Bariatric Wheelchair vs. Standard Wheelchair

In today’s world, where millions of people live with limited mobility, finding the right wheelchair is crucial. Two popular options are bariatric and standard wheelchairs. But how do you know which one is ideal for your needs? 

Our RESNA-certified rehabilitation experts break down the key differences between bariatric wheelchairs vs. standard wheelchairs here. 

Bariatric Wheelchair vs. Standard Wheelchair 

What Is a Bariatric Wheelchair?

Bariatric wheelchairs, also known as heavy-duty, high-capacity, or extra-wide wheelchairs, are specifically designed for larger individuals. These wheelchairs are best suited for those with limited mobility due to obesity, muscular dystrophy, and other conditions that can lead to weight gain. 

Features of a Bariatric Wheelchair

  • Tiltable backrest
  • Heavy-duty upholstery or vinyl seat
  • Durable and sturdy steel body
  • Adjustable arm, leg, and footrest
  • Anti-tip bars 
  • Four sturdy wheels
  • Wide seat 
  • Different adjustments to accommodate diverse body sizes and shapes

What Is a Standard Wheelchair?

Standard wheelchairs, also known as manual wheelchairs, are the most commonly used type of wheelchair. They’re ideal for people with average body weights and are widely used in medical settings and public facilities. 

Features of a Standard Wheelchair 

  • Self-propelling hand rims attached to the large wheels 
  • Sturdy steel frame 
  • Oxygen attachment 
  • Footrest
  • Sturdy seat and armrest 
  • Four tires

Standard wheelchairs can also be customized with additional features such as trays, cushions, and cup holders based on individual needs and preferences. 

How Do Bariatric and Standard Wheelchairs Compare?

While bariatric and standard wheelchairs share some similarities, they have distinct differences that make them suitable for different user profiles. 

  1. Weight Capacity 

Bariatric wheelchairs are designed to accommodate overweight or extra-tall individuals. They can hold more weight than standard wheelchairs, typically between 300 to 700 pounds

For comparison, standard wheelchairs usually have a weight capacity of around 250 to 300 pounds

  1. Frame and Construction

Standard wheelchairs often use lighter frames made from aluminum or other lightweight materials. They come with standard-sized armrests, seating options, and smaller wheels that are suitable for everyday indoor and outdoor use. 

Bariatric chairs are constructed with heavy-duty frames of reinforced materials like steel. These chairs also have wider armrests and larger wheels, which provide better weight distribution and maneuverability for heavier users. However, their size makes them less portable and more challenging to transport. 

  1. Seat Width

In terms of chair width, bariatric wheelchairs have wider seats, typically between 22 and 36 inches. As you’d expect, standard wheelchairs have smaller chairs, ranging from 16 to 20 inches

  1. Cost 

Because they’re widely produced, standard wheelchairs are generally more budget-friendly than bariatric chairs. Bariatric chairs are a tad more expensive due to their specialized design, construction, and materials.

  1. Medi-Cal Classifications

Medi-Cal may cover anything from standard power wheelchairs to extra-heavy-duty bariatric chairs. However, their coverage criteria are based on a stepwise progression of medical necessity. This means the rules for getting a wheelchair might be different depending on the type of wheelchair and the individual's medical needs. 

For example, you probably wouldn't be covered for a bariatric wheelchair unless you have a qualifying diagnosis and weigh more than 300 pounds.

Which Wheelchair is Right for Your Mobility?

Evaluate Your Mobility Requirements

If you have limited mobility and need a wheelchair for daily activities, both types of wheelchairs can provide the necessary support. However, if you have specific challenges or require additional features such as power positioning systems or iLevel® seating, a bariatric wheelchair may offer more advanced options to meet your needs. 

Seek Professional Advice 

Ask for advice from a healthcare provider or mobility specialist when selecting a wheelchair. They can assess your needs, evaluate your physical condition, and provide guidance on the best wheelchair for your mobility requirements. 

Contact Us to Set up a Free Consultation! 

To explore a wide range of power and manual wheelchairs from experts in the field, contact Freedom Mobility today! We offer various options to suit your unique needs and ensure your independence. 

Remember, choosing the right wheelchair can significantly affect your quality of life, so take the time to assess your needs and consult our mobility experts to find the perfect fit for you.