Children with physical disabilities - getting in and out
A number of conditions can make it harder to get into and out of a car, from conditions affecting balance and coordination to those making 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.
Children who need a little help
Children who just need a little support might find a low stool helps them climb up into the car.
If they are 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 have to transfer or be transferred into the car.
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 this much easier. To search for cars with front passenger seats that have the right seat height and door measurements, use our Advanced car search.
Equipment to make getting in and out easier
Transfer boards bridge the gap between your wheelchair and the car seat - you slide sideways from your wheelchair along the transfer board and inside. The car seat needs to be the same height as the wheelchair.
Transfer boards are usually varnished or polished to make them easier to slide along. Some are angled to help you move across awkward gaps. A more expensive type has a sliding section that you 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 operated by hand or powered.
Other seats come right out over the sill. These lifting and lowering swivel seats also raise you to your feet, or lower you if you have a high vehicle or to help you into a wheelchair.
For more information and product overviews, see our page on Swivel seats.
With a wheelchair system, the car seat attaches to a special wheelchair base. The seats on these systems are not very supportive, so they won't be suitable for all children. The wheelchair bases are also not suitable for travelling distances.
For more information and product overviews, see our page on Wheelchair systems.
Hoists are usually fitted to the car to help lift someone in and out. Hoists may not be suitable for all children. A child that is prone to spasms will be difficult to hoist safely, and the sling can cause damage to the skin through shearing. Some people have also told us that they find hoisting undignified and that it takes too long - especially when it's raining.
For more information and product overviews, see our page on Hoists.
Last updated: December 2012