I was scrolling the internet recently and saw a thread about the bariatric wheelchair vs. standard wheelchair.
This intrigued me, and I resolved to know the differences between these two mobility devices.
Surprisingly, the CDC says 61 million Americans live with a disability, and 13.7% have limited mobility. (1)
Bear in mind that wheelchair users are not the same, so you need to dip into the types of wheelchairs before you can know which type would fancy you most.
- Standard wheelchairs help individuals with average body weight, while bariatric sustain high-weight capacities.
- Standard wheelchairs are cheaper than bariatric chairs.
- Bariatric wheelchairs are heavier and larger than standard ones.
8 Differences Between Bariatric and Standard Wheelchairs
1. Seat Width
When deciding between a bariatric wheelchair vs standard wheelchair, you also need to know about width.
The standard width a wheelchair will have is usually a measure of the user’s widest sitting point, like their thighs or buttocks.
So, a wheelchair needs enough room to help the user without crushing their hips.
The standard wheelchair usually has a seat size between 16 to 18 inches wide. On the other hand, bariatric wheelchairs have wider seats averaging between 20 to 20 inches.
2. User Profile
A standard wheelchair is usable for most disabled people with low body weight. They are the most common wheelchair types in hospitals and airports.
However, bariatric chairs are unique to heavier users whose body weight exceeds the average range.
A bariatric wheelchair is good for you if you are 100 pounds overweight or weigh above 350 lbs.
Moreover, your heavy-duty wheelchairs support weight capacities of up to 1000 pounds. So larger users can choose a wheelchair that caters to their weight capacity.
3. Materials Used
Standard chairs usually have aluminum and mild steel frames.
What’s more, these materials make wheelchairs lightweight, enabling users to propel them with little or no help.
Anyhow, bariatric chairs feature heavier materials to make up for the weight of heavy users.
These chair features strengthen your aluminum, carbon steel, or titanium, making and helping them bear heavy weights.
4. Rear Axle Location
Most standard chair manufacturers design the seat to be above the rear axle.
This allows a giant part of the user’s weight to fall on the larger wheels making it easy to propel the mobility aid.
Because bariatric chairs cater to a larger person, their center of gravity may not be at their hips.
Instead, this point can be a few inches forward, closer to the caster wheels.
For this reason, you will find that bariatric chairs have a forward-shifted rear axle for stability.
Moreover, bringing the rear axle forward helps bariatric patients propel the wheelchair easily.
The pricing of a wheelchair is an essential factor to consider when buying one. Typically, manual wheelchairs go for a lower price than their bariatric counterparts.
The average cost of a standard wheelchair having basic features can range from $100 to $300.
However, the price is subject to change based on the customizations you need and can go up to $10,000.
On the other hand, bariatric chairs feature stronger frames designed to withstand weight strain.
The average cost of a bariatric chair averages $200 to $2,000 and can undoubtedly get more pricey depending on the wheelchair model.
6. Wheelchair Weight
According to Mobility Direct, standard manual chairs weigh between 15 and 60 pounds.
You can attribute this to the materials used to make the wheelchairs and the minimal features included. (2)
However, the weight can go higher, seeing that power wheelchairs have a motor mechanism.
Bariatric wheelchairs feature reinforced materials and thus are heavier than standard chairs.
So, with a bariatric wheelchair, users can expect more weight with this motorized chair.
7. Wheelchair Adjustments
For proper wheelchair sitting, aim for a chair that meets the user’s needs and offers comfort.
Most standard wheelchairs offer adjustable features, so you can customize the chair as you wish.
Bariatric chairs allow adjustments in seat size, foot and armrest heights, seat depth and height.
Moreover, note that these adjustments enable the chair to accommodate large users no matter their body size and weight.
8. Wheelchair Size
As a rule of thumb, knowing the wheelchair width is one of the essential buying considerations.
You do not want the best wheelchair but only to find out that it cannot fit into your home.
According to ADA regulations, the average standard wheelchair size is 26 inches. On the other hand, bariatric chairs comprise wide seats that range from 28 to 33 inches. (3)
The standard doorway width allowing clear access for people with mobility disabilities is 32 inches.
So you will have much trouble using a bariatric wheelchair in an unmodified home setting.
Check out this YouTube video from OT Rex on ADA wheelchair regulations:
What is a bariatric wheelchair?
A bariatric wheelchair helps overweight people with mobility disabilities. They are usually heavier and more prominent in size than standard wheelchairs.
What is the weight limit for a standard wheelchair?
According to Redman Power Chair, a standard wheelchair has a weight limit of 250 to 350 lbs. (4)
How do I choose a suitable wheelchair?
Choosing a suitable wheelchair depends on your condition, warranting the use of the chair. Moreover, a therapist can help you determine the best chair if you are unsure what wheelchair to consider.
What size is a standard wheelchair?
According to the ADA, the standard wheelchair size is 26 inches wide.
The topic of bariatric wheelchair vs standard wheelchair can puzzle you as a new or non-wheelchair user.
These chairs are customizable: some like a higher seat height, or a chair that emphasize mobility options.
Others prefer a more regular wheelchair with a lightweight wheelchair that is easier to move around, pack, and carry.
With wheelchairs, there is no right or wrong!
So here you have it: a list of differences between standard chairs and bariatric ones. Now you can pick your favorite one…
- 1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Disability Impacts All of Us Infographic [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/infographic-disability-impacts-all.html
- 2. Fatalo A. How Much Does A Wheelchair Weigh? [Internet]. Mobility Scooters Blog – Mobility Scooters Direct. 2018 [cited 2022 Dec 14]. Available from: https://www.mobilityscootersdirect.com/blog/affordable-power-wheelchairs/how-much-does-a-wheelchair-weigh/
- 3. Available from: https://www.ada.gov/descript/reg3a/figA3ds.html
- 4. redmanpowerdev, redmanpowerdev. Wheelchair Weight Limit [Internet]. Redman Power Chair. 2020 [cited 2022 Dec 14]. Available from: https://www.redmanpowerchair.com/do-wheelchairs-have-a-weight-limit/.