In Parts 1 through 7 of this series of posts, I’ve written about how I found and purchased my dad’s used wheelchair-accessible van. In this, the final article of the series, I explain how we anchor his chair in the van.
When I first took the van over to Dad’s nursing home to try it out I learned that we weren’t going to be able to use his power chair for trips. My dad simply wasn’t able to manipulate the controls with enough finesse to maneuver inside the van. The manual wheelchair was the only option for our outings.
This meant that an automatic docking system to hold the wheelchair in place wouldn’t work for us, since it required driving into the base.
Manual tie-down straps were the alternative. Installed on the floor of the van were two steel tracks with what looked like perforations in them. The lap-and-shoulder safety belt that came with the van snapped in to these perforations, and that’s where Dad’s wheelchair tie-downs would need to connect, too.
I had some trouble figuring out which lock-down straps I needed to buy, but after some thorough research on the Internet, and looking carefully at as many photos as I could find, I identified the strips in Dad’s van as belonging to Series L tracks, and I found the correct belts online at Cargo Equipment under “wheelchair securement”.
The tie-down straps are available with S-hooks or with snap hooks that lock over a D-ring. I chose the snap hooks because I felt they were more secure. The S-hooks would probably work just as well if you are careful, and if they fit the wheelchair frame exactly . A set of four straps are required — two in front and two in back. The rear straps use a cam buckle and clamp for tightening; all four are wrapped around the lower frame of the wheelchair, and the hooks snapped into the attached D-rings.
On a bit of a whim, I also purchased four Quick Straps from Cargo Equipment. These wrap around the wheelchair frame and let me pull the restraint straps through a loop, instead of having to thread the snap hooks under the wheelchair. I found them very useful, and they eliminated some of the contortions involved in connecting everything.
Installation was easy; good directions came with the straps, and fitting the belts into the track required only pinching the hardware and inserting it — and then checking, checking, checking to make sure everything was snug.
Short tracks can be installed in vehicles, but I was glad that Dad’s came with tracks that spanned the width of the van, giving us lots of options for wheelchair placement. On a practical, day-to-day basis, this meant that I didn’t have to do any finicky fine-tuning to get Dad’s wheelchair in exactly the same place every time he rode in the van. We could secure it pretty much anywhere it landed — a great time-and-bother saver.