Wheelchair vs Transport chair: do you know the difference?

Transport chair vs wheelchair

It’s our first pop quiz on the Triumph blog: Wheelchair vs Transport chair. Do you know how to spot the differences between a transport chair and a wheelchair? You’ve probably seen them both, but let’s test whether you’ve been observant: 

Q: Which requires a helper to push the user?

A: Transport chair

This is probably the biggest difference between the two devices – with its smaller-sized wheels, the transport chair is a two-person device meant to be pushed by a helper whereas a wheelchair can be propelled independently. While many wheelchairs also have handles for a caregiver to push, with the transport chair it’s required.

caregiver is pushing the transport chair with a user on it
Caregiver can push the user with a transport chair

Q: Which has larger wheels?

A: Wheelchair

Since they need to be accessible to the user, the main wheels for most wheelchairs are large enough that the user can place their hands on. The caster wheels at the front help with stability so can be fairly small. The transport chair typically has wheels that are more similar in size, although again the front wheels might be a bit smaller. In both chairs, the wheels are made of materials designed to provide shock absorption. 

Wheelchair has bigger wheels than transport chair
The main wheels for most wheelchairs are large enough that the user can place their hands on

Q: Which is more compact?

A: Both, depending on the chair

Because the transport chair is designed to have a helper, the design is generally more lightweight and less bulky. Of course, exceptions exist, for example the lightweight Panthera wheelchair designed for portability. Transport chairs are generally able to be folded and transported more easily given their smaller weight and design, although again some wheelchairs can be folded. 

You can also buy transport chairs that transform into rollators, adding yet another mobility device to your options.

To decide on whether you should invest in a wheelchair or transport chair, you might consider a few questions:

  • How often will you use the device? Consider your frequency of use and whether in circumstances where you’ll have a helper like appointments. 
  • Is the situation temporary? If the device is only used for a short time, you might consider a transport chair.
  • Do you need to move or store the device often? If so, a transport chair might be a good trade-off given that they often weigh less than a full wheelchair.
  • Do you need the device for mobility at home where you’d like to be more independent? Then a wheelchair might work best, or a wheelchair for home and a transport chair for when you travel.

Regardless of your choice, you want to invest in a chair with solid design, cushions and back support, and features that provide comfort to both the user and helper. Both mobility devices are useful for different circumstances, and sometimes the same user might need both. Knowing the difference can help you to make better buying decisions.