How Wide Is a Wheelchair: Choosing the Right Wheelchair

Selecting the right wheelchair is crucial for individuals with mobility challenges. Factors such as considering door width for wheelchair access, body size, and mobility needs play a significant role in determining the most suitable wheelchair.

In this blog, we will focus on the importance of wheelchair width as a critical factor in the selection process. We will provide practical tips and advice to help individuals choose the right wheelchair that offers optimal comfort, functionality, and independence.

Importance of Wheelchair Width

Wheelchair width is a key consideration when choosing a wheelchair because it directly affects the users’ comfort, maneuverability, and overall functionality.

Ideally, the width of the wheelchair should match the users’ body size, and mobility is needed to ensure proper posture, stability, and ease of movement. A wheelchair that is too narrow can cause discomfort, pressure sores, and limited mobility, while a wheelchair that is too wide may compromise maneuverability and increase the risk of accidents.

The importance of wheelchair width cannot be overstated when selecting the right wheelchair. Here are several key points highlighting the significance of wheelchair width below.


Choosing a wheelchair with an appropriate width is crucial for user comfort. A wheelchair that is too narrow can create pressure points on the body, leading to discomfort and the development of pressure sores. On the other hand, a wheelchair that is too wide may result in poor posture and lack of support, leading to discomfort and compromised seating comfort.

Wheelchair for comfort
Man on an electric wheelchair

Pressure Sores

Proper wheelchair width plays a significant role in preventing pressure sores. A wheelchair that is too narrow can increase the risk of pressure sores due to inadequate weight distribution and increased friction on specific body areas. It is essential to select a wheelchair that provides a sufficient surface area to distribute the users’ weight evenly, reducing the risk of pressure sores.


Wheelchair width directly affects the users’ maneuverability. A wheelchair that is too wide may hinder the users’ ability to navigate through narrow spaces, doorways, or crowded areas. It can restrict independence and make it challenging to maneuver the wheelchair smoothly. Conversely, a wheelchair that is too narrow may compromise stability and increase the risk of tipping over.

Man on wheelchair at a racetrack
Man in proper posture while on an electric wheelchair

Posture and Stability

The proper width of a wheelchair ensures proper posture and stability. A wheelchair that matches the users’ body size allows for proper alignment of the spine, pelvis, and lower extremities, promoting good posture and reducing the risk of musculoskeletal issues. It provides a stable base for the user, enhancing overall stability and balance while seated.

Ease of Movement

Choosing a wheelchair with the right width enables the user to move easily. It allows smoother navigation through various environments, including tight turns, narrow hallways, and confined spaces. The appropriate wheelchair width ensures optimal functionality and maneuverability, empowering the user to maintain independence and easily navigate daily activities.

Man on wheelchair trying to climb a stair

Assessing Body Size and Mobility Needs

Before selecting a wheelchair, evaluating the users’ body size and mobility needs is crucial. This assessment will help determine the appropriate wheelchair width and other specifications. Consider the following factors:

Body Measurements

Measure the users' hip, thigh, and overall body width to determine the minimum required seat width. This measurement should consider any bulky clothing or additional cushioning that may be used.

Mobility Requirements

Assess the users' mobility needs, including indoor/outdoor use, navigating tight spaces, and any specific activities or environments in which the wheelchair will be used. This information will guide the choice of wheelchair width and other features, such as wheel size and turning radius.

How Wide Is a Wheelchair?

Wheelchairs have various width options to accommodate different body sizes and mobility needs. The most common wheelchair width categories include:

Standard wheelchairs typically have a seat width between 16 to 20 inches. They are suitable for individuals with average body sizes and mobility requirements.
Narrow wheelchairs, with seat widths ranging from 14 to 16 inches, are designed for petite individuals or those with narrower body frames.
Wide wheelchairs, with seat widths ranging from 20 to 24 inches or more, are ideal for individuals with larger body sizes or requiring extra space for comfort or specific medical conditions.

Tips for Choosing the Right Wheelchair Width

Here are practical tips to help individuals select the right wheelchair width based on their body size and mobility needs:

  1. Weight and Portability
    Choosing the right wheelchair goes beyond just the width; weight and portability are also important factors. Prioritising the weight and portability of a wheelchair ensures greater ease of use and flexibility for individuals with diverse mobility needs.  

  2. Consult a Healthcare Professional
    Seek guidance from a healthcare professional or an occupational therapist specialising in wheelchair assessments. They can provide valuable insights and recommendations based on user requirements.

  3. Conduct a Test Drive
    Before making a final decision, try out different wheelchair models with various widths to assess comfort, stability, and maneuverability. This will help determine the optimal seat width for the individual.

  4. Consider Clothing and Cushioning
    Consider any bulky clothing or additional cushioning the user may require when measuring the wheelchair width. This ensures the seat provides a comfortable fit, even with added layers.

  5. Measure Hip Width
    Measure the users’ hip width while seated to determine the minimum required seat width. This measurement should consider the widest part of the hips and thighs to prevent discomfort and pressure points.

  6. Evaluate Doorway Accessibility
    If the wheelchair is used indoors, consider the width of doorways and hallways to ensure the wheelchair can pass through easily without any obstructions. Measure the narrowest points of the home or frequently visited locations to ensure the wheelchair’s width is compatible with the available space.

  7. Assess Maneuverability
    Consider the users’ ability to navigate tight spaces like narrow aisles or crowded areas. A narrower wheelchair may be more suitable for individuals who require increased maneuverability in confined environments.

  8. Think Long-Term
    If the users’ body size is likely to change over time due to growth, weight fluctuations, or medical conditions, it is important to consider a wheelchair that can accommodate potential changes in width. Adjustable or customisable wheelchairs may be a suitable option for long-term use.

  9. Seek User Input
    Involve the wheelchair user in the decision-making process. Their comfort and preferences are paramount, so consider their input when selecting the wheelchair width.

Choose AbbiCare for Your Perfect Wheelchair

At AbbiCare, we understand the importance of finding the perfect wheelchair that meets your unique needs. With our wide selection of high-quality electric wheelchairs for sale, all-terrain electric wheelchairs, rollators and walkers, we are committed to providing exceptional products that ensure comfort, mobility, and independence.

Visit our website or contact us today at 1300-884-975 to explore our range of wheelchairs and start your journey toward enhanced mobility and freedom.