Children with physical disabilities - getting in and out of a car
A number of conditions can make it harder for children to get into and out of a car, from conditions affecting balance and coordination to those which make it hard to move around.
Children may need just a little support while getting in and out, or they may need to be physically lifted or hoisted. There's more information about different kinds of transfer and lifting equipment further down this page.
A child who just needs a little help might find a low stool helps them climb up into the car (though you need to be cautious on uneven or soft ground).
If they're getting themselves in and out, this will be easier with a lower seat - they won't have as far to climb.
Transferring from a wheelchair is easier if the seat is about the same height as the wheelchair.
A wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) allows a wheelchair user to travel in their chair. This means that they can get the benefit of their own supportive seating system, and that they don't need to transfer or be transferred into the car. Using a WAV also means you don't need to lift their mobility equipment in and out of the vehicle. See RiDC's information on WAVs.
If you're lifting a child into and out of the car, you may prefer a higher seat, as you won't have to bend down so far. Don't forget, though, that the child seat will add height, especially if it has high sides.
Wide and high door openings will also make doing this much easier.
We have a database of cars where you can search for cars with front passenger seats that have the right seat height and door measurements. Search RiDC's database of car measurements.
Equipment to make getting in and out easier:
Transfer boards bridge the gap between your child's wheelchair and the car seat - they slide sideways from their wheelchair along the transfer board and inside. The car seat needs to be the same height as the wheelchair. Talk to a physiotherapist about techniques for transferring so that you use the safest possible method; the board might slip off the seat or wheelchair if used incorrectly.
Transfer boards are usually varnished or polished to make them easier to slide along. Some are angled to help get across awkward gaps; these are often called banana boards. A more expensive type of board has a sliding section to sit on.
Swivelling seats turn to face out of the car. Basic swivel seats just turn through 90 degrees to face out of the car; they can be hand-operated or powered.
Some seats come right out over the sill. These lifting and lowering swivel seats also raise your child to their feet, or lower them to help them into their wheelchair.
Hoists are usually fitted to the car to help lift someone in and out.
Hoists may not be suitable for all children. A child who's prone to spasms will be difficult to hoist safely, and rubbing against the sling can damage the skin (shearing). Some people have also told us that they find hoisting undignified and that it takes too long - especially when it's raining.
The supporting person needs to be physically able to put the arms of the hoist together and lift the child into or out of the sling, as well as dismantling the hoist arm after the transfer and stowing the parts in the vehicle boot. See RiDC's information about car hoists.
Exhibition to visit:
For tailored-made equipment for your child: