For clients with narrow hips, some dealers and therapists have asked Raz to supply 16”-wide seats for on 18”-wide frames. Since a minimum frame width of 18” is needed to fit over a toilet, why wouldn’t a 16”-wide seat be appropriate? Here’s why:
Using a client’s hip width to determine seat width in a wheelchair makes sense. This brings the wheels in for optimized propulsion and brings the arms in for optimal support. However, when the shower commode needs an 18”-wide frame in order to roll over a toilet, there is no advantage for propulsion or support. If a client’s hips fit a 16”-wide seat, they will also fit an 18”-wide seat. Like a park bench, the client’s hips gain no benefit from a narrowed sitting surface. So, the disadvantages of a frame being wider than what is necessary for the client’s narrow body cannot be overcome with a narrower seat. However, there are things that can be done to improve function in these situations:
- A narrower back frame can be installed on an 18”-wide base frame. This brings the arms in for better postural support.
- Laterals may be sufficient for providing additional support required by thin clients,
- It might be appropriate to narrow the aperture for someone who is extremely thin.
Unfortunately, for a Self-Propel model (SP), there is nothing that can be done to bring the wheels in closer to the client because the wheels are mounted to the side frames and the frame width needs to be 18” to clear a toilet. However, since shower chairs are generally propelled on smooth, level floors, propulsion is usually not compromised.