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How Wide is a Standard Wheelchair? (Width Numbers You Need to Know)

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What is the standard wheelchair width?

As you’ll find out, width matters when purchasing a wheelchair or traveling in one and is something to consider carefully.

Fortunately, we’re here to talk about everything you need to about how wide a wheelchair is!

Just keep on reading. 

Standard Wheelchair Width

Talking about standard wheelchair width seems trivial at first. But a wheelchair’s width is the difference between inclusion and exclusion for wheelchair users.

So, let’s dive in. 

Standard Doorway Regulations

To ensure accessibility for the disabled, the Americans with Disabilities Act has guidelines that determine how wide doors must be in public buildings to ensure access for wheelchairs.

ADA’s accessibility standard states

The minimum clear width for single wheelchair passage shall be 32 inches (815 mm) at a point for a maximum length of 24 inches and 36 inches (915 mm) continuously.

Simply put, ADA’s regulations call for a 32-inch wide opening so that wheelchair users can pass through doors with enough clearance to avoid hitting the walls. 

Standard Wheelchair Sizes 

a man using a wheelchair at the park

To comply with the ADA regulations, the average width of most wheelchairs is 28 inches.

This width gives wheelchair users ample space to maneuver through standard doors. 

However, if your chair is wider than 28 inches wide, you might have issues with standard doorways and hit the walls if you try to squeeze through them. 

But wait – there’s more. 

Usually, manufacturers list the seat width or cushion size in the wheelchair’s description. That’s not the overall width of the chair.

According to wheelchair experts, “the overall width of a manual wheelchair is 9″ wider than the seat.” That means a standard seat measuring 18″ x 16,” equals a 27-inches wide chair. 

Powered Wheelchair Width 

mother and father with his son in a power wheelchair

Electric wheelchairs have a different width than standard manual ones.

That’s something to consider when you’re choosing between manual wheelchairs and powered ones

In general, most powered wheelchairs are 24-25 inches wide, but some are a bit wider, depending on their design and features (leg rests, swing-away armrests, etc). 

Narrow power wheelchairs also exist with a width of 21.5.” Such wheelchairs have narrow seats, measuring 16 or 17 inches. They tend to be more expensive than other power chair models. 

However, for power wheelchairs, their turning radius is as important as their width. As Mark Smith from Quantum Rehab explains, “the lower the number, the smaller the space needed for turning.

So, if you’ve got a narrow wheelchair with a large turning radius, it might be hard to navigate it in a hallway or tight spaces.

But a slightly wider power chair with a small turning radius gives you better maneuverability through narrow hallways and crowded places.  

So, what does this mean for you?

Power chairs are usually narrower than regular wheelchairs.

Chances are that you won’t have problems with standard doors, wheelchair-accessible buildings, and other wheelchair-friendly facilities.

Just make sure that you pay careful attention to the narrow wheelchair dimensions and get one that fits your body comfortably. 

Foldable Wheelchair Width 

foldable wheelchair

Foldable wheelchairs can be manual or electric and are design to be lightweight, easy to transport, and compact to store.

 Travel wheelchairs and transport wheelchairs are usually foldable. 

To provide better maneuverability through narrow doorways, foldable chairs are usually narrow than the standard wheelchair size and lighter. 

But how wide are these wheelchairs?

In general, foldable chairs can be as narrow as 19 inches, depending on the seat cushion size and weight capacity. But most models are similar to power chairs and have an average wheelchair size of 23-25 inches. 

For transport chairs, you can add 5 inches to the seat width to get the correct overall width of the wheelchair. 

So, what does this mean for wheelchair users like you?

You shouldn’t have problems going through standard doors with a foldable wheelchair or even a 30-inch door.

Moreover, foldable wheelchairs are great for tight spaces and easy to fold and carry through tiny doors. That’s what makes them great indoor wheelchairs.  

How Wide Is an Extra-Wide Wheelchair?

a senior lady in a wheelchair picking flowers

Extra-wide wheelchairs are called bariatric or heavy-duty wheelchairs.

They’ve got a bigger seat size, increased maximum weight capacity, and additional features for maximum durability.

In general, extra-wide wheelchairs can reach up 32 inches in width. They’re several inches wider than other models of wheelchairs and unlikely to go through 32-inch doors smoothly.

That might get you thinking why some people prefer extra-wide wheelchairs to standard wheelchair sizes.

These heavy-duty chairs come with a large seat and cushion size, which might be the only option for heavy users.

Moreover, bariatric wheelchairs provide better support and ensure a more comfortable seating position. But they tend to be expensive due to the extra features and reinforced frame.

What to Consider When Resizing a Doorway for Wheelchair Users?

As we already explained, the standard wheelchair width for doors is 32 inches, per ADA’s guidelines.

Unfortunately, some old houses have narrower doors, which means you’ll have to resize the door width for a wheelchair.

That probably seems like a hard task, doesn’t it? 

But as long as you keep consider a couple of things, you can ensure that your house wheelchair-friendly in no time.

#1 Check Your Local Area Regulations

Before you start doing any remodeling to accommodate a wheelchair, you should check your local building regulations.

They’re likely to be similar to ADA’s guidelines, but you want to make sure you’re violating any residential codes. Otherwise, you might get into trouble with local building officials. 

If you don’t have any experience in the home improvement area, you should consult a professional. The price for widening doors/ installing handicap doors varies, depending on what you need.   

#2 Select the Correct Door Size

Most residential building codes have the same rules about the main entry door’s width as ADA, meaning they call for a 32-inch clear width. But that doesn’t equal a 32-inch wide door. 

As specialists from Building Code Trainer point out, “to achieve a 32-inch opening, you will need at least a 36-inch door.” So, make sure that you pick the right door size or you might have to resize again. 

