Sunday, June 25, 2017

Stowing wheelchairs

I was talking this morning with a man who’d sustained a temporary injury that meant that although he could walk a little, and drive, he had to use a wheelchair most of the time. He’d fallen. He fell again while trying to store his wheelchair, and in consequence had to rely on other people to help him drive around.

Perhaps that’s actually a good thing, but I wondered if there were ways to make it possible for someone semi-wheelchair bound to drive by themselves.

If he uses a collapsible wheelchair, it might be.

The most obvious approach is to have a four-door sedan in which the front door is hinged, as usual, on the front, and the rear door hinged on the rear. Wheel up, open both doors, sit in the driver’s seat, fold the wheelchair and shove it into the back seat area, then close the doors and drive away. Reverse the procedure to get out.

The problem with that is that remounting a car door would take fairly massive and expensive modifications—probably of order of the cost of a used wheelchair van. (Which aren’t cheap.)

Another possibility is a roof-mounted mechanism using a swing-out arm. It would probably have to be motorized, but that could be arranged.

  1. Wheel up to car, open door, and have swing-out arm open out
  2. Sit in car and fold up wheelchair
  3. Lower and attach the upper attachment cables to the wheelchair.
  4. Raise the wheelchair to mid-station, and lower and attach the lower attachment cables to it
  5. Raise the wheelchair the rest of the way
  6. Have the mechanism turn the wheelchair sideways
  7. Rotate the swing-arm back over the car

Reverse this to get out of the car.

This doesn’t sound like a very cheap prospect either, and mounting it solidly to the roof of a car sounds difficult—though easier than trying to change the frame. It doesn’t sound like something you would rent for a few months.

Or you could strap a walker to the back of the wheelchair, and unlimber that when you need to store the wheelchair. You might need a hooked rod as well to help you get the wheelchair in and out, of course. A lot cheaper...


jaed said...

Putting the wheelchair into the car—while sitting in the driver's seat—sounds difficult because the wheelchair is heavy and awkward, even folded.

I'm visualizing some sort of wheelchair rack on the back of the car, like a bike rack. You back up into it and pull a lever to lock the wheelchair onto the rack, then get out of it. (You could get a walker out of the back of the car first—those are lighter and smaller, easier to maneuver.) Pull another lever to raise the wheelchair off the ground, then get into the car and drive away. The wheelchair rides on its rack and you don't have to pick it up and wrangle it into the car.

james said...

It _is_ awkward, which is how the fellow fell the second time. A wheelchair rack is an excellent idea.

Ryan said...

Depending on the degree of disability and strength of the subject, it can be done and is done.

A family friend is paraplegic, and previously drove a 2-door coupe (think Oldsmobile, not Camaro), which was convenient because coupes have longer doors (better ingress) and he could stow the chair behind the driver's seat (he was strong and able enough to walk on crutches in a pinch.)

That said, he has long since moved on to minivans as the vehicle of choice. Power sliding driver-side passenger door for the win.