Maintaining independence is fundamental for people living with disabilities. Having mobility options allows people with certain disabilities to go to doctor’s appointments, grocery shop, visits friends, and keep a sense of autonomy.
Purchasing a vehicle can be expensive. However, grants and other resources can help meet diverse needs, including for those who need an accessible vehicle of their own.
Federal Funding for Mobility Vans, Adaptive Equipment, and Accessible Transportation
Various federal funding sources can help cover the cost of wheelchair vans or adaptive equipment for your existing vehicle. Different programs may focus specifically on accessible transportation options for older adults, veterans, or people living with disabilities.
Examples of these resources include the following:
Veterans Affairs Benefits
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs invites eligible veterans to seek out its automobile allowance benefits. Vets can also apply for its grants for accessible vehicles and adaptive equipment.
Adaptations may include such vehicle adaptations as changes to seats, brakes, steering wheels, and assistive equipment. Note that each state’s VA office may likely have available grants specific to state residents as well.
The Transportation for Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities Program
This program is headed up by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Transportation for Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities Program grants money to states. The states then coordinate transportation services with nonprofits that address the mobility needs of seniors and people with disabilities.
These types of grant-funded services generally do not provide accessible vehicles for individual use. However, they offer transportation services that are often free or discounted.
Such public transit programs are in place in these and other states:
- Northwest Valley Connect in Arizona
- CrossTownConnect in Massachusetts
- Volunteer Care Giving in North Carolina’s Raleigh area
- The Rusk County Transit Commission’s volunteer transportation services in Wisconsin
Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) Program
If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), have a disability, and want to work, the PASS program may be of interest to you.
Participants receive a monthly stipend that can go toward paying for an accessible vehicle if required to achieve your work goals. Learn more on the Social Security Administration website.
State and Regional Financial Assistance Programs for Accessible Vehicles
Across each state, grants for mobility vans vary widely. Be sure to consult The Mobility Resource’s list of state disability grants available specifically for wheelchair vans.
Other state programs exist that assist people with disabilities in modifying their vehicles to make traveling with a mobility impairment easier. Unfortunately, these programs are not consistent throughout the country. Some states that provide their residents with grant opportunities for vehicle updates include:
- Kentucky – The Spina Bifida Foundation of Kentucky makes funding for adapting vehicles available through an application process.
- New York – The Motion Project Foundation offers qualifying residents grants that can be used for vehicle modifications and other adaptive equipment.
- Oregon – The Blanche Fischer Foundation gives grants of up to $1,500 to residents with physical disabilities and financial need.
- Texas – The Houston Children’s Charity Chariots for Children program awards accessible vehicles to families of children with special needs .
In addition, numerous states have low-interest loan programs that can help individuals pay for modifying or purchasing a vehicle. These include:
- Arizona Technology Access Program
- Assistive Technology Loan Program at the Connecticut Tech Act Project
- Able Up in Iowa
- Montana Assistive Technology Loan Program
- Access Loan New Mexico Program
- Oklahoma Assistive Technology Foundation loans
Mobility Rebate Programs
Certain car manufacturers also offer rebates for approved devices, equipment, and controls that have been installed in a new vehicle.
Learn more about programs available through such companies as Audi, Honda, and Subaru, among many others. (Other car companies are even launching vehicles specially designed for families with certain disabilities, such as autism.)
Disability Grants for Vehicles or Equipment Through Other Organizations
Grants for individuals may be available through foundations, nonprofits, and other types of organizations. Depending on the size of the program, some participants may receive enough money to cover the entire cost of assistive equipment and vehicle modifications. Smaller programs may be focused on supporting families with demonstrated financial need.
The following are examples of organizations that provide grants to individuals and families with certain disabilities:
- Alyssa V Phillips Foundation. This foundation provides people with cerebral palsy financial aid that can support adaptations to qualifying vehicles.
- Chive Charities. This nonprofit helps veterans, first responders, and others with rare medical conditions through grants.
- Special Kids Fund. This fund invites families with special needs children to apply for adapted wheelchair vans that are secured through donations.
- Muscular Dystrophy Family Foundation. This foundation offers applicants with certain diseases financial assistance for such transportation adaptations as van conversions, transfer seats, and vehicle lifts
- Help HOPE Live. Through this nonprofit fundraising website, families with special needs can coordinate crowdfunding campaigns to support their needs
- Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. This national foundation funds the Brighter Tomorrow Grant. This grant awards up to $1,000 for goods, services, or equipment that will improve the lives of individuals with MS. Its local chapters also often have grants specific to each state.
- Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation. This foundation awards grants to people with spinal cord injuries and disorders for specific equipment or modifications.
- National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association. This resource offers robust informatino on accessible driving solutions, funding sources, advice when purchasing accessible vehicles online, and more.
Note that grant application criteria and deadlines will vary from one organization to another. Finding and applying for grants for those who need a wheelchair van or adaptive vehicle modifications can take time. Find a special needs planner in your area who can help.