Always Be Able to Transfer

Published: Jun 15, 2018

Transferring is simply a fancy word for “I can get out of my chair by myself.” Not everybody can do it, but for those who can it’s a valuable skill to have and is very, very important.

For those of you who are able to transfer: do everything in your power to keep this ability. Being able to transfer yourself in and out of your chair not only opens up areas that may otherwise be inaccessible (e.g., regular bus seats), but it also helps prevent serious health issues like pressure sores and skin damage.

It is possible to lose the ability to transfer. Among physically disabled folks, losing the ability to transfer due to poor health is a huge red flag.

Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about being literally trapped in your chair, unable to leave it. I’m talking about not being able to transfer out of your chair and into things that are lower or higher than the position of your chair. People who lose their ability to transfer usually end up only able to transfer from their chair to their bed and back. Notice how this list doesn’t include things like showers, bathtubs or toilets? Losing the ability to transfer also means your personal hygiene suffers immensely which can lead to other health problems that can be straight‐up fatal.

So how do you keep the ability to transfer?

Practice Transferring

One of the main reasons I’ve seen people lose their ability to transfer is that they don’t keep up the strength training to easily and comfortably move their body in and out of their wheelchair.

Bodies change over time and it’s important that you practice moving you in and out of your chair on a regular basis. Practice going from your chair to the couch, repeatedly until you’ve worked up a bit of a sweat. You’ll be getting exercise and using your bodyweight as the resistance as well as gaining the muscle‐memory that will help make moving from your chair second nature.

Once that becomes easy, practice transferring from the floor to your chair, from the chair to the tub, etc.

Keep practicing until your body becomes comfortable with how it feels to move and lift its own weight. The more you practice, the faster and easier transferring will become!