September 7, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy
As a wheelchair user, you know better than anyone else how many additional challenges there are in your “new normal”. Not the least of these is the extremely common activity of transferring on and off your wheelchair. It’s something that you do multiple times every day, when you go to the bathroom, bathe, get in and out of a car, and more. Yet, it doesn’t really seem to become less awkward, and there is indeed some danger in the process. To keep the process as safe as possible, avoid doing the following whenever you transfer:
Please don’t take any chances by trying to transfer before the wheelchair is completely stationary, and locked in place. You don’t want to think about what could happen if the chair rolled out from under you just as you’re shifting your weight to get on or off. Make sure the brakes are firmly in place. You may have grown comfortable maneuvering your wheelchair, and feel in control of it. But why take a chance when there’s a real safety risk.
We use the term “support” in a variety of different ways on this blog, but in this case I’m not talking about moral support or peer groups. You need something to grab onto, and that needs to be something solid and stable. As a general rule, you’ll want to keep one hand on one of the armrests or another part of the wheelchair. This leaves the other hand free to use to further stabilize yourself.
It’s not an uncommon mistake among new wheelchair users. But if your wheelchair is facing head-on at the place you’re moving to, it’s going to be an awkward transfer and will require you to turn around as you maneuver to the target spot. It’s vastly preferable to come at the target at an angle, with one armrest close to the target. From this position, you can use that armrest to help propel you along your way.
This may be even more of a concern for experienced users than new ones. Once you get the hang of the process and feel comfortable with it, you may develop a false sense of confidence, and be inclined to rush through it. The last thing you need to do is make a hasty transfer, before you’ve made sure that the wheelchair is stable, or before you’ve checked thoroughly for any obstacles that could present danger. Slow and steady is certainly the key to a safe transfer.