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How Do You Measure Yourself For A Wheelchair ?

When it has to with wheelchair fitting, there isn’t a thing more important than ensuring that you are in the perfect fit. If any important element of the wheelchair is too skinny, too long, too wide or too short, it can become very uncomfortable for the user, especially as time goes by. Luckily, by making use of a good measuring tape to accurate measure the needed dimensions of the wheelchair user or owner’s body, you get a step closer in making sure that whatever chair you purchase will be the perfect fit for its user.

Whatever your case may be, there is always a wheelchair measurement that will be best for you. Work with your medical professional or doctor to know your best options.

A well-fitted seating system or mobility device needs a ‘made-to-measure’ solution. Collectively, the more seating space that comes in contact with the user will require more body measurements to be performed for a mobility chair prescription. 

The right measurement of the user’s body will enable physicians to let the wheelchair owner use the right size wheelchair, lowering wheelchair transfers and saving more time during tests by pre-setting the wheelchair and seating according to the body measurement results. Using the right measuring tools will help in ensuring that the measurements taken are accurate for the final configuration or when buying a new wheelchair in future.  

With many ways of measuring yourself for a wheelchair today, you don’t really need a lot of tools to get the job done. Don’t get too confident, however, as you might get it all wrong if you fail to get the accurate dimensions.

Measuring Tools

  • Use a tape (retractable metal tape) and measure books or clipboards. Both are great tools when measuring yourself for a wheelchair.  
  • You will also find that large calipers are very useful. You can make them locally by using wood.  
  • You can also make use of foot-blocks as they help in supporting the patient’s feet, keeping them at the required height.  

Having known the essential measuring tools, five different measurements will be needed to determine the size of wheelchair that will fit. The right measurement of yourself will give you comfort and maneuverability while sitting in your wheelchair. These measurements include the following:

Seat Width

This should be properly measured from the widest part of the owner’s buttocks, thighs or hips. It should have enough room to avoid pressure on the buttocks or hips.

Seat Depth

This should be properly measured from the wheelchair owner’s posterior buttock to the popliteal fold and lateral thigh. Usually, an additional space of 2 inches is kept to make the user feel more comfortable. 

Seat Height

The seat height is determined by the user’s height and if the wheelchair can be propelled. If you plan on using your feet to propel, then the seat height must allow your heels to reach the floor. Those who utilize footrests usually need wheelchairs with higher seat heights. 

This can be measured from the patient’s heel right to the popliteal fold area. From the floor to the bottom of a footrest measures exactly 2 inches. 

Armrest Height

The wheelchair user should sit erect with both shoulders in a leveled position while bearing body weight on his/her forearms as they rest on the armrest. This can be determined by correctly measuring the distance between the olecranon and the seat of the chair and adding an extra inch.

Backrest Height

The lower angles of the scapula must be exactly a finger-breadth above the user’s back when sitting in an erect posture. This can be determined by taking an appropriate measurement of the space between the patient’s axilla and the seat of the chair and subtracting 4 inches. Those who are wheelchair bound and propel themselves need backrest as it allows them to move their shoulders freely. Wheelchair users who find it hard to sit upright need a higher backrest to give more support to their spine.

Measuring Process

Ask the patient to sit upright with his or her feet supported on foot-blocks or on the floor if they can comfortably reach the floor. For every measurement, ensure that the measuring tape is properly held and the user is sitting in an upright position. Bend down a little to make sure you get the right angles and measurements. 

Basic Measurement

  • Check to ensure that the wheelchair user’s pockets are empty before measuring. Measure the widest part of the thighs or hips. Holding a book/clipboard by the patient on any side can help in obtaining the right measurement.
  • Place a book/clipboard at the full back of the user to help get the right measurement. Take a straight line measurement from the back area of the pelvis to the back area of the knees. 
  • Always take measurements of both legs. If there are differences between both legs, check to ensure that the chair user is seated in an upright position. 
  • Take measurement from the back side of the knee through the bottom of the heel. However, if possible, ensure that the user’s ankles are well bent to 90 degrees angle. Always take measurements of both legs. The patient should put on the shoes he or she wears the most (if any).
  • Measure from the bottom side of the shoulder blade to the wheelchair seat in a straight vertical line. To find the shoulder blade bottom, ask a wheelchair user to gently shrug his/her shoulder. 

Complex Measurements

When it comes to measuring a wheelchair user to see the postural support device that fits, there are twelve complex measurements to be taken under consideration. Five of these measurements are exactly the same as those that have been mentioned above. 

You will find an additional backrest height body measurement in the intermediate wheelchair assessment form. It is sometimes necessary to take extra measurements as this will help you know the mobility device that fits best. There is enough space on a typical wheelchair assessment form for recording other additional measurements.

Every body measurement taken should relate to the overall size of the wheelchair. You will find the body measurement options to be listed on the left side of a wheelchair assessment form. And on the right side of the same form, you will find the components that relates to each of the body measurement. For instance, the hip width of a wheelchair user should be equal to the space between both pelvic side pads or the wheelchair overall seat width. 

The above listed example shows that the body measurement of a wheelchair user isn’t always the same as the mobility device and further calculations will need to be made. In few cases, you will need a formula to help you get the right wheelchair component measurement. 

Wheelchair adjustments are usually made after the user’s body measurement has been taken.  Nonetheless, having the accurate body measurements will help in preparing the wheelchair to fit the first time you try it. All measurements should be written down in a recording sheet or stored in a computer for safe keeping. 

How To Take Accurate Measurements

Mistakes and errors when measuring can lead to serious problems. However, taking the right measurements can sometimes be challenging. This is mainly an issue when the wheelchair user has a small body size or finds it challenging to sit still when being measured or cannot sit in an upright position. Some of the ways one can take the right measurements include the following;

  • Always make use of a firm measuring tape. Do not use a ‘dressmaker’s’ measuring tape; a firm measuring tape will do a better and more accurate job – while  a ‘dressmaker’ measuring tape might lead to an inaccurate measurement. 
  • Using calipers will go a long way in increasing the accuracy of your measurements. 
  • Make your measurements while the wheelchair user is sitting in the most upright position. 
  • Ensure that the wheelchair user is completely comfortable and relaxed when taking his/her measurement.
  • If a user is measured while lying down, it will almost be impossible for you to get an accurate measurement. This happens because while lying down, the patient may stretch out or lengthen. Instead, get extra support to ensure that the wheelchair user sits in an upright position. 


Measuring yourself for a wheelchair isn’t always easy. But with the right measuring tools and positions, you can be measured even while sitting on your wheelchair. Remember that being in an upright posture is best when measuring yourself for a wheelchair.

If you have any difficulties with getting the right measurement, don’t hesitate to visit your clinician. Work hand in hand with your doctor to advise you more on matters that concern measuring yourself for a wheelchair. 

The final measurement you come up with will determine the level of comfort you will get from your wheelchair. It is for this reason why getting the accurate measurement is as important as getting the wheelchair itself. We hope that this post will guide you when measuring yourself for your new or current wheelchair.

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