Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans


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.

Disclaimer

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.

Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Started by cutting some 1.5″ by 1/8″ thick angle iron. One piece to 33″ and the other two to 44″. Each 44″ section had a 45* cut on one side and the 33″ piece had 45* cuts on both ends. I squared it up and welded at the corners.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
At the other end, I needed to add a piece that would finish the platform but also make a spot for the ramps to hook into. I cut a piece of 1″x1″ angle iron and mocked it up at the front.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Here is a close-up of the angle. I tacked it on then removed the magnets and fully welded it on both sides.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Used my angle grinder with a diamond cut off wheel to cut the expanded steel after marking it with a soapstone.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Used another angle grinder with a flap disk on it to clean up the cut after. You can see the before on the left and after on the right.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Welded the expanded steel to the platform at every other joint. Every joint would be overkill and just add unnecessary time/weight.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Also welded across the front to the 1″ angle iron. I tried to get it so the last row of expanded steel was pointed down to make for a smoother transfer from the ramps.

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.

Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
It all starts with the legs. Luckily the brain damage of designing these was already accomplished on the first one of these I built.

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

Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Using clamps to hold the test piece in position. This is the point where I figured out the angle I wanted the legs.

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.

Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Once I figured out the angle of the dangle on the legs, I wanted to create a template so I could exactly replicate it. I grabbed an extra 4×4 plate and aligned a weld on tab to the angle of the tube and welded it to the plate
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
I could then clamp the template to the next plate and tube for welding, that way it matched the others.
Initially I used couple extra spacers to make up for the thickness of the 4×4 plate but later welded the spacer to the template.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Tube lined up with the jig and ready to tack together. Here you can see I modified the template by stacking an extra weld tab on either side. The template can be used for both sides since they are mirror images of each other, I can just flip the template over and use the other side.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Here is a picture of the template, with all 4 legs tacked up. Hopefully this pic makes sense, the Template can just be flipped over depending on if you are making right or left legs. Note I also drew in sharpie how far the tube goes up onto the 4×4 plate.

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

Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Once the legs were tacked up, I clamped them in place with the inner hinge hole ~5″ from the edge of the platform and used a transfer punch to mark the top two 3/8″ holes for drilling the 1.5″ angle iron.

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.

Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Once the holes were drilled, I could loosely bolt the legs on to test and take more measurements. The way this hinge works, the legs can be pinned in the folded position. This way the legs aren’t flopping around while you are trying to transport the platform.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
With the legs bolted on, I could also start measuring for the lower adjustable legs. These are built from 3/4″ square tubing and crutch / cane tips.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Once I figured out the right length for the lower legs, I drilled them for pins 1.5″ from the end. The pins will go through the perforated tubing and this hole.

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.

Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Amazing view from my welding table.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Hey! Now something that actually looks like a platform. It is pretty wobbly at this point but that’s ok because we have a couple more pieces to add. The pins in the legs linked below are called ‘PTO’ pins and are nice because they have a safety retainer and don’t require any tools.

(I got a new phone after this point and the new pictures look legit!)

Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Before taking the legs off, I measured between them then cut a piece of 1×1″ angle iron. Here I squared them up on my welding table and welded the angle iron between the perforated steel. I made sure to position the angle iron so the bottom hole was still usable.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Legs connected together with the angle iron. The angle iron piece we just added is where a lot of the stability comes from, it takes out any ‘wobble’.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
I also finished welding on the hinge plates.

Building the ramps

Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Bolted the legs back on and started working on the ramps. The material is cut but just laying in place so I can look at it. The main frame is 1″ angle iron and 1/4″ solid rod at the bottom.

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.

Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Squared the ramps up on the welding table and welded them together. Note the top piece of angle iron points down, this is the part that hooks into the V groove that we welded on.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
I then cut some expanded steel for the ramps and welded it on at every other expanded steel joint.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Here I added a little tab on to the end of the V where the ramps sit. It isn’t likely to happen, but I didn’t want the ramp to be able to slide off the side of the platform, so these will prevent that.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Platform all finished up prior to taking it apart for paint.
I forgot to take a close-up but you can see I also added a 1″ angle iron cross brace across the middle under the platform.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
This version I made the ramps 10″ wide instead of 12″ wide. This gives a bigger ‘aisle’ for the person helping push the wheelchair up the ramp to walk.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
I also added an additional 3/4″ square tubing brace between the bottom part of the legs just above the rubber feet. After I added this support I could stand on the platform and shake around with total confidence. It turned out quite stable.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Close up of the hinge. Note I put a washer between the two metal plates. This creates some space so they aren’t rubbing on each other and can fold easier.
I haven’t found a shorter PTO pin setup yet (the gold pin), but these ones work fine for now.
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
After blowing it apart, I wiped it all down with paint thinner and added a coat of Rustoleum

Finished platform pics!

Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans

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.

Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans
Wheelchair platform for Transferring to Tall Trucks and Vans

Conclusion

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!

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