How to Transfer From a Wheelchair to a Chair

Written by tom wagner
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How to Transfer From a Wheelchair to a Chair
Humans cherish freedom above all else; mobility is freedom. (elderly couple relaxing in wheelchairs in the sun image by L. Shat from

Many of those confined to wheelchairs are unable to move themselves into or out of the wheelchair and require an assistant. Such people must use wheelchairs with sturdy sides to prevent them from spilling out of the chair. Those able to transfer themselves from a wheelchair into a chair must have adequate arm strength. Such people generally use open-sided wheelchairs for increased mobility, which makes it much easier to move from the wheelchair onto another chair, a toilet or a car seat.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Transfer belt

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    With an Assistant (Assistant Instructions)

  1. 1

    Park the wheelchair beside the desired chair at a tangent to the front of each so that the arms of both the chair and the wheelchair form an L.

  2. 2

    Lock the wheels of the wheelchair.

  3. 3

    Fasten transfer belt securely around the patient's waist.

  4. 4

    Stand directly in front of the patient, as closely as possible.

  5. 5

    Have the patient scoot forward to the edge of the seat; assist them if necessary by squatting, grasping the sides of the transfer belt with both hands and pulling forward.

  6. 6

    Be sure the patient's legs are directly beneath him and have him push himself upward (if possible) while you pull on the transfer belt upward and toward you.

  7. 7

    Keep the patient's weaker knee---if any---between your legs; if the patient falters, grip that knee with both of yours to help keep him upright.

  8. 8

    Pivot the patient toward the chair and gently lower him into it by squatting, avoiding leaning too far forward; use your legs as much as possible and not your back.

    Without an Assistant (Solo Paraplegic)

  1. 1

    Move the wheelchair into a position beside the desired chair, pointed in the same direction, as close as possible. If the wheelchair has sides with armrests, slide the side up and out of its supports, then rest it beside the chair within reach.

  2. 2

    Lock the wheels of the wheelchair.

  3. 3

    Use your arms and hands to scoot as closely as possible to the side of the wheelchair's seat nearest to the desired chair. Lower the leg supports to an upright position.

  4. 4

    Place the hand closest to the desired chair onto the far side of the chair and the other hand on the wheelchair's seat beside your body; transfer most of your weight onto the hand on the desired chair, then lift with both hands while simultaneously swinging your hips onto the desired chair.

  5. 5

    Use both hands wrapped around your legs at the backs of both knees to swing the legs in front of the chair.

Tips and warnings

  • Solo paraplegics can only use this particular method to move into armless chairs; other techniques are available to transfer into armed chairs.
  • If recently paralysed, a trained physical therapist should be present to avoid falls while practicing the solo method. Assistants to those confined to a wheelchair should have hands-on training with a licensed physical therapist to avoid improper body mechanics while transferring the patient that can lead to a back injury for the assistant.

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