Educational Resources

Weight Distribution, Center of Gravity & Efficient Mobility

green and blue arrows


Wheelchair users — especially those with ultralightweight chairs — can swiftly get obsessed about wheelchair weight. On social media and in chat rooms, debates rage regarding the importance of a few pounds, or even a few ounces, to wheelchair propulsion efficiency.

In reality, other factors such as an optimal fit and weight distribution — how weight is positioned across the wheelchair — are critical to how efficiently an ultralightweight wheelchair can be propelled, and therefore how well it works for its user.

For consumers who use complex rehab power wheelchairs, weight distribution is critical for other reasons, including overall stability of the chair, especially when powered seating options such as tilt, recline and seat elevation, are deployed.

Check out these resources that discuss weight distribution for power and manual applications.

RESNA Position on the Application of Ultralight Manual Wheelchairs

Summary: The Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America explains why fully customizable manual wheelchairs “are the only acceptable option for individuals who rely on manual wheelchairs for independent manual mobility.”

Quotable: “The person cannot conform to the wheelchair, but the wheelchair must conform to the individual.”

Read It:

Material Advances

Summary: Carbon fiber, titanium, aluminum, and ultralightweight wheelchairs: How much does the material impact the wheelchair’s success?

Quotable: “Weight is overemphasized in our market… The reality is all ultralightweight rigid frames on the market today are very light, and therefore the relative benefits of weights of different materials is very little. Fit and efficiency make the biggest impact to the client’s function and health.”

Read It:

Drive-Wheel Configuration: Do We Know What We Know?

Summary: In this free view-on-demand Webinar, Julie Piriano, PT, ATP/SMS, shares Quantum Rehab’s findings to help providers and clinicians optimally match a wheelchair user’s height, weight, body shape, activities and everyday environments with the best power wheelchair drive-wheel configurations.

Aha! Moment: Do you really know which configuration — front-, mid-, or rear-wheel drive — fits “best” into small, hard-to-access spaces or around tight corners?

View It:

Wheelchair Center of Gravity

Summary: Why distributing the chair’s and the consumer’s weight in different locations impacts how easily and efficiently an ultralightweight wheelchair is propelled.

Quotable: “When the center of gravity is changed, the combined wheelchair and user weight moves forward or backward on the wheelchair frame in relation to the wheels and casters.”

Read It:

The Complexity of E1161

Summary: The varied abilities of manual adult tilt-in-space wheelchairs can benefit wheelchair users with a wide range of diagnoses.

Quotable: “The ability to achieve a variety of seat angles can contribute to a safe, more stable posture, reducing the risk of aspiration. It also allows for access to tables and other appliances, and positions for improved visual access to the environment for socialization. All of this can be provided while still providing beneficial changes related to tissue loading.”

Read It:

This article originally appeared in the Apr/May 2020 issue of Mobility Management.

Mobility Management Podcast