Transferring from wheelchairs to taller vehicles like trucks and vans can sometimes be challenging due to differences in height. Wheelchair users cannot slide across using a transfer board and grab handles like they can with a car. This is a custom platform solution we came up with to put the wheelchair and the seat of the tall vehicle at the same height so a transfer board can be used.
When using cars, often times the seat height is close enough to the wheelchair height to make it so elderly and those who have limited use of their legs to simply use a transfer board or stand up enough so they can slide over into the car seat. Today’s large 4×4 3/4 and 1 ton trucks are so tall that this isn’t possible. It is hard and sometimes impossible for the caretaker to lift or assist wheelchair users into vehicles. Transportation by ambulance and medical transport companies can also be cost prohibitive and are not a long term solution.
Today’s project is building a platform for Steven in California so he can take his son who is a wheelchair user on hunting trips with him. Steven’s truck is a Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel 4×4 which is WAY to tall to try to use a transfer board. This particular truck doesn’t even have a lift or oversize tires, it appears to have come from the factory this tall. The same goes for Chevy and Ford pickups too, 4×4 trucks seem to be much taller than they used to.
This product was custom ordered and built per customer specs for personal and residential use only. This is NOT a medical device and is not for commercial use. It has not been approved by professional engineers or the ADA.
This information is provided free for entertainment purposes only. Try this at your own risk. The use of tools and equipment is inherently dangerous and should only be done by those with a good understanding of each tool’s proper use and safety precautions.
Starting with measurements
First, I started by having Steven send me the measurements for his truck. I was looking for 3 in particular:
- Height from ground to the top of the bottom cushion on the truck / van seat: 41″
- Height from ground to the top of the bottom cushion on the wheelchair: 22″
- Height from ground to the bottom of the vehicle door: 19″
The height to the bottom of the vehicle door is important, because that is the tallest the platform can be without hitting the door.
Building the platform
Typical wheelchair dimensions according to the ADA is ~42″ long by ~26″ wide with a seat height of ~19-22″. The platform outer dimensions that I used on Version 1 is 44″ long by 33″ wide and I will be using the same on Version 2. This size gives a little bit of extra space to move around but not bigger than necessary.
Building the folding legs
I had built one of these before with Version 1 so I had a good idea of a design that worked. With this V2, I wanted to refine them a little bit and make it easier to replicate if needed.
The hinges start off with these 4×4 pre-drilled base plates. Seems like a weird place to start for hinges, but stick with me the design is pretty cool. Buying these pre-made plates saves A LOT of my time cutting and drilling holes and they are pretty cheap.
In version 1, I drilled the holes in the legs myself which took FOREVER. This time I got smarter and bought perforated tubing. There is a hole every 1″ which works out really nice. I made each of the perforated leg pieces 9″ so I can use a single 36″ piece of material.
Creating a template for the leg angle
I wanted the bottom of the feet to be near or even a little outside of the outside perimeter of the platform. If your feet are too far in from the edge, it can create a platform that is ‘tippy’. We want this thing to be super solid.
Write on your template so you know what it is that way it doesn’t get tossed! I have been digging writing dates on my templates and tools too, it is funny to see how long some of this stuff hangs around. I have tools that still work and are well over 10 years old since I started dating them.
Attaching the legs to the platform
Transfer punches are cheap and super handy in situations like this. These come in a set with lots of sizes and allows you to mark the exact center so all your holes match up after drilling. Buy a set now so you have them when you need them.
Link to the crutch/cane tips I used. These are nice and rubbery and could work as feet for many different projects. They slip perfectly over the 3/4″ tubing and hold tight even though the tubing is square.
(I got a new phone after this point and the new pictures look legit!)
Building the ramps
In the above pic, the platform is at it’s very highest setting. This is taller than the prior version I built and is probably a little too tall for the ramp length. This is the highest it can go while still fitting under the door of the pickup which is at about 19″. I didn’t want to make the ramps too much longer than this because they would have to be made out of heavier duty material and would be less portable.
I was thinking that if the ramp angle is too steep, the legs on the ramp side could be left one click (one inch) lower than the non ramp side. Then the platform wouldn’t be totally flat but the ramp angle would be better. Also, the wheelchair user will always have somebody with them that can assist them in getting up the ramp safely.
Finished platform pics!
In use pics!
Steven was kind enough to send me some pictures of the platform in use once he got it! In these pictures he was able to have the platform on its lowest setting if he parked his truck on the street next to the sidewalk. Even at the lowest height, the platform is providing about 12″ of additional height which looks about right in the pics below. This is why the legs are adjustable, to accommodate different situations.
I hope you enjoyed this rather long article about building a wheelchair platform for taller vehicles. I am excited that I was able to help this father and son get out hunting together. Mobile accessible vans aren’t typically 4×4 and can’t really go offroad, so this solution turns out to be very affordable as compared to 4×4 pickup wheelchair conversions.
Now YOU, get outside and work on something! Let’s come up with more solutions so EVERYBODY can join no matter their situation!