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European Commission bows to UK wheelchair users

The UK wheelchair accessible vehicle industry has overturned proposed European legislation which would have significantly cut production levels and forced some converters out of business.

Structural modifications required for wheelchair compatibility mean the finished vehicles must be compliant with low volume production type approval. This limits annual volumes to 500 units per converter, which is enough to cover approval costs. Proposed legislation would have cut this to just 75 units, inevitably forcing some businesses to close and prices to rise.

Following a two year campaign against the legislation, the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Converters Association (WAVCA), an industry body comprising 12 companies, met with the European Commission to discuss a more accurate type approval for their vehicles.

Amendments to the legislation now mean that these vehicles are classified as a separate category, with unlimited production volumes and wheelchair-specific safety testing for the first time.

WAVCA chairwoman Linda Ling commented: “These vehicles are crucially important to wheelchair users who cannot use ordinary cars.

Once the Commission understood the negative impact of the original proposals on our industry, they worked really hard with us to ensure recognition for the WAV sector and an appropriate type approval scheme that recognises the wheelchair user seating position.

“We have gone many steps further forward in providing a platform for future developments of purpose-designed wheelchair accessible vehicle conversions. A critical factor in this development will be collaboration with wheelchair manufacturers to ensure compatibility with in-vehicle use. It also means that vehicle registration, MoT and insurance for these conversions will also become much more straightforward.”

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