How-To

How to Measure for a Manual Wheelchair

Seat width

When it comes to getting a new wheelchair, your comfort is a top priority. If any part of the chair isn’t properly fitted it can quickly become uncomfortable to sit in over time, which can lead to posture problems, cramped muscles and other issues. Different activities and physical limitations also require slightly different wheelchair requirements. Here is a step-by-step guide of how to measure an individual for a wheelchair that will fit them and their needs perfectly.

Tools

  •  Tape Measure
  •  Bathroom Scales
  •  Chair
Note: Please measure the individual while they are seated, as this will result in the most accurate measurements.
Seat width
1

Seat width

Measure the widest point of the body, usually the hips or the thighs, while in a sitting position. Add an inch or two to accommodate for movement and bulky winter clothing.


Seat Depth
2

Seat Depth

Measure horizontally from the back of the buttocks to the inside of the knees, and minus two inches so that the edge of the seat won’t dig into the back of the user’s knees.


Back height
3

Back height

Measure vertically from the bottom of the buttocks up to the collarbone. The average wheelchair back height is 16 inches. The backrest height will ultimately depend on the user, if they have trouble sitting upright, they might want a lower back. If they want to push themselves around in their wheelchair, they will probably prefer a lower back so their arms can move freely.


Front Seat height
4

Front Seat height

This measurement will be important for users who might propel themselves with their feet, such as residents in a senior living facility. Measure vertically from the back of the knees to the ground, with the feet resting flat on the floor. If the person will be using footrests, add two or more inches to this measurement to account for footrest clearance. The standard seat to floor height is 18 to 20 inches. Adding a cushion adds approximately 2 inches of seat height.


Back Seat Height
5

Back Seat Height

This is measured from the ground to the top rear edge of the seat. The rear seat-to-floor height will be equal to or less than the front seat-to-floor height, depending on if the wheelchair has a rearward seat angle slope.


Armrest height
6

Armrest height

With arms at 90 degrees, measure vertically from the tip of the elbow to the top of the hips. Adjustable height armrests are usually recommended. For users who will be doing stand-up pivot transfers, consider full length armrests. The standard armrest style is desk length, which allows wheelchair users to get in close to tables and desks.


Footrest
7

Footrest

Measure vertically from the back of the person’s knee to the heel of their foot, and add at least 2 inches for floor clearance. Patients who suffer from edema, swelling or injury are recommended to have leg rests that lock so they can extend and elevate their legs.


Hanger Angle
8

Hanger Angle

This angle determines how the position of the footrest, or how far away the toes will be from the body. Individuals who struggle keeping their knees perpendicular at 90 degrees between the floor and top of the seat might prefer a gentler angle between 60 and 80 degrees so that their feet can rest further away from the chair.


Camber
9

Camber

This is how inwardly angled your large rear wheels will be. Most wheelchairs have a standard three degrees of camber; however, some athletes use chairs with a camber as high as 12 degrees.

Weight
10

Weight

Most wheelchairs can support up to 250 or 300 pounds, so if the user weighs more, they must look into wheelchairs with higher weight capacities, such as bariatric wheelchairs. Also, the weight of the wheelchair itself is important – if the user is able to get out of their chair, they might want one that has a light frame so they can move it out of the way when it’s not in use.