural changes to the vehicle such as lowering the floor. If this is not done properly, and by experts, the car may be unsafe.

Sled safety testAbout This Image: Sled safety testHelen Dolphin, Director of Policy and Campaigns for Disabled Motoring UK, said: "It is amazing that vehicles are being sold that may not be safe for the drivers and their disabled passengers and we feel strongly that this most stop. We will be calling on the Government to change legislation so that people don't unknowingly purchase unsafe vehicles. Alongside this we will be educating people to make sure they ask the right questions before purchasing a converted car."

Constables Mobility's Managing Director David Constable, one of the experts supporting the campaign, explains: "People who travel in wheelchairs have a right to a vehicle that has been properly tested so they are as safe as possible in the event of an accident. I strongly believe that all companies who convert cars should only be allowed to sell them if they have been successfully tested after conversion - including being sled tested - so the vehicle meets and exceeds the latest European safety standards. It's a moral and human right to have a car that has been converted safely."

From 29 April 2012, wheelchair accessible vehicles have to meet both the European standard for the car before it is converted and pass additional tests which check the changes made during the conversion process. However, not every conversion will have passed the same tests and it doesn't guarantee that sled testing has been carried out.

Disabled Motoring UK (DMUK) campaigns on behalf of all disabled motorists, passengers and Blue Badge holders. The charity represents their interests at both local and national levels, and engages with government and industry to ensure that the voice of disabled people is heard.

DMUK is the only UK charity that campaigns on behalf of disabled people in this way. Without DMUK and its parent charities the Disabled Drivers' Association and the Disabled Drivers' Motor Club, there would be no Blue Badge scheme, no Motability cars, and no mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to help disabled people defray some of the extra travel and transport costs that they incur.

What is sled testing

The sled test is similar to the crash testing that many of us have seen on TV a dummy is strapped into a wheelchair in the body of the car, which is then put through head-on collisions to check that both the belts and their fixings are strong enough to withstand a real-life accident and keep the wheelchair user secure.

Sled testing is the only means of proving that the cell (i.e. the conversion anchorage points together with the belts and tie-downs) is safe.

The industry has witnessed a 50 per cent failure rate with the wheelchair and occupant sled test, even when the conversion has previously been pull-tested and the belts and tie-downs have been tested separately by the belt manufacturer. It is when the constituent parts are put together as a complete system that they fail.

Why is testing important

How do people make sure the vehicle they are buying is safe for the driver and wheelchair user

Converting a car to make it wheelchair accessible is a complex process involving significant structural changes to the vehicle such as lowering the floor. If this is not done properly, and by experts, the car may be unsafe.

The simple way to check whether a new car meets these standards is to ask to see its certification. Sled tested WAVs will have an ECWVTA.M1 certificate. But do check that the certificate is for the conversion, not the original car.

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