CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Affordable options for transportation are so hard to find, and that has prompted one man to look for help.
Ash Brittenham largely gets around by car.
"My whole life I've had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which means over time I get weaker," Brittenham said.
It also means he uses a power wheelchair customized to his needs.
Airlines don't provide a spot for power wheelchairs to be rolled onboard and locked down, so Brittenham has to do his long summer trips by car.
"I just need something with adequate space that I can get into with a lot less effort," Brittenham said.
He's in the market for a new-to-him van that has space for his 550-pound power wheelchair and the ventilator attached to the back. Brittenham says he can't safely buckle up in his 2005 modified Honda Element since getting new, bulkier features on his chair about six months ago.
"It's not particularly easy anymore," Brittenham said. "I have to be able to turn around, and I have to make sure I don't catch the ventilator on the seat next to me."
Brittenham lives alone, but when he has to get around, his mom, Kim Brittenham, drives. She says the kind of van they need could cost around $60,000.
"Just crazy expensive," Kim Brittenham said. "And, now that used minivans are at a premium because the used car market is flooded — to have a modified, you know, late-model minivan is so hard to come by."
Ash Brittenham started a fundraiser hoping to raise half the money from crowdfunding.
His need for a safe, trustworthy vehicle for long roadtrips is something he has in common with other people reliant on a power wheelchair.
AllWheelsUp, a nonprofit Brittenham advocates for, has been crash-testing wheelchair tie-downs and wheelchairs on commercial flights since 2011.
Founder Michele Erwin says because of their research, the Transportation Research Board did a feasibility study in 2018 to see if airlines could accommodate people in their own wheelchairs.
Erwin says the nonprofit works with the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration and other airline stakeholders to get power wheelchairs on board one day.
"How do we get from where we are today to certification and implementation because this doesn’t exist, and there are a lot of new industries having to work together," Erwin said.
She says this change will require wheelchair manufacturers, tie-down manufactures and the airline industry to collaborate.
“The FAA and Department of Transportation are discussing ways to improve aviation safety and accessibility for all travelers," the FAA said when asked about accommodations for power wheelchairs on commercial flights.