How to Safely Secure a Wheelchair in an Accessible Van

how to secure a wheelchair in a van

Did you know that wheelchair users are much more likely to suffer injuries during car trips? While sudden halts and collisions are often blamed, many times, the culprit is actually the incorrect anchoring of wheelchairs. 

When your wheelchair is improperly restrained, it can roll over, slide, or bounce, leading to disastrous circumstances. To avoid this and provide ultimate peace of mind, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about how to secure a wheelchair in an accessible vehicle.

Types of Wheelchair Securement Systems

Wheelchair securement systems are critical features for every accessible van, ensuring the user’s safety and stability while traveling. A wide range of options is available, with some more complicated than others. 

Manual Tie Downs

Manual tie-downs are perhaps the most basic yet essential type of wheelchair securement system. Much like their name suggests, they are manually operated and rely heavily on the physical effort of the caregiver for proper anchoring. 

Typically, manual tie-downs comprise several straps with locking pins and J-metal hooks. They operate through a 4-point anchor mechanism, where two straps secure the front of the wheelchair, and the other two secure it from behind and then connect to the floor track or plates in the vehicle. 

Manual tie-downs might be a bit time-consuming, but sometimes it’s comforting to know you’ve done the job yourself, right? Plus, they’re a cost-effective solution that’s ideal for those on a budget.

how to secure a wheelchair in a van

Retractable Tie-Downs

Just like manual tie-downs, retractable tie-downs also utilize an anchor system but with the added bonus of a self-locking and self-tensioning mechanism. This ingenious piece of engineering lets you automatically adjust the straps to the perfect tension so the passenger won’t feel like their chair is too tight or loose.

The self-locking mechanism prevents the straps from accidentally coming loose, which could be dangerous if you’re driving through a rough area or on a road with sharp turns. Retractable tie-downs save time, declutter your space, and reduce the chances of your wheelchair getting tangled in securement straps. 

how to secure a wheelchair in a van

Automatic Docking System 

If you’re looking for a wheelchair securement solution that’s top-notch in safety and convenience, then an automatic docking system may be a good choice. This system includes a platform installed on the vehicle floor with metal pins and bolts, as well as an electronic spring-loaded hook. 

To use an automatic docking system, simply align the wheelchair with the docking base and move forward until the bolt locks in place. This will securely lock you or your loved one’s wheelchair in place without any manual intervention or bulky straps.

At the end of the ride, simply release the wheelchair by pressing the button on the control pad. The docking mechanisms will lower back down into the vehicle floor, allowing you to pull the wheelchair out of the locked position and roll on your way.

how to secure a wheelchair in a van

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How to Secure the Wheelchair in a Vehicle

Follow these steps to ensure your wheelchair is securely in your van before hitting the road:

  1. Start by engaging the van’s lift or ramps for easy wheelchair access.
  2. Roll the wheelchair into the van and be sure to line it up in the center facing forward so your loved one can watch the world whizz by during the drive.
  3. Make sure to engage the wheelchair’s brakes so it doesn’t move during the process. If you’re working with a power chair, power it down. 
  4. Identify the securement points on the wheelchair frame. Typical tie-down points are near the front and rear wheels and under the wheelchair’s seat. When in doubt, consult the manual to discover the recommended attachment points.
  5. Attach one tie-down hook to a securement point on the wheelchair frame and the other to the van’s floor anchor point. 
  6. Repeat step 5 for each of the remaining tie-down straps, attaching them diagonally to distribute force evenly. If you’re using a retractable tie-down, tighten the restraints using the retractor’s tightening knob to prevent any movement. 
  7. Look for the twisted straps, as they may affect stability. Ensure each one is straightened out and the hooks are correctly positioned.
  8. Now, it’s time to secure the individual in the wheelchair using a lap belt and shoulder harness. Seatbelts should be at a 45° angle without being too tight, as this could damage you or your loved one’s skin or restrict blood circulation. 
  9. With everything fastened and secured, it’s time for the final check. Slightly push the wheelchair to check if it yields to the force or stays firmly in place. This thorough examination will give you peace of mind during your journey. 

Remember, whether you’re using a manual or retractable tie-down method, avoid attaching the restraints to any moveable part of your wheelchair, like the armrest or the footrest. This is a common mistake people make, but it’s extremely dangerous as it could cause the wheelchair to move or tip over during the trip. Once you’re satisfied with everything and you or your loved one feel safe and secure, it’s time to hit the road!

Get on the Roads with Wheelchair Getaways

Don’t let improper wheelchair securement hold you back from your next adventure! 

If you don’t own a wheelchair van but need one for grocery shopping, a sun-drenched day at the park, or visiting old friends, Wheelchair Getaways has you covered. We offer various wheelchair-accessible rental vans with the latest safety features, including secure tie-down points and easy-to-use restraint systems.

Whether you need a van for a day, a week, or an extended period, our flexible rental options can accommodate your requirements. To learn more about our vans or get a rental quote, visit our website today!


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