Earlier this year, Disabled Motoring UK launched their sled test campaign to get equal treatment for disabled people and stop vehicles being sold unless they have been properly crash tested. The safety campaign urges buyers of wheelchair accessible cars to demand sled testing certificates – the only way to check a vehicle is as safe as possible.
David Constable, Managing Director of Constables Ltd, pioneered the safe conversion of cars to make them wheelchair accessible – enabling thousands of disabled people in the UK and abroad to travel in comfort, safety and style for the first time.
David explained: “Unfortunately some convertors that have followed in my company’s footsteps have been more concerned with profits than safety. Now, because of the lack of regulations and loop holes in the law, there are wheelchair accessible vehicles being sold that have not been crash tested after they have been converted.
“I strongly agree with Disabled Motoring UK that it is a moral and human right for wheelchair users to be able to purchase a converted vehicle that has been properly tested. 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.”
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. You can watch the video here http://www.youtube.com/
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.
Helen 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 must stop. We are 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.”
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.
Notes to editors:
For more information or interview requests contact Suzi Christie at Blueberry PR on 01435 830031 or e-mail suzi@blueberry-
Why is testing important?
• Converting a WAV involves major changes so the original tests may no longer apply
• Testing is needed to check both the fixings and the belts work properly in the event of a crash
• Sled testing is the only test that actively checks whether the WAV is able to keep the passenger travelling in a wheelchair secure in a real-life accident.
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.
About David Constable
Although he now runs the company, David still takes a keen interest in the engineering side of the business and likes to spend time on the factory floor. He puts huge emphasis on excellent customer service so that the whole Constables’ experience, from the initial demonstration to the delivery, is memorable. Customers often return again and again when they need to renew their vehicle.
David is renowned for his negotiating skills, commitment to safety and for campaigning to improve the standard of conversions in the UK as well as the welfare and rights of wheelchair users. For example, in 1986, David successfully negotiated with HMRC so that disabled customers purchasing a car fitted with a Car Chair were exempt from VAT on both the car and the conversion.
David, who was born and still lives in East Sussex, has developed a reputation for constantly breaking new ground. For instance in 1987, Constables was the first company to crash test a wheelchair and restraint system that was designed to be fitted to a standard production car.
In 1999 David helped to found the first industry body for companies who convert cars - the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles Converters’ Association (WAVCA). He co-wrote the standards for the association and established its objective as being “…to improve the quality and safety of wheelchair carrying vehicles and enhance customer care.”
In 1987 Constables Mobility was one of the first two conversion companies to be included onto the Motability Operations Scheme. With a history of expert engineering and excellence, Constables Mobility now designs wheelchair accessible vehicles ideally suited to the needs of disabled customers and their requirements. The company’s factory in Golden Cross, East Sussex, converts hundreds of cars each year and delivers them to customers across the UK.