How to Measure

How to Measure

Ensuring that a wheelchair is the perfect fit for its user is paramount. If any component of the chair is excessively long, short, wide, or narrow, it can cause significant discomfort for the user, particularly over extended periods. However, by utilizing flexible measuring tape to accurately gauge the user's body dimensions, you can make certain that the wheelchair you select will comfortably accommodate the user.

Determining Seat Dimensions

1. Measure the hip width of the person who will use the wheelchair.

Place the person in an upright seated position before taking the measurement. Take the measurement at the point where the person’s hips are the widest. This will be used to determine the width of the wheelchair’s seat. [1]

•   If the user's thighs are wider than their hips when seated, measure the width of the thighs instead. It's important to take this measurement at the widest part of the body while seated to prevent the wheelchair seat from squeezing the occupant.

For added comfort and to allow for slight movements, increase this measurement by 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5.1 cm) when determining the appropriate seat width for the wheelchair.

Tip: If the wheelchair will be used in a cold weather climate, consider adding an extra 1 inch (2.5 cm) to the seat width to accommodate the bulk of winter apparel, such as jackets. This adjustment ensures the user remains comfortable and unrestricted by their clothing while seated in the wheelchair.

2. Measure the length of the person's leg from the back of their seat to their knee.

Position the measuring tape at the back of the person’s hips and measure the distance to the back of their knee. This measurement is crucial for determining the seat depth of the chair. To ensure added comfort, include an extra 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5.1 cm) to this length.

•   For the most accurate results, take this measurement while the person is seated. Start by placing one end of the measuring tape at the furthest part of their hips and extend it to the back of their knees..

Adding an extra 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5.1 cm) to this measurement helps prevent circulation issues in the user’s legs while seated.

3 Measure the distance from the person's hips to their shoulders.

While the user is seated, measure from the base of their back to the top of their shoulder blades. This measurement will help determine the appropriate height for the back of the wheelchair's seat.

•   Ensure that the person is sitting upright when measuring for the wheelchair. If they slouch during the measurement, the resulting seat back height might not properly support them when they are using the wheelchair.

The required height of the seat back depends on the amount of back support the user needs. If a headrest is necessary, extend the measurement to include the height up to the person's neck.

Keep in mind that the seat cushion will compress with use, which could cause the seat back to rise slightly above the user’s shoulders over time.

4 Measure the widest part of the user's chest.

Typically, this is the distance from one armpit to the other, which will help determine the necessary width of the seat back.

For optimal support, include an extra 1 inch (2.5 cm) to this measurement to guarantee that the seat back fully supports the user at all times.

Measuring for Additional Components

1. Measure from the back of the user's heel to the back of their knee.

Ensure accuracy by measuring to the back of the knee; this will help set the correct length for the wheelchair's leg rest extension and determine the seat's height from the ground.

•   Add 2 inches (5.1 cm) to this measurement if the person will use their arms to maneuver the chair, ensuring enough clearance for the footrest.

Use this measurement as the seat height if the person will propel the chair using their feet, allowing them to comfortably reach the ground with the back of their heel.

2. Measure the distance from the user's elbow to their hips.

While the user is seated with their arms bent at a 90-degree angle, measure from the tip of the elbow to the top of the hips. This measurement will help establish the correct height of the armrest relative to the seat.

•   Ensure the user's shoulders are relaxed and in a neutral position to guarantee precise measurements.

3. Measure from the user's hips to the top of their head, if required.

If the user needs a headrest, measure from the base of their spine to the top of their head while they are seated.

•   Ensure the user is sitting upright during this measurement to ensure accuracy.

•   If the user does not require a headrest, this measurement can be omitted.

4. Record the person's weight, as some chairs have weight restrictions.

Many wheelchairs come with specific weight capacities. It's prudent to know the user's weight to ensure it falls within these limits, even if it seems unlikely that they will be exceeded.

•   If the person is unable to use a standard scale, a chair scale should be used instead. These are available at stores that sell wheelchairs and medical supplies.

•   Keep in mind that assistance may be needed for the user to get on and off the scale

Tip: Before purchasing a wheelchair, take into account the doorways, elevators, and ramps the user will encounter regularly. Quickly measure these access points to ensure the wheelchair is neither too wide nor too tall to pass through them comfortably.