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Wheelchair Sizing Guide: How to Choose the Right One

Wheelchair Sizing Guide: How to Choose the Right One
Kevin Cleary

For more and more Americans, the need to utilize wheelchairs for their mobility is steadily increasing. No matter the reason, the need to find the right one that fits you is far more important than you might think. Wheelchairs are not a one-size-fits-all commodity, they should be fit to the actual user properly. This can allow users to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) or Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) comfortably and safely. HPFY has a variety of wheelchair options to suit different needs. 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

A chair is a chair is a chair…right? In this case, no!! There really is no standard wheelchair size when it comes to properly being fitted. Wheelchair sizing is an important component to properly fitting a wheelchair to its user. There are different wheelchair sizes, wheelchair widths, and features or accessories that make each chair customized specifically for its end-user. If properly customized and sized, these important health issues are positively impacted:

  • Posture
  • Safety
  • Comfort
  • Alleviation/avoidance of pressure sores or ulcers
  • Ease of use

So, how exactly do you properly size a wheelchair for yourself, a family member, or a loved one? You should work with your doctor and physical therapist (along with a credible vendor), and they will properly measure you and give insight on the options that you could use to make your time in this chair more comfortable.

Wheelchair sizing: How to choose the best one

Any wheelchair should fit its individual user. This means measuring certain parts of the user's body so that their chair is perfect for them. Your physical therapist will take measurements to determine your wheelchair dimensions. Some of the measurements and options you and your therapist will consider are:

1. Seat Width

Determining your seat width requires measuring the hips from one side to the other in a straight line. After measuring, add 2 inches to select the proper wheelchair seat width.

2. Seat Depth

Simply measure from the back of the hip to the back of the knee of the eventual user while seated. Then, subtract 1 inch to get the proper seat depth.

3. Foot Rest Style

 There are a couple of options for footrests to allow the user to comfortably sit with their feet flat. The length of your footrest should be measured by measuring the distance from the user's heel while the foot is flat on the footpad to the back of the knee. Two options for footrest styles include:

  • Elevating Leg-Rests: Those who suffer from swelling due to edema, swelling, or injury can elevate their feet while seated in their chair. Often, your doctor will suggest this type of leg rest if necessary.
  • Articulating Leg-Rests: Perfect for taller users, these leg-rests can extend longer, and while elevating, they also extend.

4. Arm Type and Height

Armrests and their height are important for comfort as well as being able to use your chair in its proper environment. Some options you may want to consider include:

  • Full-Length Wheelchair Arms: Best suited for those who will frequently utilize standup pivot transfers, the full-length arm offers more support to help push themselves up.
  • Desk-Length Armrests: Just as the name implies, these wheelchair arms are used by wheelchair-bound users who want to be comfortable sitting at a desk or table. They are shorter and allow the user to get closer comfortably.
  • Wheelchair Arm Height: This measurement is taken by having the user make a 90° bend in their arm and measuring from the elbow to the seat of the chair. Often, wheelchairs offer height-adjustable armrests. The proper measurement and adjustment can reduce shoulder pain and discomfort.

5. Back Height

 Wheelchair comfort is directly related to its back. For this measurement, measure from the user's collarbone down to the seat. For users who require more support, higher backrests or reclining backrests are available. This can allow for proper weight distribution.

6. Wheelchair Seat Height

Some wheelchair users can use their feet to propel them, and the seat height should allow the user to reach the floor with their heels. If this is the case, measure the distance from the back of the knee to the heel.

7. Patient Weight

Wheelchairs are built to accommodate certain weights. Knowing the patient’s weight can help you properly fit each patient to the right wheelchair that can support them safely. Consideration should be taken for each patient’s strength and ability to transport their chair. Weaker patients should utilize lighter wheelchairs, while some stronger users can even fold up their chairs into a car and drive.

Wheelchair Sizing Guide: Step by Step 

1. Find the right seat width 

  • Measure the widest part of your hips. 
  • Add 2-3 inches for comfort. 
  • The resulting number is the minimum width size.  

2. Seat Depth 

  • Measure from your lower back to the back of your knees. 
  • Subtract 1-2 inches for leg movement. 
  • This is your ideal seat depth. 

3. Seat-to-Floor Height 

  • Measure from your buttocks to the ground when seated. 
  • Make sure your feet are not restricted, and you can rest them comfortably on the ground with knees at a 90-degree angle. 

4. Back Height 

  •   Measure from your lower back to your shoulder blades. 
  •   The backrest should provide proper support without being too tall 

5. Armrest Height 

  • Measure from your elbow to the seat. 
  • Adjust armrests for support and easy transfers. 

6. Footrest Length 

  • Measure from the back of your knee to the sole of your foot. 
  • Ensure footrests support your legs comfortably. 

7. Wheelchair Width 

  • Measure the width of your shoulders, including any bulky clothing. 
  • Add a few inches for extra space.  

8. Overall Height 

  • The wheelchair's height should allow easy maneuverability under tables and through doorways. 
  • Remember, these are general guidelines. It is best to consult your therapist or doctor to find the right-sized wheelchair.  

Where can I buy the right wheelchair online?

Wheelchairs should be customized to their ultimate user. Wheelchair sizes vary, and so do their users, so utilizing a wheelchair size chart can help custom-fit a wheelchair to its user to improve its performance and comfort. Visit our site, HPFY, and check out the amazingly wide variety of options available for wheelchairs. We can assure you that there is a wheelchair right for you!!



Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics, and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our reviewed content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.


HPFY Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.

In 2006, ...

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