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Wheelchair Seat Width

Striking a balance between keeping the chair narrow, being comfortable and safe.

Your wheelchair should be as narrow as possible for your body size without pushing against your sides, creating contact points that could cause skin problems. We're not suggesting to squeeze yourself into the seat—you want to allow enough room for clothing, even a winter coat,  but it is best to stay as narrow as you can when choosing the seat width. Lets look at why we say that.

A seat that is too wide limits mobility. Just one inch in the width of the wheelchair can make the difference between being able to get down an aisle in a store or past a couch at the home of a friend. A wider wheelchair is also heavier, given the extra metal in the frame.

A seat that is too wide will promote poor posture. If you have extra space, you are more likely to slump to one side or the other. You might think that because you would have more room to shift your position, extra seat width would be helpful in the prevention of pressure sores, but this is actually not the case. Sit on a good cushion to avoid pressure problems, but use good posture in your chair

A wider wheelchair also means that the wheels will be wider apart, so you have to reach farther to push, extending arms out to the side. Wheeling with arms extended makes it harder to push, is more tiring and is really bad for your shoulders.

A wider wheelchair does provide better lateral stability, which will help prevent a manual chair from tipping over sideways. If you are concerned about that, many wheelchairs can be customized by adding camber to the wheels for greater stability.

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