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Travelling with a Wheelchair

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Travelling with a Wheelchair

Getting a wheelchair into and out of a car can be difficult, even when the wheelchair is relatively light. The size and shape can make them awkward and so choosing where to put them can be a challenge.

Depending on your vehicle, you may be able to put the wheelchair in the passenger’s seat, or behind the front seats. If you’re pulling the wheelchair in yourself, you need to have reasonable upper body strength, and know that you can do it each and every time you need to, even if your condition is variable.

Securing the wheelchair is also a consideration, and you’ll need to be flexible enough to reach around to fasten the restraints. On top of that, pulling the wheelchair over your lap can transfer dirt and debris from the wheels onto your clothes, especially in wet weather.

Putting the wheelchair in the boot is often an easier option, however it relies on you either being able to walk round to the front of the car to get in, or having someone with you who can do the lifting once you’ve transferred into the vehicle.

The methods above refer to manual wheelchairs, however different techniques are likely to be necessary if you are travelling with a powered or electric wheelchair, or scooter. Due to their size and weight, it is generally advisable to look into aids that can help you safely transfer the wheelchair into your vehicle.

Lifts and hoists are a common method of achieving this, with different models suitable for different sizes and weights of wheelchair. For example, SDL have a range of hoists that can lift wheelchairs from 40kg up to 181kg. When looking into a hoist system, make sure you opt for one that will easily handle the weight of your wheelchair, taking into account any added extras that you may have.

Lifts often have greater weight capacities, the Joey Lift lifts up to 159kg for example. With lifts and hoists you do need to have the ability to walk from the back of the vehicle to the front in order to get in, which may not always be the best option for some people.

Stowage systems allow you to transfer directly from your wheelchair into your seat, and then use system to automatically load your wheelchair into the storage. Usually these systems store the wheelchair in either the boot or in a roofbox, each with their own pros and cons.

Rooftop storage keeps your boot free, making it more suitable if you’re likely to need your boot space for travelling or doing the weekly shop. On the other hand, while the Chair Topper solution is purpose-built and designed to be as aerodynamic and discreet as possible, some people don’t like having a roof box.

Stowage systems that store your wheelchair in the boot of the car are more involved than a simple lift or hoist, which require someone to manually operate them. Abi Loader, SDL’s innovative automatic wheelchair loading system, is operated at the flick of a switch, and loads and stows your wheelchair directly from your front seat.



So, as a final check, when choosing a method of getting your wheelchair into and out of your vehicle, you need to take into account a number of factors:

  • What type of wheelchair do you have? Some solutions work on manual wheelchairs and converted wheelchairs, but not always on electric wheelchairs, so make sure you check that it is suitable for you.
  • Can you transfer from the wheelchair into the front seat? If not, perhaps a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle, where you get into the vehicle in your wheelchair, would be a more appropriate option.
  • Can you walk from the boot to the seat? If you can’t, choosing a lift or hoist system means that you will need someone with you when you travel. If you would like more independence, a stowage solution might be a better choice.

If you need help choosing the best solution for your needs, get in touch and our experts can help you review all of the different options.

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