Finding clothes that fit comfortably while allowing mobility in a wheelchair can be tricky. The good news is there are adaptive clothing options specifically designed for your needs.
- Stretchy pants with zippered sides or rear openings enable accessible dressing while seated.
- Strategic tailoring and stretch fabrics provide range of motion without interfering with your wheelchair.
- Dressing in bed, using dressing sticks and reachers, and choosing slip-on shoes are helpful strategies for independent wear.
This guide recommends adjustable options like Joe & Bella’s magnetic-closure chinos, Ovidis’ snap-front cardigans, and Renova’s detachable-seam pants to accommodate your mobility.
With the right adaptive clothing and techniques, you can find pieces that are both wheelchair-friendly and fashionable.
Examples of Adaptive Clothing for Wheelchair Users
The Joe & Bella Freedom Chinos are designed with several discreet adaptive features that make dressing easier for people with limited mobility, like wheelchair users.
- The stretchable waistband and side zippers allow the pants to be pulled on and off while seated. This accommodates a limited range of motion.
- Hidden pull-up handles in the waistband provide leverage for lifting the pants from a seated position. They reduce strain for the wearer and caregiver.
- The slickness of the fabric helps the pants glide over the legs and hips. This aids in getting dressed with stiff or contracted limbs.
- The magnetic fly closure eliminates struggling with buttons and zippers, which require fine motor skills.
- The roomy fit and stain-resistant fabric allow layers or braces underneath and accommodate incontinence issues.
Overall, the adaptive yet stylish design of the Joe & Bella Freedom Chinos makes dressing dignity possible for wheelchair users. The discreet features address common challenges with limited mobility.
Thanks to the adaptive back panels, the Ovidis Chris pants allow for secure, discreet changing of incontinence briefs.
- The full-length back panels with velcro closures provide complete rear access while seated. Accommodates limited mobility.
- The soft twill fabric and elastic waist offer ultimate comfort. Moves with body for pressure relief.
- The relaxed fit through seat and thighs allows ease of motion. Accommodates muscle weakness or spasticity.
- The tapered leg stays out of wheelchair wheels and footrests. Prevents snagging.
- The back panels allow caregivers to change adult briefs with dignity. Reduces struggle and frustration.
- The machine-washable fabric is durable and requires little ironing, saving energy.
The Ovidis Chris pants provide wheelchair users and caregivers secure rear access for changing. The adaptive design preserves dignity and independence.
The Ovidis Sara pants allow women wheelchair users to dress their lower bodies independently thanks to the adaptive back panels.
- The overlapping back panels with snap closures provide complete seated rear access. Accommodates limited mobility.
- The soft, stretch fabric comfortably conforms to the body. Moves with stiff, contracted limbs.
- The classic straight leg won’t get caught in wheels. Prevents snagging.
- The elasticized waist with adjustable tabs offers a custom, secure fit.
- The easy-care polyester blend requires minimal laundering/ironing, saving energy.
The Ovidis Sara pants provide women wheelchair users the freedom of struggle-free, dignified dressing. The rear access panels address limited mobility with a classic style.
The Ovidis Heritage cardigan allows men with limited mobility to dress independently thanks to the innovative faux front panel.
- The faux front panel with snap closures provides full seated access. Enables pain-free dressing.
- The snaps allow caregivers to assist dressing with ease and dignity.
- The stretch knit accommodates limited range of motion or immobile arms.
- The classic cable knit style looks like normal clothing. Preserves dignity.
- The true button front closure secures the cardigan. Accommodates limited dexterity.
- The wrinkle-resistant blend is machine-washable for easy care. Saves time and energy.
- The smart stripes and textured cables create a timeless look.
The Ovidis Heritage cardigan provides dignified dressing with full front access for men with disabilities. The discreet adaptive design preserves independence.
The Gianna open back top allows women wheelchair users to dress their upper bodies independently thanks to the adaptive back opening.
