How to Size a Wheelchair

how to size a wheelchair

When determining how to size a wheelchair for yourself or a loved one, there are three key factors to consider: proper fit, correct placement, and overall comfort.

Begin the process by discussing your specific needs with your doctor or physical therapist who has hands-on experience with wheelchair selection and sizing.

Mobility expert Adrian Cristian, MD, shares in his book, Living with Spinal Cord Injury, the following criteria for a comfortable and healthy seated position in a manual or power wheelchair.

  • Your hips and knees should be bent at 90 degrees.
  • Your thighs should be slightly spread apart.
  • The normal curvatures of your spine should be preserved. Abnormal curvatures that cannot be corrected should be accommodated.
  • Your head should be directly over the pelvis, the eyes looking directly ahead and level.

Dr. Cristian also points out that some conditions may require specially equipped chairs with features that include reclining and tilting capabilities for those who cannot shift their own weight or have poor arm strength.

A power wheelchair may be best suited for people who cannot push a manual wheelchair on their own with their hands and/or feet, have poor trunk or mid-section control, or significant curvatures of the spine.

A properly sized wheelchair must support and accommodate the entire body including the back, hips, legs, knees, ankles, and buttocks. The individual's weight should be evenly distributed and a quality seat cushion or pad is essential to help relieve pressure points from sitting that could potentially cause sores.

In addition, wheelchairs should always be comfortable, cool, and easy to propel. Before purchasing any type of manual wheelchair or power chair, always have the individual and caregivers "test drive" different models that have been sized appropriately to ensure comfort and satisfaction.

Related Information

Cooling Wheelchair Pads
Types of Mobility Chairs
Wheelchair Mobility Resources
Mobility Scooters
Mobility Chair Ramps

Back to Mobility Advisor HOME from How to Size a Wheelchair

Article: How to Size a Wheelchair


Published by Jules Sowder

wheelchair clothing

Share Your Tips!

Do you know of a free
service or event for mobility chair users? Or, do you have a travel or vacation tip? Click here to post on our forum.

shop for tea

Popular Articles

Motorized Wheelchairs
Learn about your range of choices and  use these buying tips to select...  
Read more>>

Wheelchair Pad Choices
A wheelchair seat cushion must provide pressure relief, absorb heat, and...

Accessible Van Sales
There are a number of ways to locate available handicap vans in your area...

Electric Mobility Scooters
Here is a summary of the types of mobility scooters and what to consider...

Portable Ramp Options
There are four different types of portable ramps that... Read more >>