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 transferring from the wheelchair to the front seat. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the driver’s needs.
Transfer seats allow a passenger or driver to get to the front seats of the vehicle. Transfer seat bases are electronically controlled and can move the seat back, forward, up and down and sideways. Transfer seats allow for maximum entry and exit space to accommodate disability needs ranging from minor to severe. There are a wide variety of transfer seats.
Either a full turning automotive seat or a transfer seat base can be installed into most types and brands of vehicles, including sedans, SUVs, wagons, crossovers, minivans, pickup trucks and full-size vans. Since it is possible to utilize the original factory seat on top of the transfer seat base, individuals continue to have the benefit of any power seat options that they have already in that seat, such as tilting or lumbar support. As well, the seat will match the rest of the interior and will continue to be pleasing to the eye.
Transfer seats are typically used by an individual who has the ability to transfer into the driver seat rather than having to drive from their wheelchair. Today’s transfer seats have a lifting capacity of up to 600 pounds, so the vast majority of people can be accommodated. However, people who are exceptionally tall or have long legs may not have enough room to swivel. An individual should meet with a mobility specialist dealer where they can properly evaluate these types of situations carefully before a purchase is made.
The 6-way seat is essentially the same as the 4-way seat, but with the added benefit of being able to also go up and down. While the 6-way seat can be more expensive, it is generally the best choice. The reason that the 6-way seat is the better option is that the up/down motion allows an individual to position the seat lower than their wheelchair when transferring into the seat and then higher than their wheelchair when they are transferring out of their seat. In essence, an individual is then using gravity to do their work for them and are therefore avoiding the strain of lifting their body higher. Leather and vinyl tend to be far easier to use because they enable someone to slide on the seat. Fabrics generally have more friction and inhibit a person to slide; this forces an individual to exert more, or have to lift their weight over the fabric.
Turning automotive seating (TAS) uses the vehicle’s original seat combined with a power base that extends out the door usually about 20 inches and most tilt forward about 6 inches to make boarding safe and easy. When not needed, it functions as a normal seat.
Power transfer seat bases usually require minimal installation time. These bases do not require alteration of the factory seat to be installed and are made with heavy gauge frames, actuators and controls that make them easy to use.
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.