- The full back opening with snap closures provides complete rear access while seated. Bypasses limited mobility.
- The soft, stretch knit hugs the body comfortably. Accommodates stiffness and spasticity.
- The eye-catching floral print and dolman sleeves create a stylish look. Boosts confidence.
- The shoulder snap placements reduce painful pressure points. Enables pain-free dressing.
- The machine-washable blend is durable and wrinkle-resistant for easy care. Preserves energy.
- The cozy fabric provides warmth while remaining breathable.
The Gianna top gives women wheelchair users dignified, struggle-free dressing via the full back access. The floral print and snap design preserve independence with style.
The Silvert’s fleece wheelchair cape provides warmth and easy dressing access for wheelchair users.
- The shortened back length prevents catching in wheels. Optimizes accessibility.
- The full front zipper to the waist allows complete access while seated. Enables independent dressing.
- The soft, polar fleece fabric provides cozy warmth without bulk. Boosts comfort.
- The attached hood keeps the head and neck warm. Provides full coverage.
- The machine-washable polyester is durable and easy to care for. Saves energy.
- The unisex design accommodates any user. Promotes inclusion.
The Silvert’s wheelchair cape delivers struggle-free dressing and total warmth thanks to the adaptive zippered access. The fleece material provides comfortable protection.
The Renova tearaway pants allow quick, easy access for dressing while seated in a wheelchair.
- The full side tearaway seams enable complete dressing access while seated. Permit independence.
- The soft, flexible premium polyester fleece moves comfortably. Accommodates limited mobility.
- The relaxed fit through hips/thighs enables free movement. Boosts comfort.
- The tapered leg prevents snagging wheelchair parts. Optimizes safety.
- The tearaway seams re-fasten securely with snaps post-dressing. Ensure coverage.
- The durable, 100% polyester fabric is machine-washable for easy care. Saves time.
- Ideal for wheelchair users with limited dexterity or range of motion.
The Renova pants deliver accessible, struggle-free dressing via innovative tearaway side seams. The snaps provide privacy and dignity.
The Collections fleece bed jacket allows those with limited mobility to dress their upper bodies with ease and warmth.
- The full button-front provides complete access while seated or reclined. Enables independent dressing.
- The soft, cozy fleece fabric provides warmth without weight. Boosts comfort.
- The shirt-style collar and front pockets create a put-together look. Preserves dignity.
- The range of sizes from M-XXL accommodates various body types. Promotes inclusion.
- The durable polyester material is machine-washable for easy care. Saves energy.
- Ideal for those with limited dexterity or range of motion.
The Collections bed jacket offers struggle-free dressing via full button access. The fleece fabric provides warm coverage with a smart look.
The Pembrook elastic waist pants allow men with limited mobility to dress their lower bodies with ease and style.
- The full elastic waistband enables step-in, pull-on ease without closures. Permits painless dressing.
- The relaxed-fit, wrinkle-resistant twill fabric moves comfortably. Accommodates stiffness.
- The classic pant style with side and back pockets looks smart. Preserves dignity.
- The range of colors and sizes provides versatile options. Promotes individuality.
- The 60% cotton, 40% poly blend is durable, soft, and machine-washable. Requires minimal care.
- Ideal for those with limited dexterity, joint pain, or weakness.
The Pembrook pants provide struggle-free dressing through the adaptive elastic waistband. The classic styling offers men flexibility and independence.
The Pembrook women’s sweatsuits allow for easy, pain-free dressing thanks to the adaptive waistbands.
- The stretchy, expandable waistband enables pull-on wear without closures. Allows independent dressing.
- The ultra-soft jersey knit fabric provides maximum comfort. Moves with the body.
- The 20” inseam capri length flatters different heights. Promotes confidence.
- The quick-drying, anti-pilling fabric is durable and machine-washable. Requires minimal care.
- The slash pockets and covered waistband create a flattering silhouette.
- Ideal for women with limited dexterity, stiffness, or fatigue.
