How Wide Is a Wheelchair? Wheelchair Sizing [Updated 2020]
My first encounter with a wheelchair was a rather sad part. I had just stepped out of the theater after a knee replacement operation. What I didn’t know was this. Having a wheelchair meant that I was going to make a lot of adjustments in my lifestyle.
I had to unexpectedly change my home design, furniture arrangement, flooring plan, and even simple accessory layout.
Life became more of making choices. I had to choose properly where to set my shoes, boots and how to store my cornflakes. I had to ensure that everything that I needed was easy to access. More importantly, I had to create easy access around the home.
I took my seats to two, removed the table, and created more space around the couch. My path to the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom was also cleared of any clutter. There were no more laundry baskets lying around.
My Lesson: the Right Wheelchair Size
The truth is that when you introduce a wheelchair into your lifestyle it changes everything. You will have to rethink of how to make the movement easy. To do so, one of the vital questions that you must ask is “how wide is a wheelchair?”
Simply put, the best size of a wheelchair is that of the standard wheelchair. This wheelchair measures about 28″, which makes it an ideal model for the 32″ standard door.
Standard wheelchairs come with a variety of designs. Some of them are heavy-duty, wider, and easy to fit through door. Standard wheelchairs will accommodate various body statures.
The seat height of the standard wheelchair is also 20 to 21 inches. This is when measured right from the ground. The armrest of the wheelchair sits at 11 to 15 inches.
However, they won’t work for kids as the kid’s wheelchairs are often narrower. Why this disparity between this two categories?
It is simple. The standard manual wheelchairs are designed for individuals that weigh less than 300 pounds. However, the extra-wide wheelchair models are for guys that weigh over 300 pounds.
Pediatric wheelchairs, on the other hand, are for children and guys with smaller frames. These wheelchairs have their weight limit at 250 pounds. They also narrower seats at 14 inches wide too.
NOTE: Sometimes the width of the wheelchair may vary depending on an individual’s size, stature, and weight. That’s why a proper wheelchair sampling will leave you with models between 24 and 27 inches wide.
Why Wheelchair Sizing?
If you live in the US where I do, there is the standard government-recommendation of how wide any doorway must be designed.
The door minimum width here for any doorway opening is 32” and applies from the door face right to the doorstop. This is what the ADA standard demand when it comes to doorway accessibility.
In other words, for any home designer to meet the vital ADA accessibility standard, any door they install must have clear width of not less than 32 inches from its face to the opposite stop at any time.
The reason for this is simple. This space is the minimum amount of space/clearance that’s needed for the wheelchair to comfortably fit through the main doorway.
This doorway range is not fixed to that. It can also be extended to about 36” for the most comfortable wheelchair fit.
NOTE: Some wheelchairs including the transport wheelchairs are often slimmer than your standard wheelchair. This type of design helps them to easily fit in through smaller spaces that may not be intended for a standard wheelchair.
How to Determine the Appropriate Wheelchair Size
When you want to determine the appropriate wheelchair width for the standard wheelchair, this is what you should do:
First measure across your hips and allow some spacing for the clothing too. Then measure the width of the wheelchair space.
While doing this, it is important to remember that any properly sized wheelchair should allow for easy access through doorways and at the same time leave you with enough room to move. You should shift positions easily and avoid any form of pressure around the hips.
If you want to determine the perfect seat depth for your use, here is what you should do. Start by measuring from the back and extend to right behind the knee.
While doing so, here is what you must remember. For any wheelchair to give a proper fit to an individual, the resultant height of the wheelchair seat should always be the exact distance from your heels to where your knees bend with an additional 2 inches.
For the adults, this measurement is often between 19.5 to 20.5 inches. In addition to that, the seat’s width should be the exact measurement between the two widest points of your lower body with an additional 2 inches.
Other Reasons for Wheelchair Sizing
The first question is “how wide is a wheelchair?” We have seen the answer to that. However, it doesn’t stop there. There are many other reasons apart from ADA accessibility law that also determine the size of the wheelchair. Let’s take a look at them.
If you have a sharp bend or turn after the main doorway, ADA requirements state that there should be a larger doorway, which can easily accommodate the wheelchair’s turning radius.
This is mostly applicable to the main entering section of a doorway. It can also apply when there is a wall or barrier that may be blocking the wheelchair’s approach.
Apart from sharp turns, if your situation is at a place where the doors don’t comply with the ADA accessibility rules such as places outside the US, you can purchase a wheelchair that’s specifically designed for the narrow doorways. This should be a transport wheelchair.
Counter Top Heights
To accommodate individuals that use wheelchairs hotels, eateries, and snacking joints should have tables that a wheelchair can easily access. The average counter top or dining table for a wheelchair should be raised to allow enough space for the 30” standard lap height.
It is also important that you consider the average width of a standard wheelchair when creating the right dining spaces. It should be accessible and easy to use when on a wheelchair.
NOTE: If you have a ramp or want to create a ramp on your home, ensure that you get the right wheelchair ramp design measurements.
So how wide is a wheelchair? Now you know. Every wheelchair user has their personal tastes and preferences. They also have their own budget.
It is such factors that will determine the type of wheelchair to go for. They will also determine the size of the wheelchair.
Even so, any wheelchair that you use should be able to get through the door. They should fit in tight spaces and possibly allow for free movement. A good wheelchair should also be easy to navigate.
In case you need such a wheelchair, you can always use the tips that I have given you here. There are many types of wheelchairs that you can choose from anytime. Good luck and good time with your next wheelchair.