Q. What's the easiest way to tell the difference between a standard wheelchair and a transport wheelchair?
A. Look for the big wheels. A standard wheelchair has two big rear wheels so the user can wheel around manually, while transport wheelchairs have four small wheels with no opportunity for the wheelchair user to be self-propelled.
Some may have answered the question with the notion that a transport chair must be pushed, and that’s true, but standard chairs can be pushed, too, so the most telling aspect of a transport wheelchair is the lack of big wheels. These less-expensive, lightweight—and sometimes, ultra-lightweight (14 lbs.)—wheelchairs are commonly used in medical facilities to transport patients to an x-ray department, treatments and tests. It's often hospital policy that discharged patients must be transported from their room to curbside pick-up in a wheelchair, and transport chairs do the job. Though clearly made for limited use (especially for short-term needs like recovering from an injury), these wheelchairs serve a valuable purpose beyond the healthcare-facility setting.
Because these wheelchairs are light, fold-able, simple to park and store, they make life easier for home caregivers. The four caster-style wheels maneuver as smoothly as a standard wheelchair, but the big bonus is the transport chair's flexibilit for vehicle travel. Cars and wheelchair accessible vans have a harmonious relationship with transport wheelchairs. After a caregiver transfers the wheelchair user from the chair to a car seat, the act of folding and storing the more-manageable transport wheelchair in the backseat or trunk is a breeze compared to a standard wheelchair.
Very often, caregivers are responsible for wheelchair users who are physical unable to operate a power chair or mobility scooter. Imagine you're a caregiver with the luxury of a handicap modified van to carry your loved one or patient to appointments and activities. Handicap vans typically have a side-entry ramp, like the AMS Vans Legend, or rear-entry ramp, similar to the AMS Vans Edge or AMS Vans Edge II: Long Channel, for wheelchair entry and exit. Pushing someone up a ramp in a heavy, manually operated wheelchair can be back-breaking. A lightweight wheelchair, particularly one with drop arms, makes a world of difference. Once inside the van, those drop arms make it simpler to transfer the person from the chair to a standard vehicle seat and back again.
When it takes two, a transport wheelchair has what it takes!