As a pioneer in the mobility industry, VMI’s history dates back to the late 1970’s, when the original founders were challenged to build a suitable accessible vehicle for a close family friend. They envisioned a new concept that would eliminate the need for the traditional lift, mounted on the side of a full-sized van.
With the use of simple manufacturing tools and techniques, the three individuals converted an Oldsmobile Toronado, one of the first front-wheel drive cars at that time. The new vehicle, called the FAMCAR, used a ramp rather than a wheelchair lift, and was an immediate success.
In 1984, an automotive engineer in Phoenix, Arizona, suggested that the three apply their lowered-floor technology to the new front-wheel drive Chrysler minivan. They introduced the first conversion based on the Chrysler minivan with great success and in 1987 incorporated as Vantage Mini Vans, later to be renamed VMI (Vantage Mobility International), in Phoenix, AZ.
Today VMI manufactures, markets and services a complete line of high-quality wheelchair accessible vans with 2 conversions (Northstar In-Floor Ramp or Summit Fold-Out Ramp) to choose from on a variety of different chassis.
Shopping for a wheelchair van can be a confusing and long process, especially if you don’t know what to look for. All wheelchair-accessible vehicles are different and there are several features to consider before making such a large purchase. Think about things like your preferred make and model, how much space you need, whether you will be the driver or passenger, and, most importantly, what type of ramp system you want.
There are two basic wheelchair ramps for vans – in-floor and fold-out ramps. In-floor ramps, like VMI’s Northstar, store under the floor when not in use for added safety inside of the vehicle. Fold-out wheelchair ramps, such as the Summit from VMI, are stowed within the vehicle and extend outward when deployed.
Although each of these van wheelchair ramps provides users unique perks, both are great options and can increase independence through better mobility. If you need help deciding which wheelchair ramp would be right for you, contact us today.
Northstar (In-Floor Ramp) vs Summit (Fold-Out Ramp)
All Northstar conversions include a patented, ultra-low, in-floor power ramp. The ramp is stowed under the floor, creating more interior room for maneuverability.
Benefits of the Northstar ramp system include:
- High ramp capacity
- Obstruction free doorway
- Ultra-low ramp angle
- In-floor stowage
- Electronic backup system
- Wide usable area
- Clean, uncluttered interior
- Quieter ride without rattling
All Summit conversions include a durable, easy-to-use fold-out ramp. The ramp sits inside the vehicle cabin and extends outward when deployed.
Benefits of the Summit ramp system include:
- Manual backup
- Strength and durability
- Robust design
- High side rails for easy navigation
- Easy-to-use fold-out design
- Budget conscious price
- Ramp perforations for better traction and debris removal
- Anti-rattle mechanism for a quieter ride