Wheelchair Standards

For further information on wheelchair standards, go to www.wheelchairstandards.pitt.edu

What are Wheelchair Standards?

Wheelchair standards are specific test procedures used to provide information about the performance, safety, and dimensions of wheelchairs.

Need for Wheelchair Standards

Trying to purchase the right wheelchair from the many models available can be bewildering. A manufacturer's seat width specification could mean a measurement taken from inside the seat rails, outside the seat rails, or between the armrest panels. This inconsistency, as well as a concern for user safety, inspired the development of standardized wheelchair measurements and test procedures.

Establishing Standards

Peter Axelson, Director of Research and Development, serves as Chair of the RESNA Standards Subcommittee on Wheelchairs and as a delegate to the International Organization on Standardization (ISO) for Wheelchair Standards. These committees have worked for over a decade to establish standards for testing and reporting the performance and features of manual and powered wheelchairs.

In 1982, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), a nonprofit standards-setting group, adopted 18 standard procedures for testing and comparing wheelchairs. Seating and structural dimensions, dynamic performance, and safety information are among the testing data recommended for disclosure. The standards are administered through RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America), an interdisciplinary association for the advancement of rehabilitation and assistive technology. The procedures ensure minimum wheelchair performance and safety levels, and provide a basis for consumers and clinicians to compare products when selecting a wheelchair.

Participating In Standards Development

For information on when and where to participate in RESNA Assistive Technology Standards Committees.

Encouraging Standard Testing

Wheelchair manufacturers conduct standard wheelchair testing on a voluntary basis. Beneficial Designs encourages this testing by assisting PVA Publications in writing consumer product reviews based on testing information. These wheelchair comparison articles were published in Paraplegia News and Sports 'n Spokes magazines.

Consumer and Clinician Education

Beneficial Designs works to educate wheelchair users and clinicians about wheelchair standards. Peter Axelson gives regular presentations at the RESNA conference explaining how to use standard test results to prescribe or select appropriate wheelchairs.

The Paralyzed Veterans of America funded Beneficial Designs to write A Guide to Wheelchair Selection: How to Use the ANSI/RESNA Wheelchair Standards to Buy a Wheelchair. Written by Peter Axelson, Jean Minkel, and Denise Chesney, the guide explains the test procedures and how to use the testing results to select an appropriate wheelchair.


The Paralyzed Veterans of America supports Peter Axelson\'s work as Chair of the Wheelchair Standards Subcommittee through a contract with Beneficial Designs.

Wheelchair Seating Standards

For further information on wheelchair seating standards, go to www.wheelchairstandards.pitt.edu.

To learn more about participating in Standards Development, please view our page on RESNA Assistive Technology Standards.