DSC_0481 by Ciara McDonnell-CC-Attribution

When you’re in the market for a wheelchair or stroller, getting the measurements of the intended user plays an important role in purchasing the best one for their needs. Time and time again, however, we get a lot of calls from customers who may not know their loved one’s measurements, leading them to ask for things like “a wheelchair for a thirteen year old” or “a stroller for a four year old.”

The thing is, four- and thirteen-year-olds – well, all children and adults in general, really – come in many different shapes, sizes and, in the case of those with special needs, support requirements. That’s why it’s so important to have the correct measurements of the intended user as well as some specific needs information on hand when you’re ready to purchase a stroller or wheelchair. Let’s look at a few basic benefits proper measurements can provide.

More Comfort

Many of our wheelchairs and strollers have a lot of options to choose from to make the ride more comfortable. There are sunshades, positioning pillows, adjustable armrests, you name it. Still, all the options in the world won’t be able to fix a user’s comfort level if the chair itself isn’t fitted to their size, shape and needs. With the correct measurements, you can ensure that there will be enough support and wiggle room in all the right places, making the ride a much more comfortable one for your loved one.

Better Security

If the child or adult using the wheelchair or stroller requires a harness or additional strapping, correct measurements play a crucial role in making sure those items do their job effectively. Not having those measurements can not only lead to discomfort, but being improperly secured could lead to injury.

Valuable Room for Growth

It’s no secret how expensive adaptive equipment can be. You’ll want the wheelchair or stroller you buy to last a long time so you get the most for your money. You’ll get a lot more value out of a wheelchair or stroller if you plan for growth before making a purchase, and that’s where correct measurements come in to play. By considering the current size and age of the user, you’ll be able to find something that not only fits the user’s needs right now, but years from now.

The Measurements You Need

As you can see near the bottom of our helpful “Strollers, Car Seats and Swing Seats” form, there are six measurements involved in picking out a stroller or wheelchair. These measurements should be taken when the intended user is in a seated position and sitting up as straight as possible:

1. Shoulder Width – Right across the chest or back from shoulder to shoulder.

2. Hip Width – Across the lap where the body is bent at an angle.

3. Seat To Top Of Head – Taken along the spine, this measures from the bottom of the user’s bottom to the top of their head.

4. Bottom Of Seat To Shoulder – Same as the previous measurement, but ending at the shoulder.

5. End Of Seat To Inside of Knee – Taken along the outside of the thigh from where the back and bottom meet to inside where the knee is bent.

6. Back Of Knee To Back Of Heel – Along the back of the calf from where the knee is bent to the bottom of the foot.

You’ll find a lot of other questions on this form concerning different issues like leg elevation, leg scissoring and trunk or lateral support. These should be answered as thoroughly as possible. While they may have nothing to do with the chair itself, they’ll help any customer service representative suggest the most appropriate accessories for meeting those needs.

Tips for Measuring Your Loved One

They may be simple measurements, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be awkward things at times, especially if you’re dealing with someone who can’t or doesn’t want to sit still. Setting aside time out of a busy day to measure can also be a problem if you’re the primary caretaker of someone with special needs, too. Here’s a few things to think about if you’re having trouble.

1. Ask your clinician or therapist for help. If your child or adult is seeing someone regularly, they may be able to assist you with getting the measurements you need during their next therapy session.

2. If you’re doing the measurements yourself, be patient. You don’t have to get every measurement in one sitting. Get what you can when you can as to not frustrate or annoy the user or yourself too much, and then get the others later. Measuring during some quiet active play or rest time could also help.

3. Ask a family member or friend for a hand. Hand them a clipboard or notebook with all the measurements needed and have them write down the numbers as you call them out. Just that little bit of help can really speed up the process.

The Measure of Everything

Measurements aren’t just important for wheelchairs and strollers. The comfort and effectiveness of all types of adaptive seating, car seats, standers, tricycles, gait trainers and even commode chairs can be improved by taking the time to collect a few measurements before buying the item that will improve your loved one’s life. Visit our Measurement Charts page or contact us here at eSpecial Needs directly if you have questions. We’ll be happy to guide you through the process.

[above photo credit: “DSC_0481” by Ciara McDonnell is licensed under CC BY 2.0]