Standard, self-propelled or transport wheelchairs accommodate users who weigh up to 250 pounds.
If you (or someone you love) weigh more than that and need a wheelchair, many manufacturers offer bariatric wheelchairs, which provide comfort and support for users weighing up to 800 pounds.
Bariatric wheelchairs offer customized options for disabled or elderly individuals weighing over 250 pounds.
These wheelchairs have extra-wide seats and backrests and offer well-constructed bodies and wheels to support the extra weight.
Unlike standard wheelchairs, bariatric wheelchairs have solid rubber tires.
Since rubber tires have no air, it increases support and reduces the chance of tire damage.
With weight capacities of up to 800 pounds and seat sizes up to 30 inches, bariatric wheelchairs are tough enough to handle any user.
They are also called heavy duty or extra-wide wheelchairs.
You can buy several types of bariatric wheelchairs.
You can manually operate some models, and others are pushed by a companion (a bariatric transport wheelchair).
For fast, efficient transportation, some people prefer more expensive power wheelchairs.
Bariatric wheelchairs offer easy seat-to-floor and armrest adjustments.
They provide sturdier construction than regular wheelchairs since they need to hold more weight.
The seat cushions included with heavy-duty wheelchairs contain thicker material and extra-strong stitching.
Stronger bearings and axle support keep the wheelchair frame together to support you or your family member.
Types of Bariatric Wheelchairs
When your overweight, disabled relative can propel a wheelchair without help from a caregiver, choosing a standard or power-operated wheelchair may be the best thing for continued health and freedom.
A frail or obese person will probably need a bariatric transport wheelchair pushed by a caregiver.
Manual or power-operated bariatric wheelchairs allow overweight, disabled individuals to transport themselves without help from a family member or caregiver.
Bariatric transport wheelchairs make daily life easier for you or your relative due to their strong construction and customizable features.
Extra-wide wheelchairs give you or your family member more independence.
Get out of the house or take a trip to a friend or nearby store without waiting for someone to help you by choosing the best bariatric wheelchair for your needs.
What to Look for in a Bariatric Wheelchair
Heavy-duty wheelchairs contain reinforced cross braces, seat and back support and other features to keep you or your family member comfortable and secure during transport.
Consider the following features if you need to buy a heavy-duty wheelchair.
Some wheelchairs come equipped with one or more of these items.
You may need to purchase others as a separate accessory.
Clamp or auto-style seat belt
Brake tip extension
Gel or foam seat cushion
Molded foam back pad
Desk-length or full-length removable armrests
Adjustable front rigging
You’ll need to take the following measurements and check them against the specifications for the extra-wide wheelchair you want to buy:
Shoulder, chest and hip-width
Width at knee
Chest Depth (Left and Right)
Seat Depth (Left and Right)
Seat to footplate (Left and Right)
Seat to top of the head
Seat to top of the shoulder (Left and Right)
Seat to armpit (Left and Right)
You can obtain a drawing from your doctor or medical supplier to help you record these measurements.
General Wheelchair Guide
Whether you buy a heavy-duty wheelchair or a standard one, you’ll find the following options available to customize it for your needs.
Here are details about a few standard wheelchair features.
Select foam or gel cushions for comfort.
Sitting in a wheelchair for extended periods can be painful.
Foam or gel can conform to your body shape and help you feel more comfortable when sitting in a chair for hours.
Preventative air and gel cushions help stop bed sores for convalescing wheelchair users.
Back cushions ensure better posture and comfort.
Contoured positioning cushions correct bad posture.
Most wheelchairs have a standard seat height of between 20 and 21 inches off the ground.
People over five feet tall will be comfortable with this seat height.
If you or your loved one is under five feet tall, you’ll need a shorter seat height, or you’ll have trouble getting out of the wheelchair.
Wheels for Bariatric Transport Wheelchairs
Transport chairs (pushed by a caregiver or companion) have rubber “flat-free” tires.
Bariatric transport wheelchairs have rubber tires sized seven inches or less, eight inches and 12 inches. Larger wheels provide a more stable ride.
Foot and Leg Rests
Most wheelchairs include removable swing-away footrests.
Elevating leg rests swing away so you can raise your legs 90 degrees.
Elevating leg rests are sold separately for most models.
You can choose from three types of armrests.
They all provide shoulder and arm support.
Removable or flip-back arms help you get in and out of the wheelchair faster.
Full-length 15-inch arms run the full length of the wheelchair seat, and there’s a shorter 11-inch desk length that lets you get closer to a table or desk.
A height-adjustable armrest comes standard with many wheelchairs.
Most bariatric wheelchairs have removable armrests.
Learn more about the parts of a wheelchair and how to find the right extra-wide wheelchair.
Educate yourself about what you (or your relative) will need and why.