Sometimes caregivers have to step in to provide the transportation for people who face mobility problems, whether they are full-time users of wheelchairs, get around with walkers, use a cane, or merely are a bit stiff and grateful for a hand now and then getting into and out of a vehicle.
“Getting out of the [vehicle] seat can be quite difficult. Turning the body to get the legs out, then leaning on the door handle for balance, and getting away from the car” into a wheelchair or walker or onto the support of a cane is difficult, says Chief Executive John Schall of Caregivers Action Network, a nonprofit organization for caregivers.
The good news is that a number of simple and relatively inexpensive items can help. Caregivers and users can move them from vehicle to vehicle, and no modifications to the vehicles are needed.
Because the accessories don’t require vehicle modifications, they don’t mark the user as impaired, avoiding potential prejudice and negative attitudes that some have about people who are disabled or challenged.
Here are several devices easily found on the internet and in stores that can be moved among vehicles. Consult with a doctor, occupational therapist or physical therapist to make sure they won’t do more harm than good in your situation.
We’ll also look at more extensive vehicle modifications and some custom-made accessible vehicles.
The lowdown: Often sold online as the Stander Handybar, it’s a small, 2-pound, L-shaped device, described as a portable vehicle support grab or transfer aid.
The shorter portion of the “L” shoves down into the U-shaped latch attached to the doorjamb on most cars. That leaves the longer, padded portion sticking out at a right angle as a grab handle to help a person rise or lower into a vehicle.
The bar then is removed to close the door.
Small enough to fit into a coat pocket or purse, the assist bar easily can be carried from car to car and used on either side of a vehicle. Some brands have tiny flashlights built into the handle; others have key compartments.
Typically, the bars are designed with seat belt cutters and glass breakers to get out of a car in emergencies.
Be aware: The bars and other simple, portable devices are “a good starting point,” says Cassy Churchill of Winamac, Indiana-based BraunAbility, which makes and sells equipment from the simple bars to heavily modified vehicles that accommodate wheelchairs. A user of the equipment may have to graduate to other devices.
Often called car caddies, support straps or transfer straps, these devices must be strapped around a vehicle door’s window frame.
Grab straps for back-seat users are attached to the metal posts supporting the front-seat head restraints and extend horizontally to use when entering or exiting the back seat.
Be aware: The straps, especially for front-seat users, must be put away after use to prevent the handle from moving while the car is in motion, possibly banging against the window or the passenger.
Price: $10 to $20 for a front-seat version, depending on brand, type and seller; $5 to $10 for a back-seat version