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Transfers and Guiding


There may be times when you need to assist a skier with mobility impairment.  Never assume that a person needs your help.  What may appear as a struggle to one person might actually be a desired challenge to another.  Always ask first if you may help and never presume your assistance is desired.  By first asking if someone needs assistance, you allow the individual to maintain his/her independence and control over the situation.  The person with the impairment is usually the best source of information regarding how to assist him/her.  Remember, first ask if assistance is wanted and then ask how you may best help. 

Below are some common techniques and suggestions for transfers.  A transfer is when a person relocates from one place or thing to another (example: a wheelchair to a ski or the dock to the water).  If the person requesting assistance does not have a preference then explain the transfer you plan on using before starting.  If is important to always lift with your legs, keeping you back straight.  It is not uncommon to see a hurried transfer where the helper is twisting as s/he lifts.  This is a sure way to do damage to your back.  Take your time and get into the proper position.  Before transferring check that the path you will take is free of obstruction and move any items that are in the way.  Lock manual wheelchairs if they have brakes and switch off a power wheelchair.

 A typical “full assist” or “two person lift” utilizes one assistant in front and one behind the individual being helped to transfer.  Have the student cross their arms in front of his/her chest.  The person from behind reaches under the student’s arms and grasps his/her wrists.  If you inadvertently touch a person in an inappropriate area say, “excuse me” and readjust your position.  He/She firmly hugs the student while lifting to insure the lift comes from the trunk and not the arms.  The second helper holds the student at or above the knees, keeping the legs together.  One of the assistants does an audible countdown and both helpers lift in unison.

 If is helpful to have a third person stabilize the ski you are transferring to.  Be sure the ski fin is protected or hanging off the edge of the dock.  Place the student’s feet in the binding after the student is in the ski.  If you are transferring from a ski to a chair, remove the feet from the binding before you start the transfer.

 Sometimes a person can assist in a transfer by acting as leverage support for the individual transferring.  Stand in position as directed by the student transferring, being sure to keep your knees bent and back straight.  The student can use your shoulder to hold on to as s/he transfers.  Some individuals will need no other help that stabilizing the equipment they are transferring to.

 Some semi-ambulatory individuals may require assistance getting up from a sitting position.  Stand in front of the student and grasp his/her hands.  Place your feet in front of his/hers to block them from sliding as the individual begins to stand.  Once s/he has reached the standing position continue to support as needed.  Here again it may be helpful to have someone stabilize the equipment you are transferring to.


Guiding an individual with a visual impairment is a simple process if you remember a few customary steps.  When you first approach someone with a visual disability, identify yourself.  Always ask the individual if he/she would like assistance.  If so, make contact so the individual can grip your arm just above the elbow.  Holding your arm, he/she will follow at your side and slightly behind you.  Give the person some idea of the area you are walking through.


If you come to an area that is too narrow for both of you to pass side-by-side, place your arm behind your back so that your student will know to step behind you.  Always pause before a step up or down.  When using stairs, pause, step, pause again, until the individual you are guiding can get in sequence with you.  Then move at a normal pace that is comfortable for both of you.

When a person you are guiding wishes to be seated, take him/her directly to a chair and allow him/her to make contact and seat him/herself.  Never leave a person alone in an open area.  If you must leave, first move to a place with something he/she can touch to maintain contact with his/her environment (example: a counter, wall, dock rail, etc).   Remember, when you are ready to leave tell him/her you are going.  When walking with someone you are not familiar with, verbal explanations may be necessary in all of the above situations.

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