There are many ways to make transferring from your wheelchair to car easier, so you can enjoy spending time on the road.
With a significant range of transfer options available to help, transferring from your wheelchair to drive or be a passenger can be relatively simple. A good understanding of transfer options will be beneficial when deciding on the right one to suit your individual needs.
Start with the right base car
Using the right base car can help guarantee transferring equipment will function correctly.
Choosing a van or 4WD is recommended, as these cars tend to be higher off the ground with wider and larger doors. For a person who has difficulty bending this is a good option. However, someone of short stature may find it difficult.
Before installing any transfer equipment, check if the existing car seats can be adjusted to assist in transferring.
Who you can talk to
An 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 are planning to drive the car, an adjustable steering column can provide you with more room to transfer.
Portable transfer options
There is 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 and 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.
Mechanical transfer options
Alongside readily available portable transfer equipment, there are also mechanical varieties – equipment that’s professionally and permanently installed – that 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 the additional movement that can be uncomfortable or difficult.
Swivel seat systems can be manual or electronic and are 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 – which his helpful for new or unfamiliar carers and relatives. This kind of transfer system will require a large vehicle, check with your local converter to ensure your vehicle will accommodate this design.
Transfer seats: 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.
Sling lifts: 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.
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. An example of this can be found here. Your local disability converter can 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 Comprehensive Insurance for Disability Converted Cars with Blue Badge.