Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Driver Seat Options – Part 1
When deciding what type of seating you need for driving, it’s important to know all of your options before choosing. Accessible vehicles usually can accommodate two types of seating options: wheelchair tie downs, where the driver mans the vehicle from their wheelchair; and transfer seat bases, which are installed to allow easy transferring from the wheelchair to the front seat. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the driver’s needs.
Wheelchair Tie Downs
For wheelchair users who cannot transfer, Wheelchair Tie-Downs and Occupant Restraints Systems often referred to as WTORS are used. The most common type of WTORS is the manual four-point system, consisting of four straps that attach to the wheelchair and the van floor. These tie-downs are very effective and can secure a wide range of wheelchair types, but they require that another person attach and tighten the straps.
Wheelchair frames should include four easily accessible brackets for attaching the tie-down straps. If the wheelchair does not have designated strapping points, four structural points on the wheelchair base or seat frame must be identified and used to secure the wheelchair. When using this system, it is very important to ensure the tie-downs are not connected to any movable part of a wheelchair.
The electric restraint system contains an anchored device mounted on the floor of the vehicle and its connecting part mounted to the bottom of the wheelchair. The wheelchair occupant guides the two pieces together, and when they are properly locked, an audible click is heard. Some electric models also contain an alarm system that will have a buzzer or light to indicate the system is not properly locked in place. These systems require the addition of adaptive hardware to the wheelchair for engaging with the docking device mounted to the vehicle floor. No matter the system used to secure a wheelchair and its occupant for travel in vehicle, the wheelchair occupant must always wear a vehicle seat belt and/or shoulder harness to properly secure the wheelchair occupant to the wheelchair, which is in turn securely mounted to the vehicle floor. Most electric restraint systems can be used by the driver alone and only requires one hand to operate.
Securement and restraint systems need to be properly sized and fitted for your type of wheelchair and vehicle.
NMEDA stands as an advocate for mobility and accessibility for drivers with disabilities. If you need help with converting or buying a wheelchair accessible car, truck or van, please consider one of our mobility equipment dealers.