What Is a Bariatric Wheelchair?

This wheelchair is designed to meet the needs of heavier and larger people than an average wheelchair user.

The following are examples of unique features found on a bariatric wheelchair:

  • Materials that are more durable with a more robust design
  • Wider seat consisting of heavy-duty material
  • Different adjustment options to suit body shapes and sizes
  • Durable footrests

Why Do You Need A Bariatric Wheelchair?

A bariatric wheelchair is necessary when the user’s weight makes using a standard wheelchair hazardous or impractical.

A standard wheelchair can hold 250-300 pounds. Defying the weight limit may cause serious injury if the frame breaks or a component fails. Therefore, a bariatric wheelchair is important in these cases for user safety and comfort.

Patients utilize bariatric wheelchairs just like regular wheelchairs in the following ways:

  • After surgery
  • After a medical treatment that hinders their normal movement
  • An overweight person who is no longer able to walk about on their own feet

Comparison Between Bariatric Wheelchairs And Standard Wheelchairs

Seating Area Depth

Seats on ordinary wheelchairs are usually 16″ to 18″ wide, depending on which brand you buy. A bariatric wheelchair has a considerably wider seat than a standard wheelchair, ranging from 20″ to 30″.

Manufacturing Materials

Bariatric wheelchair frames are thicker and more robust than standard chair frames because they have thick gauge steel components.

A steel frame provides support to the wheelchair to accommodate heavier users. However, the steel makes the wheelchair heavy. Weight difference between regular and bariatric wheelchairs ranges between 20 to 40 pounds.

Heavy-duty seats for bariatric wheelchairs carry greater weight than standard wheelchair seats.

​Wheelchair Adjustments

While most wheelchairs may be tweaked to some extent, bariatric wheelchairs are adjustable in various ways to accommodate users of various shapes and sizes.

Location Of The Axle

Most ordinary wheelchairs carry 80% of the user’s weight at the back axle. This makes pushing the wheelchair forward easy.

Obese people’s center of mass may be several inches forward compared to an average person. Therefore, bariatric wheelchairs include a forward-shifted rear axle to keep the user’s weight over the axle.

The new location of the rear axle also helps the patient push the chair since reaching the wheels behind the patient’s shoulder may be difficult.

Comparison Between Bariatric Wheelchair And Bariatric Transport Chair

The functions of a bariatric wheelchair and a bariatric transport chair are similar. The difference comes in how they are propelled.

A bariatric wheelchair’s design helps the person using it to propel themselves around using their arms. However, another person pushes the user of a transport chair.

How Do You Shop For A Bariatric Wheelchair?

The most important thing to decide on while purchasing a bariatric wheelchair is the weight capacity and seat width.

Weight Capacity

This refers to the highest weight the chair can hold. You must be sure that it can hold more weight than you weigh.

Seat Width

You can determine this by sitting down on the wheelchair before purchase. Choose the wheelchair which wider than an individual’s width. A chair with a larger width is preferable.

Is A Bariatric Wheelchair Insurance Covered?

Check your plan or call a representative to find out whether a bariatric wheelchair has insurance cover.

Even if your insurance doesn’t cover a wheelchair, here are alternative options: ​

  • TEFRA (A Medicaid waiver)
  • Federal or state rehabilitation programs
  • Veteran’s Administration
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Credit or financing programs

Rental Services For Bariatric Wheelchairs

Accessible wheelchairs are available at rental and medical supply stores. Companies will purchase your wheelchair back when you no longer need it.

You may also purchase a used wheelchair from someone who no longer needs one.

Fitting And Adjustment Of A Bariatric Wheelchair

A bariatric wheelchair is most comfortable when the adjustment is proper, so take your time.

Measure from the floor to the patient’s thigh to determine the seat height.

While the patient is sitting, measure from the buttocks to the knee within an inch or two. This figure is the seat depth. ​

Measure the patient’s widest part when sitting to get the seat width. From the seat surface to the shoulder blade, take another measurement. This is the height of the backrest.

The patient’s bent elbow measures the armrests.

Additionally, measurements can be taken while the patient is lying down if the condition is critical for him to sit. This technique isn’t ideal, but it’ll do. Once the patient is seated, you can always make modifications. ​