Bariatric Wheelchair vs. Standard Wheelchair: Here’s the Right Choice

bariatric wheelchair vs standard wheelchair

Although all wheelchairs are mobility devices, they often serve different purposes.

That’s why persons with limited mobility or an illness restraining their ability to move should endeavor to gain adequate knowledge about the best wheelchair for their condition.

And if you’ve been contemplating choosing between a bariatric and standard wheelchair but don’t know which is ideal for you, continue reading this article till the end.

Here, we shall give you a comprehensive explanation of what bariatric and standard wheelchairs are all about, their major differences and similarities, and how to make the right choice when selecting any of the wheelchairs for your mobility.

Table of Contents

Bariatric Wheelchair: All You Need to Know

Other names for Bariatric wheelchairs are heavy-duty, high-capacity, or extra wide wheelchairs. It is a mobility device specially designed for people who are obese, as well as larger or taller people suffering from illnesses or conditions that limit or restrain their mobility.

Such conditions include osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, cardiopulmonary disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and spinal cord injuries.

bariatric wheelchair

Due to the large and sturdy size of a bariatric wheelchair, it conveniently accommodates persons with bodyweight from 125 to 700 pounds or more.

Therefore, regardless of how heavy a bariatric wheelchair user is, they are guaranteed great security and comfort based on the unique features of most bariatric wheelchairs.

In addition, it’s a wheelchair that gives excellent autonomy to its users. It enables you to move around easily without an assistant or caregiver. It can be self-propelled manually or automatically, depending on the model of bariatric wheelchair you purchase.

Related: Power Wheelchair vs. Scooter: Here’s the Right One to Choose

Features of a Bariatric Wheelchair

Below are the basic features of a bariatric wheelchair that ensure user’s comfort and safety always:

  • Tiltable backrest
  • Heavy-duty upholstery or vinyl seat
  • Durable and sturdy steel body
  • Adjustable arm, leg, and foot-rest
  • Anti-tip bars
  • Four sturdy wheels (two big and two small wheels)
  • Wide seat (about 22 to 30 inches)
  • Different adjustments to accommodate diverse body sizes and shapes

Standard Wheelchair: All You Need to Know

Another name for a standard wheelchair is a manual wheelchair. It is the most commonly used type of wheelchair among people who cannot walk or suffer from different illnesses, disabilities, or medical conditions limiting their mobility.

standard wheelchair

Unlike the bariatric wheelchair, a standard wheelchair has a bodyweight limitation of not more than 250 pounds.

It’s an inexpensive type of wheelchair that’s been in use for ages to aid mobility, especially in the medical sector, although many wheelchair companies have improved their features and design to aid users’ comfort and safety over the years.

In addition, it’s a self-propelled wheelchair that can be operated by the user. It also has a handle that a caregiver or attendant can use to propel it.

The only downside to the standard wheelchair is that it requires upper-body work for users to operate it independently. Therefore, a user suffering from upper-body paralysis might be unable to independently operate a standard wheelchair without needing an assistant or caregiver.

Related: How to Build a Beach Wheelchair

Features of a Standard Wheelchair

Here are the common 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 (two large rear tires with rotating handrails and two small front tires)

Aside from the above features, you can customize a standard wheelchair easily to have features like a tray, cushion, and cup holder. It all depends on your needs and preferences.

Similarities between a Bariatric Wheelchair and a Standard Wheelchair

Mobility devices

They are both designed to aid the mobility of people who have difficulty walking or suffer from conditions that prevent them from walking independently.


Both wheelchairs are easy to use and can be self-propelled by the users, even though they might be propelled differently, depending on the wheelchair model or brand.

Related: 15 DIY Wheelchair Decoration Ideas

Differences between a Bariatric Wheelchair and a Standard Wheelchair

Purpose of usage

The purpose of usage is a major difference between a bariatric and a standard wheelchair. The former is a special mobility device designed for plus-sized, heavy, or taller people with limited mobility, while the latter is a commonly used mobility device designed for people of average weight and height with restricted mobility.

Weight capacity

A bariatric wheelchair can support bodyweights ranging from 125 pounds to 700 pounds or more, while a standard wheelchair can only support people weighing not more than 250 pounds. Any weight higher than that can damage a standard wheelchair and even cause severe injury to its user.

Width of Seat

A bariatric wheelchair has a wide seat width between 20 to 35 inches. A standard wheelchair, on the other hand, has a small seat width between 15 and 18 inches.


Due to the type of material (steel) used in making a bariatric wheelchair, it’s heavier, stronger, and more expensive than a standard wheelchair. The bariatric wheelchair’s special features and large size makes it quite expensive, unlike a standard wheelchair that is usually cheap and affordable.

Final Verdict: Which is the Right Wheelchair for Your Mobility

With the above information, you should now have a detailed insight into what bariatric and standard wheelchairs are all about.

And the process of choosing the right wheelchair for your mobility between the two wheelchairs should come easy.

If you have a bodyweight of 125 pounds or more, you should consider going for a bariatric wheelchair to enable you to enjoy comfort and security while in a wheelchair. This is because a bariatric wheelchair has a wider seat and weight capacity that can comfortably accommodate your entire body.

However, if you weigh less than 250 pounds, a standard wheelchair is the right choice for you. Even though it has a weight limit, it’s rugged and can comfortably ease your mobility.

Bariatric Wheelchair vs. Standard Wheelchair: Here’s the Right Choice


My love for the disabled community started when I helped a blind man cross the road at around age 6. Fast forward to decades later, I became the caregiver of my grandma, who lost her ability to speak in her 90s. This blog helps me to produce helpful content that aligns with my passion.

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