TLDR: If you are looking for a simple, quick, surefire answer for all wheelchairs, the answer would be to invest in a van. It can possibly be excessive in some situations, but to ensure you can always properly transport a wheelchair then a van would be the best option.
Have you ever asked yourself “how do I transport a wheelchair?” If you have any experience in a wheelchair or are a caregiver to someone that uses one, then you know that this can be a difficult question to answer. The best option is subjective based on the needs of the person in the wheelchair, the type of wheelchair, and the vehicle involved. There are a few essential questions that need to be asked to determine which is the best option to utilize.
What are the needs of the person in the wheelchair?
It’s important to keep in mind that if you are transporting a wheelchair, odds are that you will also be transporting the person that uses the wheelchair. There are a few tips that can help assist in a smooth transfer.
It’s important to try to park where there is enough room to load and unload as it can be difficult maneuvering a transfer if there isn’t enough room. Always double check that the wheelchair brakes are locked before attempting to transfer and make sure there are no obstructions in the way. This will help ensure a smooth and successful transfer of the user from the wheelchair into the vehicle. If there is any additional equipment with the person, make sure there is enough room to be able to properly accommodate storage during the transport.
Know the wheelchair needing to be transported
With a wide variety of wheelchairs being used, it’s essential to know what type is being transported. If it is a light weight chair, it may come with a storage bag you can fit in your trunk. Standard wheelchairs may also fit in the trunk, or may require a bumper-mounted rack. Electric wheelchairs may require an SUV or van in order to transport correctly. Here are some specific questions to answer regarding the wheelchair that requires transportation:
- Does the wheelchair collapse? If so, how long does the process take?
- How big is it when it’s in its collapsed form? How many pieces does it break into (this is most important for electric wheelchairs and scooters, but most manual wheelchairs and transport chairs also break down at least to a degree – seats and leg rests that need to be removed, etc.)
- Do we know how much it weights? If it breaks down into pieces, how much do the individual pieces weigh?
- Can it be lifted by one person, or will it require more than one person to load it?
- Is there any additional equipment to account for?
Know the car before transporting the wheelchair
Knowing the size of the wheelchair is only half the battle. You also need to know if your car has that much storage space. It won’t do you any good to know the dimensions of the wheelchair if you do not know the dimensions of the storage space you have in the vehicle. Before transporting a wheelchair, you should know the answers to the following:
- How much trunk space do you have, and will the chair you’re trying to transport fit there?
- If you’re using a truck, can you lift the wheelchair into the bed without assistance, or would it make more sense to use a lift?
- When using a truck, how do you plan to secure the chair, once you get it in the bed?(If you don’t secure it, it’s going to slide around as soon as you start driving which can potentially scratch the wheelchair or damage it)
- If you are using a van, does it have a proper ramp or lift? Is there a way to secure it inside?
What options do I have to transport a wheelchair?
Now that we have laid the foundations of what you need to know before transportation, let’s get into the specifics of how to transport a wheelchair. It can be complex, but let’s get rolling in to the options that are available!
Lightweight Transport Wheelchairs sometimes come with their own storage bag, which is the most convenient way to transport it. They can usually fit in the majority of trunks or the back of a sedan. It is important to make sure it can be secured to prevent any damage to the wheelchair.
Transport Racks for wheelchairs
Transport racks are divided into bumper-mounted or top-mounted. Bumper-mounted racks are more common because they are easier to load, especially if it is an electric wheelchair. Each model is slightly different in its design, but the idea is the same. You break the wheelchair down and mount it on the rack. In some cases, the wheelchair will “hook” onto the rack, and in others, it will be held in place by a bar you can tighten down with wing nuts. This provides a convenient way to transport electric wheelchairs if you lack the trunk space.
Ramp Assists can be an easy solution for loading an electric wheelchair for transport. This does limit the vehicle able to be used to trucks, SUVs and vans. Once it’s been loaded into the vehicle, either lock the brakes for transport or collapse and secure it, whichever is appropriate for the scenario. In a van, you can likely just leave it as it is and lock the brakes. In the back of a pickup truck it would be best to collapse and secure it to prevent damage. If it is an electrical wheelchair and you are using a van, the user may be able to simply ride it into the van and can transfer to a seat inside. If a truck is being used, it may be difficult to get the user out of the back. This is why it’s suggested to first load the user into the cab.
Electric lifts are mounted to the car and are used by driving the electric wheelchair into the lift and then being raised into a truck, van or full sized SUV. This can be an expensive investment, but is a convenient way to transport an electric wheelchair because it will not require to be disassembled to load it in.
There is a huge advantage to using a trailer to transport an electric wheelchair because it does not require disassembly. However, it does require a vehicle with a trailer hitch that is capable of pulling a trailer behind it. Wiring will be essential to ensure safety with turn signals and brake lights but can be worth the investment for long term use.
What is the best way to transport an electric wheelchair?
As you can see, the answer to the question “how to transport a wheelchair” is a bit more complex. Access to public transport can be quite tricky for people living with a disability. Especially for those who use a wheelchair. They may not be able to exercise their freedom of movement thoroughly. Not being able to get a vehicle that can accommodate you, your loved one or your patient safely has become a major concern and one that has many solutions. It comes down to the question of what kind of wheelchair you’re transporting and what vehicle you are using. Wheelchair transportation is an investment that has many options to satisfy each user’s needs. The real question is what option will work best for you for the time frame you are expecting?
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