There are many ways to make transferring from your wheelchair to car seat easier. Once you’ve got the routine, transfer devices, and other equipment just right, getting in and out of your wheelchair and car will be a breeze. Which means you can enjoy more time on the road exploring.
With a significant range of transfer options available to help, a wheelchair to car transfer can be quite simple. That goes for whether you’re the driver or a passenger. However, understanding the wheelchair to car transfer devices and options will be beneficial when deciding on the right method to suit your individual needs.
Start with the right converted or wheelchair accessible car
Using the right base car can help guarantee transferring equipment will function correctly. Of course, it isn’t always possible to choose if you’re travelling in someone else’s car. But having a well-designed wheelchair accessible vehicle or a disability converted car will definitely make things easier with regards to transferring from your wheelchair into the car.
Choosing a van or 4WD is recommended, as these cars tend to be higher off the ground with wider and larger doors. They are also typically easier to fit wheelchair ramps to. For a person who has difficulty bending this is a good option. However, someone of short stature may find it difficult. Not sure exactly which car would be right for you? We have some advice to get you started:
- How to choose wheelchair ramps for your car
- The difference between wheelchair accessible vehicles and converted cars
- Features to look for when buying a converted car or wheelchair accessible vehicle
- Things you need to know about wheelchair accessible vehicles
- Is my airbag safe for use with disability driving controls?
Before installing any transfer equipment, check if the existing car seats can be adjusted to assist in transferring.
Who you can talk to
A driver trained occupational therapist can help assess your ability to transfer from your wheelchair and the kind of equipment needed to do so safely. They can also support you when purchasing a specialised vehicle.
Another source for information is your vehicle converter. They will need to inspect your car to determine what seating and other modifications will be suitable. For example, if you’ll be driving rather than a passenger, an adjustable steering column can provide you with more room to transfer from wheelchair to car seat.
Portable wheelchair to car transfer options
There are a variety of portable transfer products that can be used in your car, making them more affordable and easier to use across multiple cars.
Transfer handles: Transfer handles give the user something to hold on to as they enter and exit the car. These handles are added and removed to the lock on an open car doorframe, though may not be compatible with some car models.
Transfer straps: These straps help the wheelchair user lift and support themselves during transfer. Transfer straps are looped over windows or on door grab handles.
High-density foam pillows: These can help create a firm, even base on an existing car seat. They also provide extra support while transferring or travelling.
Leg and thigh lifters: This lifter is designed for people with little or no leg movement to lift their legs into place. It works by looping part of the lifter around the foot so it can be carried and moved.
Sliding boards and mats: These surfaces create a bridge between the wheelchair and car, making it easier for the user to move to and from their chair into the car. A swivel cushion can be added separately to help with rotating into position, similar to a lazy Susan. You can see them in action in the video below:
Mechanical wheelchair to car transfer devices
Alongside readily available portable transfer equipment, there are also mechanical varieties. Basically, this is equipment that’s professionally and permanently installed. These devices can make transferring from your wheelchair to car easier.
Swivel seating systems
These work by mounting a car seat to a turning base, so it can swivel towards the outside the car door. The wheelchair user sits on the car seat and is set for their journey. This system reduces additional movement that can be uncomfortable or difficult.
Swivel seat systems can be manual or electronic. They’re suitable for driver, front or rear passenger seats. These seats can be standard to the vehicle or custom made. Operating a manual model can be tricky and will require significant strength.
Lowered swivel seats
A lowered swivel seat allows the car seat to extend from the vehicle and be lowered to the appropriate height for transferring. Using electronic controls, this seat can be pre-programmed to the suitable height for the user. This kind of transfer system will require a large vehicle, check with your local converter to ensure your vehicle will accommodate this design.
A transfer seat allows the wheelchair user to enter/exit the car without leaving their chair. The specialised wheelchair seat detaches and is moved into place by a receiving dock. A carer assists with this transfer, though some car models may not suit this equipment.
Here’s an example:
Lifts and hoists
A sling lift transfers a person directly from their wheelchair into the car seat. They are typically mounted to the roof or floor of a car and can be manual or electronic. Some models can be removed to allow others to use your car as needed.
Read about lifts and hoists for cars in more detail here. Choosing the right one will make transferring from your wheelchair to car significantly easier.
A safer option
Figure : Retrieved from NSW Department of Education
If you have an accident, being in a regular car seat is safer. Transferring from wheelchair to car may not be possible, which is where a wheelchair restraint can assist.
A wheelchair tie-down and occupant restraint system allows you to remain in your wheelchair. Meaning you can achieve the same safety as a passenger seat. This also lessens the difficulties which can be associated with transferring from wheelchair to car seat. But of course, it does require significant modifications to your vehicle. And it does limit you in terms of which vehicles you can transfer into and out of easily.
However, if you do decide on a tie-down system, your local disability converter should be able to help with this installation.
How to protect your equipment with insurance
Transfer seating is one of many vehicle conversions that we are experienced with insuring.
If your car has been modified with permanent equipment to help make transferring from wheelchair to car easier, you can certainly protect it by adding to your insurance for disability converted cars with Blue Badge. We also insure wheelchair accessible vehicles. Plus, what’s even better is disability parking permit holders are eligible for huge discounts on their premiums!