How do you measure yourself for a wheelchair? When you use a wheelchair to get around, comfort is the utmost priority. If you are trying to use an uncomfortable wheelchair, you could end up with cramped muscles, posture problems, repetitive use injuries, pressure sores and more.
Not only do you need to have a properly fitted wheelchair for your day-to-day activities, you may need to have specialty chairs for specific activities. In this article, we discuss the steps needed to measure yourself for a wheelchair and choose the correct wheelchair to meet your needs. Read on to learn more.
7 Steps for Correct Wheelchair Measurement
Follow these seven steps to correctly measure yourself for a wheelchair:
Have your assistant help you to become properly seated in the chair. You can use an ordinary firm chair or a wheelchair. Either way, measurements must be taken while you are seated.
- 1Measure for Seat Width
Start by measuring the widest part of your body. This is usually across the hips or the thighs. Measure straight across the hips and thighs. Don't bend the tape measure. Add a couple of inches to this measurement to take into account thick clothing, ease of transfer and the need to move about a bit.
- 2Measure for Back Height
Measure vertically from the seat of the chair to your collarbone. Generally speaking, the top of the back of your chair be just about even with your armpit.
Generally speaking, wheelchair backs are approximately 16 inches tall. This varies from person to person, though. For example, if you need more support you may want to higher back.
If you are a very active wheelchair user and you will be propelling yourself in your chair, you may want a lower back to allow your arms more freedom of movement
If you need to be able to change positions through the day, you may want a reclining back rest.
- 3Measure for Seat Depth, Front to Back
You can determine the depth of the seat by measuring from the back of your hipbone to the back of your knee while sitting. Subtract 1 or 2 inches from this measurement. This will help prevent the front edge of your wheelchair seat from poking the back of your knees.
- 4Measure for Armrest Height
If you will be standing up or pivoting from your chair frequently, you may want to have full length wheelchair arms. A full-length arm provides the correct support to push yourself out of the chair. If you will be sitting at a desk or table frequently, you will want desk link chair arms.
To determine the height of arm that will be correct for you, measure from your elbow to the seat of your chair while holding your arms at a 90° angle.
It is best to get adjustable height armrests to make small adjustments as needed through the day for various activities.
You will probably want desk length armrests which leave room to be able to move in close to desks and tables; however, if you need to transfer from your chair or stand on your own from time-to-time, full length armrests are preferable because they provide more support.
- 5Measure for Footrest Height
To determine foot rest height, have your assistant measure from the back of your knee down to the heel of your foot. Add a couple of inches to this measurement provide floor clearance.
You also want to determine the hangar angle which refers to the positioning of the foot rest. You may wish to have this angle set anywhere between 60 and 80° depending on your level of comfort.
If you have problems such as swelling or edema or if you are recovering from an injury to your foot or lower leg, you may need leg rests that raise. Elevated leg rests will let you extend your legs.
If you are very tall, you may need articulating leg rests. These can extend to a greater length and also elevate the legs.
- 6Measure for the Height of your Wheelchair Seat
If you will be using your feet to propel your chair, the distance from the front of your seat seat to the floor should be equal to the distance from the back of your knee to your heel. If not, add 2 inches to this distance to allow for clearance of your foot rests. The back of the seat should be slightly lower than the front to allow for comfort and prevent you from sliding forward.
- 7Determine How Much your Wheelchair Must Carry
You'll need to weigh yourself. Generally speaking, a well-built wheelchair can carry up to 300 pounds. If necessary, you can get a bariatric wheelchair to accommodate greater weight.
The information given above is general. Depending upon the type of wheelchair you are getting, you may need to take fewer or more measurements. For example, if you are measuring for transport chair, you may only need to know the depth and width of the seat. If you are ordering a custom chair for a specific purpose, there may be other measurements you'll need to take.
If you are ordering a sport chair, the camber or tilt of the rear wheels is very important. The standard is 3°, but athletic wheelchairs sometimes have a very high degree of camber for greater maneuverability.
Take the weight of the wheelchair into account. If you need to be able to fold up and stow your wheelchair on your own, you will naturally want a lighter weight chair made of a material such as aluminum.
If you will be staying in your chair throughout the day and/or if you are a larger person, you'll want a very strong and sturdy chair which may be heavier.
Other considerations to keep in mind when measuring yourself for a wheelchair and determining the size of wheelchair you need include the passageways, doorways, elevators and other potential obstacles you may encounter throughout the day. Be sure to measure doorways of all of the places you will frequent to be certain that the chair you get will fit in the areas where you need to go.
Measuring the Wheelchair & User