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How Wide Are Wheelchairs & How To Make Every Corner In The Home Wheelchair-Friendly

young woman sitting in a wheelchair at home

Last Updated: June 13, 2024

I doubt anyone thinks about the required wheelchair door width while shopping for a wheelchair.

I think...

It must be one of those things in the back of our minds unless it's the second time we're getting a mobility device. It's supposed to matter as much as the seat height, size, and leg rest.

It would be a nightmare to have a new wheelchair that can't even glide through your doorway.

For that reason, let's start by asking:

How Wide Are Wheelchairs?

wheelchair in front of a narrow door

Wheelchairs are between 21 and 32 inches wide. Some can be wider than that, with a seat cushion that's 32 inches wide. Such designs create an even bigger problem for homes with narrow doors.

The width also varies between manual and electric wheelchairs; another consideration to make.

What’s The Best Wheelchair Accessible Door Width?

After discussing the width of wheelchairs, it's safe to say that a door should be over 32 inches wide.

Unfortunately, most house doors are between 23 and 27 inches wide, with some modern designs being 32 inches in width.

Therefore, if you're to make the home wheelchair-friendly, there need to be several improvements that'll affect the walls, light switches, electric sockets, and wiring near the door.

Additionally, you need space on either side of interior doors without sharp bends or flooring styles that restrict a wheelchair user.

If your door is too narrow, what can you do to attain a handicap door width?

Here are two suggestions:

  • Install offset hinges so that the door can swing open.
  • Remove interior doors to have a few extra inches.

door hinge attached to open doors

If you're asking about the appropriate handicap-accessible door width before you decide which wheelchair types to get, go for a narrower wheelchair unless you want to do the renovations we've talked about above.

Remember, even if you squeeze the best lightweight wheelchair through when the door is only one inch too narrow, it’ll scratch the paint on the door frame. Ultimately, you’ll need a new paint job on all doors.

Senior Tip: Wheelchairs and other mobility devices are big deals with the elderly because these accessories help them move around and make them feel still functional. However, does Maxicare cover them? We take a look -- Does Medicare Cover Mobility Scooters & Other Services.

Frequently Asked Questions About Wheelchair Door Width

How Wide Is A Wheelchair Accessible Door?

Accessibility standards by the US Access Board prescribe a minimum width of 32 inches. If your home has narrow doorways, you can fund the renovations yourself or look for grants that finance home purchases or remodeling for people using mobility aids.

Such grants include the Specially Adapted Housing grant and the Special Housing Adaptation grants by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It can fund renovations or help you buy a home suitable for a wheelchair user.

The other option is getting a narrow wheelchair instead of remodeling. It's better than remodeling your home because a wide one limits the places you can visit outside your home.

What Safety Measures Should You Consider When Installing Wheelchair Access?

The width of the doors is a top priority. Then, worry about the width of the hallways so that wheels don't get caught by plants or furniture. Additionally, knobs and locks should be within reach of the wheelchair user and not too heavy for them.

There should be sufficient floor space to turn after accessing doorways. You also need firm handrails if there are stairways or ramps in your home, and inspect them regularly.

Further, light up hallways for a wheelchair user to see the path. All floors indoor or on the access points outside should have non-slip coverings; therefore, flooring materials like mats and rugs should be firm on the ground such that they don't drag under the wheelchair.

Also, avoid loose materials like sand or gravel as they affect maneuverability, especially on sloped paths.

There are more things to consider with wheelchair accessibility doorways & flooring:

Are There Different Types Of Wheelchair Access?

Yes, there are. For example, you can get one that creates a platform over a door frame. If you'd like a longer one, you can buy a suitcase ramp that covers up to 8 feet.

The tripod ramp can increase the length to about 10 feet, and it folds into three parts when transporting it.

Ramps used for cars come in three types. The standard manual design is the most affordable, which makes it quite popular. To use it, attach it with a hinge.

The mid-folding design is easy to store, unlike the standard manual ramp, as it folds away.

Lastly, you can get a hydraulic assisted ramp that you fold fast.

Final Thoughts

When you or a loved one needs a wheelchair, that’s when the question of how wide are wheelchairs pops up in your mind. Before then, you’re less likely to know that most wheelchairs are wider than average house doors.

If your doorways are under 32 inches wide, you or your loved one may have trouble gliding through without leaving their seat. It's cumbersome to keep moving out of the wheelchair to enter other rooms.

Therefore, if you can't get a narrow wheelchair, modify your doors to attain wheelchair-accessible door width.

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