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A guide to wheelchair sizes

A guide to wheelchair sizes
June 13, 2023

Trying to find the right size wheelchair? Here are the most important things to consider when choosing the size of a wheelchair.

Wheelchair size is an important factor in keeping users comfortable while in their chairs. It’s important to consider the individuals' measurements and mobility requirements when finding the right size wheelchair.


What to consider when choosing the size of your wheelchair:

Here are the most important factors to consider when choosing the right size wheelchair for you. 

1. Weight

All wheelchairs will have a maximum user weight. This is usually around 250 lbs for a normal wheelchair. You can also find heavy-duty wheelchairs which are designed to hold a lot more weight.

Exceeding the recommended weight limit of a wheelchair would affect its performance and functionality, for example, the wheels may wear out faster, the frame may be less stable and the wheelchair may not manoeuvre as smoothly. It will also pose a possible safety risk to the user.

If a wheelchair isn’t big enough for a user, it can lead to discomfort and pressure sores. Selecting the right size wheelchair for a user’s weight will ensure their weight is evenly distributed, the wheelchair provides better support and they are overall more comfortable.


2. Seat Size

A wheelchair seat that is too narrow and too wide can cause the wheelchair user discomfort. Having a correct-sized seat reduces the risk of pressure sores and ensures optimal comfort when sitting for a prolonged period.

A seat that is too wide won’t properly support the wheelchair users' postures. A correctly sized seat supports the users' hips, pelvis and back to help prevent slouching or leaning side to side. If the seat is too wide it can also make it harder for users to transfer in and out of the wheelchair and for those using self-propel wheelchairs to reach the wheels properly.


3. Backrest height

Most standard manual wheelchairs have fixed backrest heights. It is possible to get adjustable backrests or buy optional headrests to support the head. This is primarily for those who have limited control of their torso and or weakened upper body strength. A higher backrest can provide additional support and stability, preventing leaning from side to side.


4. Armrest height

Armrests provide supports for the users arms and shoulders while seated in the wheelchair. This can help distribute the upper body weight evenly, promoting better posture and preventing slouching.

The height of the armrests will also affect how easily wheelchair users can transfer to and from the wheelchair. If armrests are too high, it can be difficult for the user to manoeuvre out of the wheelchair. If armrests are too low, this can affect the balance and stability of the wheelchair while users are transferring.


What are the different wheelchair sizes for adults?

Heavy-duty wheelchairs: Heavy-duty or bariatric wheelchairs are built to accommodate a user’s weight so are likely to be more durable. They’re designed with reinforced frames and more robust components to withstand higher weight.

Narrow wheelchairs: Narrow wheelchairs are slimmer and more compact compared to standard wheelchairs. They work well for wheelchair users who are more petite. Their slim frame design also means they can more easily manoeuvre through narrow spaces, hallways and doorways.



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