Choosing a Transfer Seat
How a Transfer Seat Works
The term transfer seat refers to a seat base that an original van seat is installed upon. The transfer seat base is motorized and has controls that allow the wheelchair user to move backwards into the center of the wheelchair van or lowered floor minivan and then swivel in towards the center of the van and the waiting wheelchair. Once the person transfers into the seat, the same controls are used to turn forward and then move up into the driver or front passenger position.
Since it is possible to utilize the original factory seat on top of the transfer seat base, individuals continue to have the benefit of any power seat options that they have already in that seat, such as tilting or lumbar support. As well, the seat will match the rest of the interior and will continue to be pleasing to the eye.
Mobility equipment products can be used on an individual basis or in combinations depending on an individual’s particular situation. These products are generally — although not exclusively — geared towards those who have slight to partial loss of mobility.
Who Can Use a Transfer Seat
Transfer seats are typically used by an individual who has the ability to transfer into the driver seat rather than having to drive from their wheelchair. Today’s transfer seats have a lifting capacity of up to 600 pounds, so the vast majority of people can be accommodated. However, people who are exceptionally tall or have long legs may have not have enough room to swivel. An individual must evaluate these types of situations carefully before they make a purchase.
Transfer seats can be used in either full-size wheelchair vans or wheelchair accessible minivans and can help the user gain access to either the front passenger seat or the driving position. The most common application for a transfer seat is in the driving position.
Another choice that people will need to make is whether to get a 4-way seat-forward/backward, swivel in/swivel out-or a 6-way seat. The 6-way seat is essentially the same as the 4-way seat, but with the added benefit of being able to also go up and down. While the 6-way seat can be more expensive, it is generally the best choice. The reason that the 6-way seat is the better option is that the up/down motion allows an individual to position the seat lower than their wheelchair when transferring into the seat and then higher than their wheelchair when they are transferring out of their seat. In essence, an individual is then using gravity to do their work for them and are therefore avoiding the strain of lifting their body higher.
One final consideration is the fabric or surface of the seat an individual is using. Leather and vinyl tend to be far easier to use because they enable someone to slide on the seat. Fabrics generally have more friction and inhibit a person to slide; this forces an individual to exert more, or have to lift their weight over the fabric. If the wheelchair van seat an individual has today is fabric, we suggest either a covering or a full reupholstering of the seat. We can explain these options in further detail should it be of concern.
Transfer Seat Options
- Full Size Vans: General Motors and Ford
- Wheelchair Accessible Minivans: Toyota, Honda, Dodge, Chrysler, and Chevrolet
- Driver position: this is the most common use
- Front passenger position
Major Style Differences
- 6 Way Transfer Seat: make for easier transfers by “letting gravity work for you”
- Up/Down, Forward/Back, Swivel In/Out
- 4 Way Transfers
- Forward/Back, Swivel In/Out
- Uses original seat that comes with your wheelchair van or accessible minivan.
- Leather and vinyl are best for transfer.
- Fabric can be changed to vinyl for a reasonable price.
- People over 500 lbs and/or exceptionally tall may have trouble using transfer seats.
- It is important to evaluate length and weight characteristics to determine if a transfer seat is right for you.
- Price ranges between $3,000 and $8,000. A Certified Mobility Consultant can explain the different options and price ranges. In many cases, auto mobility grants may be applied toward the cost.
- Price will vary based on choice of 4-way vs. 6-way, weight capacity and any special installation requirements.