The Pembrook sweatsuits provide women with disabilities easy, struggle-free dressing through the flexible waistband. The soft fabric offers versatile comfort.
What Challenges Do Wheelchair Users Have Getting Dressed?
Here are some common challenges wheelchair users face when getting dressed:
- Limited mobility and range of motion can make it difficult to put on pants, shirts, jackets and shoes. It may require assistance from another person or use of dressing aids.
- Accessing lower body clothing while seated in a wheelchair can be tricky. Options like sweatpants with elastic waists or dresses/skirts are easier than jeans or trousers with buttons and zippers.
- Putting on shirts and jackets can be challenging due to limited arm and shoulder mobility. Front-opening or snap/velcro fastened clothing is easier to get on and off.
- Shoes can be difficult to reach and put on while seated. Slip-on shoes or shoes with velcro closures are better than shoes with laces. Long-handled shoehorns can help guide feet in.
- Dressing aids like grab sticks, button hooks and zipper pulls can provide the extra reach and grip needed to manipulate clothing from a seated position.
- Transfers into and out of the wheelchair to dress on a bed or chair may be difficult and unsafe without assistance.
- Access to adaptable and affordable adaptive clothing is limited, especially for those with custom fitting needs.
The key is finding techniques and clothing options that work with each individual’s level of mobility and independence. Occupational therapists can recommend dressing strategies and tools to make getting dressed easier and safer.
How Can Clothing Choices Interfere with Wheelchair Use?
Certain clothing choices can inadvertently make wheelchair use more difficult or unsafe:
- Long, loose pants can get caught in wheelchair wheels or footrests. Pants that are tight around the ankles are better.
- Skirts or dresses can drape onto the wheels as well. Securing skirts between the knees or selecting fitted styles helps prevent catching.
- Loose/flowing shirts and jackets can also get snagged. Avoiding drawstrings and securing buttons helps.
- Loosely laced shoes can get caught in moving parts. Shoes that easily slip on and off are better.
- Excess fabric and accessories like scarves should be secured to avoid tangling.
- Layers and bulky clothing can restrict mobility by limiting range of arm motion needed for pushing.
- Belts, buckles and embellishments near the waist can interfere with abdominal musculature needed for stability while maneuvering the chair.
- Poorly fitted clothing can cause skin irritation or pressure sores. Tailored, breathable fabrics are ideal.
- Jewelry should be minimal and tight fitting to avoid getting caught on wheelchair parts.
Being mindful of wheelchair-friendly clothing choices helps maximize mobility and safety. The key is wearing clothing that fits well, allows full range of motion, and avoids excess material that could get caught.
What Types of Adaptive Clothing Are Recommended for Wheelchair Users?
Traditionally, the examples of the types of adaptive clothing that a wheelchair user can benefit from include:
- Open back gowns, incontinence sleepwear, and protective clothing for bedridden people.
- Wheelchair coveralls that have been cut to the correct size to cover both the wheelchair users or any exposed parts of a wheelchair to make sure the user remains dry and to stop the wheelchair from getting damaged if it is exposed to water such as rain.
- Thermal wraps and blankets will allow a wheelchair user to venture outdoors when it is cold outside.
- Adaptive trousers that have been designed with features and a cut in mind, making them easy to remove or put on. The trousers should also be customized to the needs of the individual.
Other Sources of Wheelchair Clothing
Kinetic Balance is an innovative company that produces and designs adaptive apparel and clothing of the highest quality dedicated to wheelchair users. The line includes jackets, Raindeks, bags, pullovers, and trendy jeans.
Users will enjoy the quality and fit made for seated positions and the way that the wearer moves.
Once known as Adrian’s Closet, Adaptations By Adrian specializes in tailoring individually-made adaptive apparel for people with special needs.
They have a focus on easing the challenges of dressing for those that are dealing with physical limitations, with the aim of making daily life easier and more convenient.
