Six Steps to Funding a Wheelchair Van

So often, people with disabilities and their families, who have already spent thousands of dollars in medical care, can’t even fathom the idea of owning a handicap accessible van — a vehicle that can provide mobility, freedom and independence they never thought possible. But it IS possible.

A number of foundations, non-profits and other organizations provide funds to individuals to help lower the cost to buy a handicap van or, sometimes, pay for the vehicle entirely. Grants don’t need to be repaid and are given to applicants satisfying general conditions like a disability. With grants and other funding opportunities, expect to do a lot of paperwork in the application process, especially if you plan to combine a number of funding sources to get your van, which, by the way, is permitted and may be a way to cover the cost of your van completely. These six steps will take you a long way in obtaining the funds to buy a wheelchair accessible van.

Gather the necessary information for the application process

The most important key to applying for a grant or funding for your wheelchair van is preparation. You can avoid headaches, stress and bumps in the road simply by having all the necessary information at hand before you begin the application process. Though the information required may vary based on individual circumstances and grant requirements, typically the funding organizations want personal information (i.e. driver’s license, marital status, and financial information) along with background about the applicant. With all your personal information efficiently organized, you’ll have everything you need, expediting the transfer to every application.

Secure your medical records and references

Virtually all state, federal or private-charity grants or funding sources require applicants to submit their medical records. Your doctor’s written letter of recommendation, though not necessary, can be of great benefit to you. Ask the doctor to write the letter on letterhead paper and address it to a generic individual (“To Whom It May Concern”, “Dear Sir or Madam”) This allows you to make copies of the letter and apply simultaneously to several funding sources at the same time. When you have the appropriate medical records, line up at least three references. Ask close friends, colleagues, neighbors, church members, or anyone who can provide compelling input about your character and disability. Trust them to describe how the funds to buy a wheelchair van would improve your current lifestyle. Funding organizations are interested in your references’ personal accounts of your achievements and their perspective on how you handle your disability.

Identify the best funding resources for your accessible van

You’re now at the point in the application process where you have the necessary documents and backing, so you can start determining sources for your financial aid. When you research the possibilities, make absolutely sure the granting institution supports individuals and not just non-profits. Consider organizations that support your particular disability, like the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, United Cerebral Palsy and other issue-specific groups. There are many grant providers and funding institutions; don’t restrict yourself to one source because money from multiple programs can be applied toward a single accessible vehicle. Before contacting your sources, read their mission statements and get their application forms. Write a cover letter in which you couple your needs with their goals to show the funder how you can help meet the institution’s objectives. This information will be essential to the funding organization.

Communicate with the funding organization

Do what it takes to find the person at the helm of the funding program you’re approaching. Some assistance programs will assign a project officer you can contact, and others provide little to no technical help. If you identify a contact person, always be courteous and thank them for taking time to help you. Opening a direct line of communication is an outstanding way to ask about financing proposal reviews and requirements. At this point, questions or concerns you have about the funding program can be addressed. For each program, get a contact name and number of a person at every organization for updates on the status of your application. Ask for a timeline of when they’ll choose the candidate for the funding opportunity if their website doesn’t provide one.

Explain yourself to the funding resource

It’s time to help the grant provider understand your personal history, including how any hardships have affected your life. Be honest, short and to the point in selling your story to the potential funding organization. Include a clear, well-defined statement indicating how you plan to use the funding and the positive effect it will have on your future. Distance yourself from other applicants with an inspiring, emotional narrative.

Be organized and aware of submission dates

Keeping your accessible van application documents organized is absolutely essential, because you’ll have to access this information often during the application process. Have an established system to remember dates and deadlines. You can set yourself apart from other applicants by being persistent and current with the status of your applications, proving you’re genuinely eager to earn their financial help.

Follow these six tips to apply for funding that can reduce your cost for a handicap van. They can multiply your chances to be chosen for monetary support from organizations and institutions dedicated to helping people with special needs. Good luck!