January 1, 2016 | 5:00 am | By Pants Up Easy
Being in a wheelchair means you have to adjust to all kinds of problems that most people don’t have to worry about. For instance, reaching something on the top levels of the grocery store aisle. You probably haven’t had this problem since you were a kid, so imagine what it feels like to ask someone to grab the Honey Bunches of Oats from the top shelf. It’s a little strange, to say the least.
But one of the most unique (and important) new challenges you face is transferring in and out of the wheelchair. This seemingly benign exchange can actually be very dangerous, especially if the wheelchair user is paralyzed in any way. So what’s the best way to transfer in and out of your wheelchair?
With help, of course! I know, I know, many wheelchair users pride themselves on their self-reliance. And that’s great for you, I applaud it. However, there is also another mentality to consider. Have you ever heard that “discretion is the better part of valor”? It means sometimes it’s better to be cautious than brave, and I think it applies here. Be self-reliant if you so desire – but it’s safer to ask for a helping hand.
What if I want to transfer on my own?
Then we have a bit of a formula we believe you should try. The priorities in this scenario are stability and security. You want to keep your body and your wheelchair as stable as possible during this transfer, in order to ensure your security. For starters, we want to move as close to the transfer target as possible. You should approach the target face forward, but at a slight angle. Basically, your chair and the target should meet to form a V (you can see an illustration here).
Now, to ensure stability, lock up the wheels with your brakes. We recommend scooting your butt to the edge of your wheelchair, then placing your hand upon the transfer area. As for your second hand, it should be used to propel your body from the chair. Place the second hand on the seat of the wheelchair or the armrest and push off of it, maintaining the first hand in place for stability.
It’s important to minimize the amount of time you’re airborne, because an airborne bottom is unstable. Move your butt from the chair onto the target in a rapid, but safe, fashion. Once you’ve touched down, now you can scoot backward and continue using the chair for leverage if it helps.