If you use a wheelchair to get around, you’ll find that different chairs suit different purposes. Every wheelchair user is sure to need a chair for getting around independently as well as one to use in situations where it is necessary to have an assistant pushing the chair. In this article, we explore the differences between wheelchairs and transport chairs. Read on to learn more.
Both types of chairs a very useful for people with disabilities, people recovering from an injury and senior citizens. The main difference between these two types of chairs is that a standard wheelchair is meant to be propelled by the user. A transport chair is meant to be pushed by an assistant. For this reason, the two types of chairs are constructed quite differently.
Most wheelchairs have two large back tires and two small front tires. The rear tires measure between 18 inches and 24 inches across. The back tires typically are equipped with rotating handrails. The wheelchair user makes use of these hand rims to propel the chair forward.
A standard wheelchair may have push lock brakes or hand brakes similar to those used on a bicycle. These brakes are operated by the wheelchair user. Some wheelchairs, such as sport chairs, do not have brakes. The user slows and stops the chair by hand.
A standard wheelchair is usually made of reinforced, heavy duty steel for rugged and extended use. This type of chair may also have a number of built-in or added accessories, including:
A standard wheelchair is intended for every day independent use in a wide variety of situations. For this reason, this type of chair typically has comfortably padded armrests and backrests, along with thick cushions for long-term comfort.
A standard manual wheelchair usually has a seat that measures about 16 inches by 18 inches. Typical weight is around 35 pounds. The frame of a standard chair is typically wide for the comfort of the user, but this can become problematic when it's necessary to go through narrow doorways.
Transport Chair Basics
A transport chair typically has four small wheels measuring about 8 inches to 12 inches. The front wheels swivel, but the back wheels do not. The rear wheels cannot be reached by the occupant of the chair.
A transport chair is always equipped with lever or hand brakes on the rear which are to be operated by an assistant. Hand brakes located on the push handles make it easier for the assistant to navigate slopes and uneven ground. The brakes must be locked when the user is transferring into or out of the transport chair.
Because of its design, a transport chair cannot be used independently by the user. It must be pushed by an assistant from behind. This type of chair is not as rugged and durable as a wheelchair. Instead is made of light materials, and it is easy to fold up quickly for transport.
The seat of a transport chair may be just as large as that of a standard wheelchair, but the frame is significantly lighter and narrower. A typical transport chair weighs around 25 pounds.
Because the transport wheelchair is only intended for temporary use (e.g. doctor or dentist visits, transportation around the hospital setting, etc.) it is not typically well padded. Instead, a transport chair is limited to the bare basics needed for necessary transportation. It can be quickly and easily folded and placed in a backseat or in the trunk of a car.
Which is Better?
If you're going to a setting where you will need to go through narrow hallways and doorways or confront other potentially inaccessible situations, you may be better off taking your transport chair along with an assistant to help you.
On the other hand, if you're going to a wheelchair accessible situation where you can manage on your own, naturally you'll want to take your more comfortable wheelchair.
2. Do you need to transfer?
If you're unable to transfer on your own, and you will be taking an assistant with you for that purpose, your transportation options may be greater if you take a transport chair. If you take a manual wheelchair that is difficult to fold up and put in the trunk of a car or behind the seat, you'll need transportation that provides a lift. This may be a public bus or private van equipped with a lift. If you don't have these possibilities, you'll want to take your transport chair so that you can go in any car.
3. What will you be doing?
If you have a very active lifestyle and want to participate in wheelchair hiking and active sports, naturally you will want a wheelchair that you can maneuver on your own. You may even want to have several different types of wheelchairs for different purposes.
On the other hand, no matter how active you are, if you are going to a fairly inaccessible setting where you'll be dealing with a crowd and/or may transfer into a stationary seat (e.g. theater seat) for a long while, a transport chair pushed by a friend or companion may be the right choice.
4. Are you able to operate a manual or electric wheelchair?
Of course, if your disability would prevent you from being able to safely operate a manual wheelchair or an electric wheelchair, a transport chair is a natural choice unless transferring you in and out of it is not easy. In this case, you would want to have a comfortable manual wheelchair which would be pushed by an assistant.
5. Are you experiencing a permanent, long-term or temporary disability?