Five Things to Look for When Buying a Petite Person a Wheelchair

May 03, 2023Mindy Drexler

While there are many essential elements to consider when purchasing a wheelchair, the most important factor should always be you. What do you need from your wheelchair? For some users, finding a wheelchair of appropriate size based on their specific set of needs can be a challenge. Petite wheelchair users in particular may struggle to locate a wheelchair that is not too large or heavy, as bulkier wheelchairs can be difficult to maneuver, transport, or store. If you are purchasing a wheelchair for the first time and have any concerns about mobility, or if it feels like at times your wheelchair is not working for you and your lifestyle, it is probably time to consider a smaller model! Choosing a more compact, lightweight model does not mean sacrificing stability or risking your safety. Read on for more information on petite wheelchairs and their unique benefits to see if a smaller model is right for you:

Lightweight Materials

A wheelchair does not have to be heavy to be stable and safe, especially given the additional obstacles and challenges associated with using weightier models. Heavier wheelchairs can make propelling yourself more difficult, create issues for an assistant, and potentially complicate transport, as frequent travel may equate to frequent muscle strain. Petite wheelchairs built with ultralight materials can help to alleviate these concerns, especially for those who have limited energy, experience fatigue after consistent use, or regularly store their wheelchair. When searching for a petite wheelchair, be sure to carefully consider its Net and Total Weight. If you find yourself questioning your ability to perform tasks essential to your daily life due to the strain a larger model might create, we suggest a petite wheelchair made of lighter materials.

Compact Design

While choosing a wheelchair made with lightweight materials can help to improve mobility, it is certainly not the only factor to consider when selecting an ideal wheelchair for petite wheelchair users. Large, bulkier designs can also impede maneuverability in a wide range of spaces, create added difficulty for tight turns, make travel a challenge, and ultimately complicate storage. Consider selecting a wheelchair that is foldable and has a compact design, which will make both storage and transport a simpler, more user-friendly process. You might also look for features like swing away detachable foot- and armrests, which can provide comfort and support when you’d like, but can be adjusted or removed situationally based on the individual user’s needs. Additionally, smaller wheelchair users may prefer petite wheelchairs with smaller frames that are lower to the ground, as this can further improve comfort and ease some mobility concerns.

Appropriate Dimensions

When purchasing a wheelchair, it is essential that you select an option that fits you—one with appropriate dimensions for your body size that can be adjusted to accommodate different positions and spatial situations. Using a wheelchair with a seat that is either too wide, narrow, deep, or shallow for the individual user can cause serious health issues, unwanted movement that leads to falling and/or injury, and directly contributes to bad posture. Similarly, using a wheelchair with a backrest that is incorrectly positioned for the user can inhibit their ability to comfortably sit upright with good posture and balance while in turn making propulsion difficult. Smaller users who choose to select a more petite wheelchair can benefit from its shorter seat depth, which may be healthier and more comfortable as it allows the user to sit all the way back in the seat without cutting off blood circulation in the hollow of the knee. To address potential backrest discomfort, we recommend a petite wheelchair with a curved backrest that supports the natural lumbar curve of the spine. Furthermore, choosing a wheelchair with an adjustable backrest can more accurately allow you to select an ideal position and firmness for the lumbar support you receive.

Always be sure to take or receive accurate measurements prior to purchasing a wheelchair, and if you have any questions, make sure to reference seating and positioning guides as well as company-provided detailed measurements. While the smaller folded and unfolded dimensions of compact wheelchairs are important benefits as mentioned above, there is nothing more critical than selecting appropriate seating that supports your health, safety, and wellbeing.


Durability should always be a concern when purchasing any wheelchair, regardless of their type or style. You should expect a model that is lightweight, compact, and adjustable to also hold up against the regular wear of everyday life. After all, part of a wheelchair working for you is that it actually works! Petite wheelchairs can be just as durable as heavier and bulkier models, especially if they are made with durability and the user in mind and are created using high-quality materials capable of supporting higher weight capacities.

Additional Features for Maximized Comfort and Style

As we’ve already stated, the most important factor to consider when selecting a wheelchair is if it is uniquely right for you and your personal needs. Beyond the dimensions, features, and specialized aspects of petite wheelchairs addressed above, there are many other additional comfort and style considerations relating to your individualized preferences. For example, if you are a smaller wheelchair user who frequently travels or lives a more active lifestyle, you may be interested in a model that is not only easily foldable and lightweight but also has quick-release wheels that make transport easier. If you are a wheelchair user who typically spends a significant amount of time working at a desk or computer, you might require a petite wheelchair that has armrests designed to fit under workstations and posture support to prevent slouching. And, if you are concerned about the appearance or overall style of your wheelchair, we recommend choosing a model that is intentional in its linear design and employs sleek innovation to create a look that is right for you.  

Author: Zach Smith
Strongback Mobility Lifestyle Writer

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