The number of people depending on the use of a wheelchair for all or a portion of each day to perform daily living activities has increased. According to an article from the Disabilities Statistics Center in May 2002(most recent available statistic from the center), almost 1.6 million people in the United States require the use of a wheelchair. The importance of a proper wheelchair fit depends on the ease of performing daily living activities and instrumental activities of daily living with the least amount of injuries.
WEIGHT: Wheelchairs have weight restrictions. The person’s weight will be the first determining factor. The doctor’s office can assist with determining the person’s weight.
ARM LENGTH/HEIGHT: A student or person working at a desk may require a wheelchair with a short arm to roll up to a desk at a proper distance. A wheelchair with a long arm will benefit the person that may transfer to a bed, chair or car by standing and pivoting. The long arm should end just past the seat. Select a height adjustment arm when possible, as proper height is determined by what is comfortable for the individual.
LEG REST LENGTH: Some people are medically required to elevate legs. A leg rest will allow one or both legs to be elevated comfortably and alleviate swelling. Measure the person from the back of the knee to the heel to determine the length of the leg rest.
BACK REST HEIGHT/WIDTH OR RECLINING: To determine proper back rest height, measure from the seat to the collar bone. The doctor may prescribe a higher back rest than normal for some patients. For proper sizing, measure the person from armpit to armpit. Some patients may require a wheelchair with a reclining back rest.
DEPTH/HEIGHT OF SEAT: The depth of the seat can be determined by measuring by placing the person in a sitting position and measuring from just under the bend of the knee to the rear of the hip. The depth should be one inch shorter than this length. The proper depth will aid the person in transferring to a bed, chair or car or aid assistants in transferring the person. The height of the seat should allow the person to touch the floor with the heel of the floor while seated in the chair.
WIDTH OF SEAT: The seat of the wheelchair should measure two inches wider than the person’s hip measurement from side to side at the widest portion. The two inches should allow for bulky winter clothing. A proper seat width can prevent hip and pelvic discomfort. If the seat is to narrow, pressure sores may become a problem.
WHEELCHAIR CARRIERS/RAMPS: Many wheelchairs fold for east storage in an automobile trunk. A person that drives an automobile may require a wheelchair carrier or lift to assist with storage. A wheelchair ramp will assist the person with entrance to the home. Most public access buildings are required to contain wheelchair ramps.