There are no requirements for indoor doors, but common sense dictates that they shouldn’t be too narrow. Even a narrow, lightweight wheelchair will hardly fit through a tiny, 20-inch door.

In general, bathroom and hallway doors are some of the narrowest in the whole house. They usually measure between 25 and 30 inches and might need resizing.

However, their opening might be enough if you have a narrow chair. 

#3 Know Your Options 

If you’re short an inch or two, you might not have to widen the doorway to accommodate a standard wheelchair.

Instead, you can try offset hinges to swing the door clear and gain an inch of clearance. Offset hinges are cheap, easy to install, and are worth trying before you move on to widening the door. 

Another approach would be to remove the entire door to ensure that wheelchairs or mobility scooters have enough clearance. Then you can use curtains for privacy. 

You can also remove the door and frame and then re-installed them so that the door will swing in the other direction. It’s one of the more inexpensive options and it works. 

As experts say, if the door opens 180 degrees, “the door will no longer be an obstacle as it was when the door would only open 90 degrees.”

You can also get a different type of wheelchair, specifically for indoor use. 

#4 Learn What Preparations Are Necessary 

If you have no other choice but widen the doorway, you need to make a few preparations. Consider if there are any of the following near the doorway:

  • Light switches
  • Electric wiring inside the wall
  • Electric sockets
  • Plumbing pipes

You must have these removed before any work can be done on widening the door opening. Consult a specialist.

Also, ensure that you have any hardware (doorknobs, switches, etc) installed on a wheelchair-accessible level.

What to Consider When Resizing Car/Vans for Wheelchairs?

If you’ve got a mobility aid, you know that getting wheelchairs or electric scooters through a car door is the biggest problem. However, it’s not necessary to resize your vehicle’s door.

Instead, you can consider wheelchair lifts and wheelchair carriers. They’re an affordable alternative to modifying your car or getting a wheelchair-accessibe van

Moreover, you can get turning automobile seats, which allow wheelchair users to enter/exit a vehicle with ease. The best of all is that such seats fit in many types of cars. 

You can also consider foldable wheelchairs since they’re a couple of inches narrower than regular size chairs and fold into a compact shape. 

For easy access, you can also use portable wheelchair ramps to enter/exit the vehicle with minimum effort. It’s also possible to fit some vans with in-floor and foldout wheelchair ramps. 

If you decide that you should adapt your vehicle for wheelchair access, the cost depends on what modifications you want. 

What Is the Minimum Clear Floor Space Required for a Wheelchair?

You’re probably wondering what’s so important about clear floor space. Well, it’s essential for wheelchair users because it guarantees that they can approach an object. Think bathrooms, fountains, tables, etc.

The minimum clear floor space required for a wheelchair 30 in by 48 in (760 mm by 1220 mm). This space might be positioned for a forward or parallel approach to the object. 

When the clear floor space allows only a forward approach, the maximum high forward reach should be 48 inches, while the minimum – 15 inches. 

For a parallel approach, you need a maximum of 54 inches of high side reach and a minimum of 9 inches above the floor. 

Moreover, the minimum space required for a wheelchair to make a 180-degree turn is 60 inches of clear space. 

Besides the wheelchair accessibility width, you also should keep these numbers in mind when resizing doorways to make your house wheelchair-friendly. 

Conclusion

As you see, there’s much to learn about standard wheelchair width and its importance for wheelchair purchase. 

If you don’t pay attention to the overall wheelchair’s width, you might end up getting a model that’s slightly wider than regular models.

And that could make it hard for your to access wheelchair-friendly facilities, maneuver through standard doors, or squeeze through tight corners.

standard wheelchairs width exact measurements

What do you think about standard wheelchair width? Have you ever had to resize the doorway width for wheelchairs? Share your experience with us in the comment section. 

About GrigorinaLoa

Grigorina discovered that writing is her vocation early in her school years. Since then, she's taken part in several literary contests. For the past three years, she's also been an ELS teacher, pouring her heart into showing children and adults how important English is for their future.

15 thoughts on “How Wide is a Standard Wheelchair? (Width Numbers You Need to Know)”

  1. I hope all doorways are fitted properly for the majoriy of wheelchairs in all public places. I am lucky to be as able as I am and so is my family but that can always change unfortunately.

    Reply
  2. This would be good to know when people are buying a wheel chair. I know that when I was looking at walkers for my mom, I looked at this.

    Reply
  3. I am so glad that there are standards to follow for wheelchairs. It helped us tremendously when preparing for my gram to move in a few years back.

    Reply
  4. We might not always see the need to inform ourselves about things that we deem are unimportant because they are not relevant to us, such as wheelchairs. Just the same, it’s important to know information such as this one that you shared so that we are prepared when finally need to use a wheelchair.

    Reply
  5. This is great to know. I’m sure it will be very helpful too. Wheelchairs can be such a big help. I know a few who use wheelchairs.

    Reply
  6. This is a very important information that some people don’t really pay attention to though. Thanks for sharing

    Reply
  7. I wasn’t aware of this. A lot of businesses that have ramps and doorways should really thing about making sure they are ADA compliant for all wheelchair sizes.

    Reply
  8. It’s so important to know these facts when you do some important changes in your home. Thanks for these details!

    Reply
  9. This is perfect! I know someone who really needed to know this. I didn’t even know they have exact measurements. I’ll share this information to my friends!

    Reply
  10. Such great information, especially for those looking to buy a wheelchair. Really like the additional context about the sizing considerations for cars or vans. A great resource. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  11. As a school official, I had to know these things but since I have retired, I am rusty. Thanks for the update!

    Reply

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