Hesperian Health Guides

Fitting the Chair to the Child: Measurements

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HealthWiki > Disabled Village Children > Chapter 64: Decisions About Special Seats and Wheelchairs > Fitting the Chair to the Child: Measurements


These measurements are for wheelchairs and for special seating without wheels.

SEAT WIDTH

The back of a girl who is seated with arrows indicating where to take measurements.
Measure across hips or thighs— whichever is wider.
Front view of wheelchair with arrows pointing to width and the crossed bars under the seat.
MEASURE WIDEST PART Add 1 cm. (½ inch) to both sides for seat width.

Note: Some specialists recommend wider seats. But the child gets a better arm position for pushing the wheels if only 1 cm. is added on either side. However, you may want to leave a little more room to allow for the child’s growth.


SEAT DEPTH

CAUTION! When measuring, be sure to allow for cushions or backboards that will be added.
Boy lying down with knees up and woman measuring from floor to the back of the knee.

Note: You may want to add 2 cm. or 3 cm. to allow for growth and use a backboard or firm cushion to fill in the extra space.


Drawing of wheelchair with arrows.
MEASURE FROM BEHIND KNEE TO BACK OF BUTT Subtract about 1 cm. for depth of seat to leave a little space behind the knees.

SEAT HEIGHT

Side view of wheelchair and boy sitting on box of the same height.
MEASURE THIS DISTANCE
Subtract 1 cm.
5 cm
For an ADULT or BIG CHILD, add 5 cm. for height above ground.


Note: Raising the seat of a small child higher lets his feet rest above the casters and therefore directly below the knees. The higher seat also helps for eating at the table with the family. Sideways transfers are also easier. Sometimes seats are placed even higher than shown, but this makes pushing wheels with hands more difficult.


CAUTION! Be sure to include cushion when measuring height for chair seat.
Sideview of boy sitting on wheelchair with arrows indicating heights.
For a SMALL CHILD, add the height of the caster.
height of caster

ARMREST HEIGHT

MEASURE FROM BOTTOM OF BUTT TO BEND OF ELBOW.

Before measuring, be sure child is sitting as straight as possible.
Sideview of boy sitting across from wheelchair and arrows indicating where to measure.
Put armrest height a little higher than his elbow so that the elbow will be positioned away from the body.

Note: This measurement is standard, but some children need arm support at a higher level. Experiment.


BACK HEIGHT

MEASURE FROM BOTTOM OF BUTT TO ARMPIT

Sideview of boy sitting wheelchair behind him and arrows indicate height.

Note: This measurement is standard, but some children need a higher back, and sometimes head support. Others prefer a back that supports only the hips.


IMPORTANT! Also check how much hips and knees bend, as this may affect position of footrests and casters.
Sideview of boy in wheelchair, arrows point to knee and front wheel.
knee contracture
Caster here will not work.



This page was updated:19 Jan 2018