What Are the Marketed Sizes of Wheelchairs for Citizens?

Updated April 17, 2017

Wheelchair size is determined by the dimensions of the seat; fewer options are available with larger seat sizes. When selecting a wheelchair, evaluate the user's needs carefully and also consider the person who will be handling it. If the chair is used for indoor and outdoor activities, its features may differ from one used only inside. Folding chairs are more convenient and fit easily into cars, while a rigid wheelchair may require a van with a lift. Weight is important, and selecting sturdy tires and the correct wheel size for the user's needs is necessary. Be sure there is enough clearance in the home for the chair by measuring width of doorways and halls.

Wheelchair Seat Sizes

Getting accurate measurements for the seat size is an important when selecting a wheelchair. The seat width and depth determines the size of the wheelchair. The Standard Adult size is 17 to 20 inches, seat to floor. Some manufacturers carry a Hemi-Height chair, measuring 17.5 inches to the floor. Narrow size has a seat width of 15 to 17 inches, and a Youth seat measures 10 to 15 inches. The Wide chair measures 19 to 24 inches, and Extra Wide seats measure 24 to 34 inches across.

Wheelchair Sizes by Weight

Weight is important, and lighter chairs are easier to handle than are heavy ones. Titanium chairs usually weigh in the high "teens," and ultralight chairs average about 11.3kg. Transport chairs range from 6.8 to 15.9kg., while standard weight chairs average 14.5 to 16.3kg. The type of tires on the chair affects weight, and there's a wide range of choices. There are solid rubber tires, pneumatic tires with inflatable tubes, or Kevlar tires, which are heavy duty and puncture resistant.

Wheelchair Seat Height

Distance from the seat to the floor is another important measurement when selecting the proper size of wheelchair. The standard seat is 20 to 21 inches off the floor, which works for a person 5 feet tall. A shorter person will have trouble getting out of the wheelchair at this height, so the seat should be about 18 inches off the ground. A tall seat is more than 20 inches high.

Arm Rest Sizes and Leg Rests

All leg rests swing away from the chair and can be removed. Elevated leg rests, which support the limb in an elevated position, must be ordered separately. Arm rests provide shoulder and arm support; the full-length size is 15 inches. A shorter length of 11 inches allows the chair user to get close to a desk or table. The height of some arm rests can be adjusted, while others can be removed or flipped back for easier transfer.

Three Types of Cushions

Wheelchairs have fabric or vinyl seats, but anyone who will be sitting in the chair more than 2 hours daily should have a cushion. Gel or foam cushions relieve pressure and are more comfortable than the bare seat. Contoured positioning cushions correct posture, keeping the body properly aligned. Preventive cushions filled with gel or inflated with air relieve pressure on bony prominences and prevent pressure sores.

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About the Author

Nancy Williams has been writing about health-related topics since 1979. Her work has been published in "Prevention," "Nurseweek" and "Senior Life." Williams is a registered nurse with more than 35 years of experience and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in health-care administration. She is working on a book about historic sites in the West.