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Van fit boosts mobility

PERTH Mercedes-Benz dealership Westpoint Star has worked with Wesbar Vanquip to become the first Western Australian motor company to create a vehicle that can be driven by a person sitting in an electric or manual wheelchair.

The Mercedes Vito van has been equipped with unique fittings that allows new owner Phil Deschamp to get in, drive and get out completely independently, despite the fact he only has limited use of his arms.

Wesbar Vanquip completed the modifications to the van that included the removal of the driver’s seat and installation of a lock device on the wheelchair and van floor.

This feature was included to ensure the van could not be started until the device was locked correctly and the wheelchair cannot be removed until the engine is turned off.

Hand controls for the accelerator and brake have also been installed, an electric lift fitted and, with the seatbelt already clicked into position, Dr Deschamp no longer needs to manually fasten it.

Dr Deschamp, a consultant researcher and avid amateur photographer, said that as a person with a high level of quadriplegia he would always need someone to meet him when he arrived at an appointment.

"I now have an automatic garage door and I can get into and out of the van independently, providing me with an utterly different lifestyle," he said.

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