Whenever I go out with friends or family, I ALWAYS volunteer to be the ‘designated driver’. This isn’t an act of altruism on my behalf, it’s because I know that I can get in and out of my own car easily!
If you have similar difficulties getting in and out of your own car (or one belonging to someone else), there are a range of aids that could help.
Change your technique
If you have difficulty getting in and out of your car, something as simple as changing your technique could make a big difference.
If you watch people getting in or out of their car (including watching yourself), you will notice that they usually use a technique which involves stepping sideways into the car. This means they have to stoop, put in one leg, sit down, and then pull the other leg in. It’s an awkward way of doing things once you observe it closely!
If you find this is difficult, try this method instead:
- Sit on the seat first
- Then bring your legs in afterwards
- Mind your head!
If you have long legs, or your legs are stiff, then move back in the car until you have enough room to swing your legs around
You may need to shuffle back over the handbrake to do this – if this is painful, try putting a cushion over that area
I find that when I use this technique it helps to have a walking cane (or my walking frame) to hold onto as I lower myself onto the seat. I then almost lie down across the seats, so that I can swing my legs in (they don’t bend very well). I always have the seat pushed back as far as it will go, so there is plenty room in the footwell.
When you want to get out, try this technique in reverse:
- Swivel round in the seat
- Put both your legs flat on the ground
- Then stand up
I find the standing up is easier with something to steady me, such as my rollator. Putting both legs on the ground is safer and less painful than trying to stand on one leg, whilst stooping.
Some simple accessories that might help
If you still struggle, despite trying the techniques above, then there are some simple accessories which might give that extra bit of help needed.
One option is an extra hand hold to give a bit more stability. Some options include:
This attaches easily to the window frame by opening the window slightly. It has a sturdy hand grip which you can hold onto to gain some extra support.
The Car Caddie is made of high-strength nylon and is adjustable and portable.
Priced at around £16, it is an affordable option.
You can store it easily in the car’s glovebox when it’s not in use, and it’s very light so you can take it with you if you’re travelling in someone else’s car.
If you like the idea of the transfer board and want something a bit more high tech, then it’s possible to have a board fitted into your car, which folds and stows away when it’s not being used.
One example is the Smart Transfer Turboslide.
This can be fitted to either the driver or passenger side of most vehicles. It is simple to install and operate, and can easily be transferred if you change your car.
It has a weight limit of 120kg (approximately 18 and a half stones).
The Handybar is an alternative to the Car Caddie. It is a lightweight stainless steel bar with a soft hand grip.
You insert the Handybar into the U-shaped striker plate on your vehicle door frame. This is one of the strongest parts of the vehicle, and there is one on both driver and passenger doors.
Once you’ve inserted the Handybar, you have some extra leverage to help you get out.
Handybar is also portable, and costs under £30.
If you are transferring from a car onto a wheelchair, then a transfer board must be a suitable option. Available in straight and curved versions, they enable you to slide sideways to or from your wheelchair. Transfer boards are usually varnished or polished to make them easier to slide on.
If you find it difficult to get into your car seat and then face forward, then you may need to buy something that will help you swivel.
There are different options. The first is a cushion which you put on the car seat. The simplest versions are made of slippery material, so they help you to move around. Then there are ones that are designed in two layers, so they effectively operate like a turntable.
Important safety note – if the cushion swivels then remove it before you drive off, or it could be dangerous.
See some options here, they start from around £10.
If you need more help, then another option is a swivel seat for your car. These are fitted by firms who specialise in car adaptations. They replace your existing car seat and the whole seat turns sideways so you are facing out of the car.
There are different options such as manual or powered mechanisms. Some swivel and then lift or lower you into position. And some options can lift you into the vehicle, and then move you into place, for example, into the driver’s seat.
If you struggle to get in and out of your car from your wheelchair or scooter, why not consider a person lift?
A person lift uses a sling which goes under and between your legs. This is attached to a pivoted arm, which is powered by the car’s battery. This lifts you up and into the car and places you on the seat. You can then just undo the harness and slip it out from under you (or leave it in place for when you get out.)
Similar products are available from a range of manufacturers.
If you find transferring into different seats difficult or painful, then investing in a wheelchair system could be the best option for you.
This consists of 3 main parts: a seat, wheels, and a swivel plate, which is fixed inside the car.
You back your wheelchair up to the car, where it latches onto the swivel plate. You then disengage the wheels (which are stowed in the boot), and the swivel plate takes the car (with you sitting in it) into the car and then swivels to face the front. You then travel as you would in any other car seat. When you arrive at your destination, the seat swivels round and out, and latches back onto the wheels, and off you go.
One of the most stylish examples we’ve found is the Autoadapt Carony. This looks stylish, comfortable and practical as a wheelchair, and as a car seat.
See a video of it in action below.