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How do wheelchair users transfer to and from the WC?

The technique used to transfer from a wheelchair to the WC and back varies according to factors such as: the size and design of the wheelchair; the level of function that the disabled person has (for example, strength in upper limbs); whether the transfer is independent or assisted; and personal preference. Here we describe a number of common transfer techniques:

Unassisted side (lateral) transfer

  • the wheelchair is manoeuvred until it is more or less parallel with the WC, with the front of the wheelchair aligned with the front of the pan. Alternatively, the transfer maybe angled, with the wheelchair at about 45º to the WC (see diagram below)
  • the wheelchair armrest nearest the WC is removed
  • the footrests are pushed out of the way
  • the user slides him/herself from the wheelchair to the WC (and back) using a rail, wheelchair and WC pan for support

Unassisted angled (oblique) transfer

  • the wheelchair is positioned facing the WC at an angle
  • the user stands or partially stands up and, using the vertical grabrail for support, swivels the feet to turn, and lowers him/herself down onto the WC pan using the horizontal wall rail and seat for support. The grabrails may be used as a support while rocking from side to side on the WC seat to adjust clothing

Frontal transfer

This kind of transfer is only possible for users able to stand briefly and take some weight on their legs.

  • the wheelchair is positioned facing the WC head on (note: sufficient space is needed to allow this)
  • the user stands and uses support rails on both sides of the WC to shuffle around through 180º, and lowers him/herself onto the WC or
  • double lower-limb amputees and some other wheelchair users may choose to use the WC facing the cistern by sliding forward from their wheelchair onto the WC seat, using the rails on either side of the WC

Rear transfer

  • through zipped seat back of wheelchair

Assisted transfer

This may be done with the wheelchair in any of the transfer positions mentioned above. Assistance is needed when the wheelchair user has little or no functional use of the lower limbs and impaired upper limbs. He/she will need to be manually lifted or heaved from the wheelchair seat to the WC seat and back. Clear, unobstructed space on both sides of the WC is important to allow the assistant (or assistants) to bend, turn and move freely when lifting a disabled person’s weight.

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