If you were to purchase a standard wheelchair, the dimensions would be:
- 32” in length
- 36” in height
- 25” in width
However, these dimensions are not going to be suitable for the majority of users since everyone is different in terms of size and needs. Therefore, when shopping for a wheelchair, it’s advisable to be correctly measured to find a chair that fits you correctly.
After all, you’re going to get a lot of use out of your wheelchair so a good fit will ensure the correct support and greater comfort.
This guide talks about the importance of finding the right wheelchair dimensions and how to get the right fit for you.
What Sizes Do Wheelchairs Come In?
As mentioned above, there are standard sizes for wheelchairs but these are certainly not your only choices. When it comes to wheelchair seat width, for example, the most popular size is 18 inches but 16 and 20 inches are also common choices.
In terms of weight capacity, most standard wheelchairs are designed for people weighing up to 18 stone. Anyone heavier than this will require a bariatric wheelchair which will allow for greater weight and will also come with wider dimensions to comfortably accommodate the user.
Why Standard Wheelchair Dimensions Aren’t For Everybody
If you have an injury that requires the use of a wheelchair for just a few weeks, then it might not be worth going through the process of being measured and spending money on a custom wheelchair. Unless you have very specific needs, such as requiring a bariatric wheelchair, the standard dimensions will likely suffice for the very short term.
Any longer than this, for example for people who have long standing or permanent conditions or disabilities, it’s vital to have a wheelchair that fits you properly. You wouldn’t wear a pair of shoes that were the wrong size or a jacket that was three sizes too small. The same should apply to your wheelchair.
But you might be asking why wheelchair dimensions are so important. Well, for starters, the standard wheelchair measurements aren’t going to be suitable for everyone. After all, we’re all different in terms of height, width, weight etc. A child wouldn’t use the same sized wheelchair as a large adult and rightly so; it just wouldn’t provide the right comfort and support.
You must also consider that buying a wheelchair with incorrect dimensions will likely mean the chair won’t last as long. Some people are concerned about having to buy a very bulky piece of equipment but if this is what you need, then it’s what you should get. While you may be concerned about how easy it will be to use the chair in public spaces, keep in mind that there are legal requirements that these places must adhere to for wheelchair users.
Reasons That Getting The Right Dimensions Is So Important
With the above in mind, you have to consider the following points when thinking about wheelchair dimensions.
The most important priority when considering anything to do with your wheelchair is safety. I cannot stress enough that incorrect wheelchair dimensions could affect your ability to perform health and personal tasks like using the bathroom.
For example, if your wheelchair is too wide to fit through the doors inside your home, you may not be able to get into the bathroom.
If you’re a tall person then it’s also really important to carefully consider the seat depth of your wheelchair. If this is too short, it can affect your balance and in the worst cases, could cause you to fall out of the wheelchair and sustain an injury.
This is especially important for people who spend most of their day in their wheelchairs. When the wheelchair width is not sufficient, this can put unnecessary pressure on your hips which will cause great discomfort.
Additionally, when you choose a wheelchair whose seat height is not right, your knees will be under pressure. When the seat height is too low, this can also mean that the footrests are lower down which can make it more of a challenge to get over things like door thresholds.
When you use a wheelchair whose seat is too wide, this can cause you to sit lopsided which will affect your posture. In addition to this, too wide seats can cause an imbalance between the wheels opening up the potential for the chair to fall to one side.
You’ll also need to make sure that the length of your footrests and height of the armrests are suitable. If they’re not, then this can put strain and pressure on the limbs, hands and feet which will worsen over the course of time.
Choosing The Right Wheelchair Dimensions
When it comes to getting your wheelchair dimensions right, no effort should be spared. It can be tempting to just guess your measurements to save time but this is really something to be avoided. Use a reliable scale and measuring equipment to get precise measurements. You’ll thank yourself in the long run when you have a wheelchair that fits you perfectly.
Think About Your Needs
Before you start taking your measurements, it’s a good idea to think about whether you have any specific needs that should be taken into account.
For example, wheelchairs not only come in different sizes but they also have varying weight capacities. For heavier users, you’ll need to select something that matches your weight in order that the chair is safe. Furthermore, these users may require something a little wider to avoid undue pressure on the hips and for better weight distribution.
It’s also important to think about how the wheelchair will be operated. If you’re selecting an attendant-propelled chair then the width or weight of the chair won’t need to be taken into account as much. On the other hand, if you’re going to self-propel the wheelchair, something lightweight and as narrow as possible is going to make life easier for you.
Finally, you have to think about your mobility needs. If you have balance problems, difficulty holding your own weight and other issues then you might consider a wheelchair with a higher back which will offer additional support to the head and neck.
Getting The Measurements Right
As I have already discussed, the measurements of your wheelchair are not something that should be overlooked so make sure you’re using reliable equipment to take them. There are three main things you’ll need to consider; height, width and depth. Let’s take a closer look at how to get your measurements spot on.
When we talk about the height of the wheelchair, we are referring to two things; the distance between the seat and the floor as well as the height of the backrest.
To get your seat to floor height, you’ll need to take a measurement between your knees and your feet. Make sure you’re in a seated position when you do this.
To get the back height, you should start from just below your shoulders; around three to four inches below and measure down to the bottom of your back. For most people, the back height of the wheelchair is related to their comfort or, if you’re self-propelling, the back height will affect arm movement so it should be lower. However, some people may need a higher back for additional support.
When considering the width of your wheelchair, you’ll need to factor in your body shape and your weight. It’s important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t measure around your waist but take the measurement around your thighs or hips as these are the widest points on the body and will be what affects the width of the chair.
You’ll also want to consider the type of clothing you usually wear. If you’re often going to wear thicker garments or use a blanket then you’ll need to factor this in. Some people also use inserts or additional supports within the chair and these will also affect the appropriate width.
When it comes to choosing the right seat depth, your height is the main thing to consider. The measurement should be taken from just above the back of your knee up to your lower spine.
If you’re going to self-propel the wheelchair then it may be useful to have a slightly shorter depth as you’ll have better movement in the trunk especially when you’re propelling more quickly.
While the above are the most important measurements to think about, they’re not the only ones. Armrest height and the length of the footrests must be taken into account.
For people who are taller, a higher armrest is usually required. In order to correctly calculate your armrest height, you’ll need to measure from your elbow to the top of the wheelchair seat. When taking the measurement, you’ll need to be sitting with level shoulders and good weight distribution in your forearms.
For the footrests, you’ll need to make sure that the length is sufficient in comparison to your leg length. This is the measurement you took for the seat height but you’ll also need to ensure that you’ve got at least two inches of ground clearance to make getting over obstacles easier.
The importance of correct wheelchair sizing cannot be understated. Using a wheelchair that doesn’t fit you properly can affect your comfort, your mobility and most importantly, your safety.
Use reliable equipment to take measurements and take the time to ensure you’ve got things spot on. Not only will this make using your wheelchair a lot more comfortable and enjoyable but it’ll ensure that you get the longest use possible out of it.