How To Measure For A Manual Wheelchair

Anyone who is in the process of purchasing a wheelchair should know their dimensions so they can correctly be fitted for the wheelchair. Basic dimensions like seat size, overall seat width, seat to floor, and Anyone who is in the process of purchasing a wheelchair should know how to measure for a manual wheelchair so they can correctly be fitted for the wheelchair.

Basic dimensions like seat size, overall seat width, seat to floor, and other wheelchair measurements need to be known before a chair is purchased.

Knowing how to measure for a manual wheelchair correct is not difficult and only requires a few key numbers to ensure the best possible fit.

To determine the most accurate length of someone to be fitted for a wheelchair you need to measure the widest point of hips of the user that is getting fitted, use measurements that come from a tape measure that is not flimsy.

Getting the correct body length of the user in the wheelchair is critical to having the best and most comfortable time in a wheelchair.

Knees, hips, weight, back height, and other measurements need to be known.

Wheelchair dimensions

For a lot of different types of manual wheelchairs, you can use this type of formula to get the overall width off the chair.

  • Standard folding wheelchair: Seat width +8″
  • Reclining wheelchairs: Seat width +8″
  • Transport wheelchairs: Seat width +3″
  • Bariatric Wheelchairs: Seat width +8″

It is always recommended to check the manufactures specification page so that you can get the precise and exact dimensions. For example, A transport wheelchair with an 18″ wide seat would be 18″ + 3= 21″ overall width.

Measuring for the correct wheelchair size

We recommend you take measurements no matter what type of wheelchair you are purchasing. However, some types of chairs will require fewer measurements than others. For example. Transport, lightweight, and standard wheelchairs that will be manually propelling themselves either by way of hands or feet need to take at the bare minimum the following measurements in a manual wheelchair:

  • Seat width: You want to measure from the widest part of the person’s buttocks, thigh, or hips. You want to make sure the width of the sat is wide enough so it does not cause pressure on the hips causing pressure sores.
  • Seat depth: You will want to make sure you have at least 2 inches to avoid pressure. The seat depth should be measured from the buttock and then along the lateral part of the thigh to the palm horizontal to the seat. Shoot for around 3 fingers between the seat edge and the back of the knee.
  • Armrest height: While sitting erect with your shoulders level you want your forearms to rest on the armrest. To measure this correctly take the distance from the seat of the chair and the olecranon. From this measurement, you can add one inch.
  • Seat height: If you are planning to propel the wheelchair with your feet you need to make sure your feet can reach the floor with your heel. Measure from your heel to the popliteal fold. The bottom of the footrest should be 2 inches from the floor.

Measuring your body correctly

When measuring for a wheelchair you need to have measuring tape that does not bend, all measurements need to be taken while you are sitting on a flat surface, and measurements should be taken straight across your body.

The below guide is a visual representation of what you should measure.

Wheelchair body measurement guide
  1. Shoulder width
  2. Chest width
  3. Measure hips or the widest part of the hips.
  4. You will want to make sure you have at least 3 inches on each side of the wheelchair to get an accurate measurement. This is the space you should have around the chair.
  5. Between the knees
  6. Foot length
  7. The lower part of the leg length. This measurement will find the distance from the back of your knee all the way to the base of your heel. Remember you need to wear the shoes that you would be wearing the most when you are in the chair. This will make a difference in the measurement compared to that of being barefooted. That extra height is important and needs to be calculated.
  8. Set depth measurement: You want to measure from the backside of your pelvis all the way to the back of the nee within a straight line.
  9. Seat to elbow
  10. The inferior angle of the scapula
  11. Seat to the top of the shoulder
  12. Seat to top of the head

Ensuring you take accurate measurements

It is extremely important that you make the most accurate measurements possible to determine the best size.

Taking wrong measurements can lead to a wheelchair that does not fit your correctly resulting in pain, uncomfortable sitting experiences, and overall poor wheelchair use.

  1. When taking measurements always use a tape measure that is firm and too flimsy. Tape measures that can bend easily will result in measurements that are not good.
  2. Make sure when you sit to take measurements you are sitting in an upright and straight position with good posture. If you have trouble getting up get help and do not take measurements laying down as these will not be accurate measurements. Even inches matter so if you are not correct in the width and are off even two inches too small this could lead to uncomfortable times while sitting.


Most wheelchairs can support up to 300 pounds and a lot more support weights from 250 pounds to 300.

Users that need higher-weight chairs will need to use bariatric wheelchairs. These heavy-duty wheelchairs are designed to support height weights.

Final thoughts on measuring for a wheelchair

When measuring for a wheelchair be sure to take your time while using a stiff measuring device that does not bend.

By taking the time to measure the seat height, seat width, footrest, the wheelchair back height, you can determine the proper size chair you or the user of the wheelchair will need.

When doing this correctly you can take your measurements and match them with the proper wheelchair to get the best possible fit for you and your needs.

Having the right seat measurement will help with pressure sores and overall comfort. This will provide you with an overall more comfortable and stress-free time while using your wheelchair for years to come.

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About ASmith

Adam Smith is the main researcher and contributor at Mobility Medical Supply. Adam has many years of research in public data, and software security. With Mobility issues within Adam's family, he decided to dedicate in-depth guides on mobility products to anyone looking to improve movement and gain independence.