Introduction to Wheelchair Transfers

Independent Transfers: 

Transfer in which an individual consistently performs all aspects of the transfer, including set up, in a safe manner and without assistance.

Steps for New Participants: 

  • Have new participants verbalize and explain how they will complete the transfer. It is important to understand everyone transfers differently and the individual will know what works best for them
  • Spot new participants to ensure they are capable and safe
  • Have padding available to protect sensitive skin if transferring to a hard surface such as the floor
  • Sport chair should be backed up against wall for stability
  • Get as close as possible to the surface where the athlete wants to transfer to
  • Set brakes on everyday chair (if applicable)
  • Remove everything that could impede the transfers: strapping, belts, restraints, side guards, arm rests, etc.
  • Scoot to the edge of the chair and move feet off of footrest and/or into position for transfer
  • When transferring, leaning the upper body in the opposite direction of transfer will assist in moving the pelvis in the direction of transfer
  • To protect the shoulders, keep the arms as close to the body as possible (about 30-45 degrees away from the body)
  • To protect the wrists, try to grip an edge or grab bar with dingers rather than laying the hands flat
  • Lift off, clear obstacles and/or use a transfer board
  • Once the individual is at the edge of the starting surface and position to transfer to the end surface, have them place one hand on the end surface while keeping one on starting surface and have them transfer to end surface. Stay close as a spotter and assist as needed
Dependent Transfers: 

Transfer where the individual does not participate or participates minimally. Personnel perform all aspects of the transfer.

When Assisting a Transfer: 

  • Ask the person you are assisting how they prefer to be transferred
  • Ask if there are any medical issues that need to be considered
  • Plan your path/movements
  • Set the brakes on the chair, turn off power on motorized chairs
  • Remove all restraints and impediments: straps, belts, side guards, arm rests, etc.
  • Bend your knees while transferring. Move from your hips and legs. Do not move people using your back
  • Do not leave your feet in place and twist your body at the waist during a transfer
  • Keep your arms in close to your body rather than stretching them out during a transfer. Place your feet as wide apart as your hips
  • Keep your back curved rather than holding it straight
  • Do not grab, pull, or lift the person’s arm joint (elbows, shoulders, wrists) as this can cause a joint injury
  • Never let the person you are moving hold or hug you around your neck while you are moving them
  • Stand very close to the person while transferring them
  • Use your body’s momentum (force gained by moving) to move the person
  • Do not transfer anyone heavier than what you can handle


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