What Is the Difference Between a Transport Chair and a Wheelchair?

In most cases, those who have trouble walking or moving about use mobility aids to perform daily living activities. These aids come in various forms, with the two most common ones being the wheelchair and transport chair. While closely similar in looks, these are actually very different devices.

Fundamentally, what sets these ambulatory aids apart from each other is the size of their wheels. Wheelchairs have a larger set of wheels for self-propelling, while transport chairs have wheels on the smaller side for users who need to be pushed behind by their loved ones or caregivers.

But how else are these two aids different?

Wheelchair Fundamentals

If you or someone in your family can’t walk or has trouble walking without assistance, consider using a wheelchair. Despite the variety of designs, sizes, and colors this device comes in, all its models share the same frame. They all have smaller front wheels that can be turned with little effort.

As for the rear wheels, they’re larger and topped with handrails that rotate. Pushing these rails moves the device forward. This is the method by which users or patients propel themselves while in a wheelchair. Users can opt to have someone push them from behind, but that’s normally not necessary.

A wheelchair’s weight can range from about 35 to 40 pounds, and its seat area is usually 18 by 18 inches. In most cases, the seat is a cushioned fabric set against a steel frame. For the most part, the user can move wheelchairs easily using the arms, making it ideal for those with paralyzed lower bodies.

Transport Chair Fundamentals

To the untrained eye, it’s easy to mistake a transport chair for a wheelchair. Still, despite their similarities, they are also different in many ways. For one, the transport chair is lighter and more compact than its self-propellable counterpart. Also, unlike the wheelchair, it doesn’t have handrails because it should be used with assistance.

With a transport chair, there should always be a “helper” pushing the device. So, at the very least, using it requires two people, the assistant and the patient.

One of the best things about transport chairs is that they’re far easier to maneuver than actual wheelchairs. Their less bulky frame means a patient or user can access steep or narrow paths, like narrow doorways. There are mobility scooters also available in the market for the help of disabled.

Transport chairs made of steel usually weigh from 15 to 35 pounds and have a smaller seat size than the wheelchair at 16 by 16 inches. Both its back and front wheels are typically of uniform size, unlike its larger and bulkier counterpart. Also, for this device, there’s almost always no mechanism for independent use. There’s just the brake, which you can turn on or off when necessary.

Key Distinctions Between Wheelchairs and Transport Chairs

The differences between these two ambulatory aids couldn’t be more glaring than in the way they are:

1. Propelled Forward

As mentioned, you can’t use transport chairs independently. Only if a non-disabled individual is present can the chair be pushed forward.

Still, a transport chair may be used as a temporary walker in a few instances. That is if the main user is physically capable of standing behind the device and pushing it forward.

The wheelchair is an ambulatory aid that can be operated even by a primary user whose lower body is paralyzed. If the patient’s arms are functional enough, they can drive themselves forward on their own. This function of being self-propellable in most environments is what makes the wheelchair an all-around choice.

A user will likely only find the transport chair more appealing than its larger counterpart when he or she frequently navigates narrow or steep areas or has a particularly weak upper body.

2. Transported

It’s safe to say that the transport chair would be easier to travel with, given its lighter and more compact frame. Unlike most basic wheelchairs, many transport chair models are collapsible, allowing you to slip them through aisles and narrow pathways with ease.

3. Customized To Meet User Needs

Since there is a higher demand for wheelchairs for long-term care, manufacturers have been releasing models that can be structured specifically around their users’ needs. This usually isn’t the case for transport chairs unless you’re prepared to shell out more money on a higher-end customizable model.

Choosing Between Transport Chair and a Wheelchair

Generally, if someone with a mobility impairment has a strong enough upper body, the ideal ambulatory aid for him would always be the basic wheelchair. It’s a device that can be propelled forward independently and fits a variety of user needs.

Conversely, if the primary user has weak upper extremities and/or typically navigates narrow or steep areas daily, the transport chair would be the more practical choice for the individual.

If you’re finding it difficult to choose between these two devices, then don’t. You can have the best of both worlds in the form of the Transport Wheelchair, which today’s healthcare industry has made available for families with physically- and health-challenged members.