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Vehicle designed 'from the ground up' for people in wheelchairs

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ADA: 20 years later
  • The new vehicle is made for wheelchair-bound passengers
  • The MV-1 is made "from the ground up" for people with disabilities
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990

(CNN) -- Two decades ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, becoming a hallmark of American civil rights legislation.

The act forbids discrimination against individuals with disabilities in a range of areas like employment, access to public facilities, transportation and telecommunications.

Over the last 20 years, sidewalk ramps have been installed and accessibility to most public places has been improved.

Yet, vehicles largely have been ignored. But that's about to change.

Vehicle Production Group, a Miami, Florida-based company plans to start production of the MV-1, which stands for first mobility vehicle, at a plant in Mishawaka, Indiana, late this year.

"This is the first vehicle that's been built from the ground up for wheelchair accessibility and the only vehicle that's factory-produced that meets the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act," according to Dave Schembri, the CEO for Vehicle Production Group.

Schembri said there are 54 million Americans who have some kind of of disability, with 4 million of them being wheelchair dependent.

Those needing wheelchair accessibility typically have to convert a new or used vehicle, including the addition of a ramp, which Schembri says compromises vehicle's structural integrity. That, he said, negates the safety ratings of the vehicle and negates the factory warranty as it pertains to those modifications.

"Our vehicle, you drive up the ramp, and you turn right and immediately you're sitting in the prime seat of the vehicle which is shotgun next to the driver," Schembri said.

During a test drive, Schembri said he took a friend of his, who is a member of the New York Knicks wheelchair basketball team, out to lunch.

"He's sitting there having a sandwich and his coke and he says 'I'm sitting in the front seat using a cup holder looking out the front window of this car. And I can't even remember the last time I did that,'" Schembri said.

Smaller than your typical passenger van converted to handle wheelchairs, the MV-1 will be rated as a car, standing about five-feet tall. The 36-inch door opening and access ramp complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, while fitting nearly every size wheelchair.

Schembri said he expects the MV-1 to start below $40,000, noting the company has received 4,000 reservations.


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