Many wheelchair users struggle with simple tasks such as getting dressed and undressed. One of the main challenges that they face includes uncooperative legs or hands, stiffness, or requiring assistance to adjust clothing while toileting.
Circulation issues create swelling and cold feet. People that are always in a seated position can experience pressure issues, sensitivity to things like seams or zips, and certain people cannot wear traditional store-bought clothing.
Adaptations By Adrian invites people with disabilities, such as wheelchair users, to pay their store a visit so that they can work out how to solve some of these common challenges.
Able2Wear to is one of the leading suppliers in the UK of adaptive clothing and wheelchair clothing. They work closely with professionals, carers, and wheelchair users and have been in business for more than 25 years.
They develop many different types of disabled garments to match specialist needs.
Each item in their unique range of clothes for women and men is designed skillfully to bring style, comfort, and confidence to wearers.
From fleeces to waterproof jackets to their award-winning wheelchair drop-front trousers, made specifically for wheelchair-bound people, these pants feature an elasticated waistband made for people that can walk and stand but have an issue with managing fastenings and zips.
Able2Wear also offers tailor-made services, which mean if a customer is not able to find the size that they want, they can make bespoke orders according to the specific requirements of the customer. They offer both overseas delivery and UK nationwide delivery.
Tips for Getting Yourself Dressed in a Wheelchair
Fortunately, getting dressed might be slightly harder for people that use wheelchairs, but it is not impossible. Here are a few tips that wheelchair users can use when it comes to getting dressed.
Get Dressed in Bed
Many people that use a wheelchair agree that dressing while they are still in bed seems to be the easiest way. When the person lays on their back, it becomes easier to either pull up or put on pants, which is usually the most challenging aspect when it comes to putting on clothes.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Most wheelchair users experience a condition known as edema, which involves fluid that accumulates in the lower legs and the feet. This often makes tight-fitting pants or shoes very painful and difficult to wear.
Look for shoes that are loose-fitting and comfortable. Sneakers or shoes with Velcro closures are a good choice. It is also possible to purchase adaptive shoes that match up to a specific condition.
Use a Personal Aid
For wheelchair users that find it hard to get dressed, there are now several mobility options that can be helpful. Standing aids or patient lifts can hold a person in place while they put on their pants and are also very helpful when using the bathroom.
Tips for Dressing Another Person in a Wheelchair
One of the most important caregiver tips when it comes to dressing patients is to make sure the patient feels comfortable and secure before dressing them. It is also important to treat patients with respect.
The caregiver should also try not to push or pull the patient and try their best to prevent any pain or discomfort.
I also suggest the caregiver talk to their patient while dressing them to ensure they remain comfortable.
Encouraging patients to undress or dress is always advised, while interference should only become necessary when the person finds it hard to get dressed or undressed.
When dressing patients has become a challenge when it comes to independence or a difficult time for the patient and caregiver, it might be the perfect time to suggest adaptive clothing which has been specifically crafted to make the task of dressing much easier.
1. How Can You Modify Existing Clothing to Work Better with Wheelchairs?
Long pieces of clothing such as maxi skirts or scarves can become caught in the wheels of a wheelchair. They might look stylish, but the wearer won’t be able to move constantly and freely.
But skirts and scarves can be modified so that they do not hang down by making them shorter at the back or changing the length of a skirt.
When modifying clothes, make sure they fit close to the body and that they are not flowing. Longer tops are also recommended for women since they can make the torso look thinner. Longer tops will also stop the wearer from exposing their skin when they are leaning over.
Short shirts are prone to riding up when the wearer sits down, so when possible, modify shirts so that they wear long to avoid exposing the belly button or back of the wearer each time they stretch or reach out.
2. Can You Make Your Own Wheelchair-Friendly Clothing?
The best way to make wheelchair-friendly clothing is to either make a pattern of something that is already fitting well so that you can add more colors to your wardrobe.
Another popular option is to adapt or modify pre-made clothing items so that they work for you as a wheelchair user and for accessibility.