One of the frustrating parts of having a wheelchair is that it can be too wide to move around your own home. Many older houses have small doorways that just won’t fit the wide width of some wheelchairs. The following narrow wheelchairs for tight spaces that might just fit better through small doors and small houses!
I am betting you aren’t very experienced in wheelchair shopping. So, I’ll also answer some common questions after showing you a list of my recommendations. Because the best wheelchair fits where you need it to go, right?
Ready to find the perfect narrow wheelchair for your narrow doorways? Let’s go!
What is the Narrowest Wheelchair?
The narrowest wheelchair is the Drive Medical Lightweight Transport Chair which is only 21 inches wide from edge to edge with a 17″ seat width. The narrowest self-propelled wheelchair though is the Medline Excel K4 which is only 23.5 inches wide from wheel to wheel with a 16″ seat width.
Best Narrow Wheelchairs
Here are the chairs that I think are the best narrow wheelchairs for tight spaces based on my experience as a custom wheelchair specialist. Keep reading to learn more about wheelchairs in general.
- Seat Width: 16" | Overall Width: 22-3/8"
- Seat Width: 18" | Overall Width: 23-5/8"
- Seat Width: 20" | Overall Width: 26-1/4"
Like I said earlier, transport chairs are generally narrower than standard manual wheelchairs. But, this one really is the best of both worlds.
This wheelchair is a combination transport chair and standard narrow wheelchair. It has the usual 4 small wheels of any transport wheelchair. But, it also comes with 24″ rear wheels with handrims that pop on and off in seconds with a quick release button on the axle!
So, you can have the narrow wheelchair (22-3/8 inches wide) when you need it AND the user can push it by themselves when you aren’t as concerned about the width (24.5″ wide) by adding on the bigger rear wheels.
This wheelchair has other great features too. First, it folds up very easily and even the back folds down so you can load it into about any car. Anti-tippers that keep it from tipping over backward are also included. Last, it comes with easy to clean nylon upholstery and swingaway footrests.
The Poly Fly also comes in 16″, 18″ and 20″ seat widths too. The weight limit of this wheelchair caps out at 250 lbs though.
The Medline Hybrid narrow wheelchairs are similar to the Poly Fly above with a few extra features like removable arms and adjustable swing-away footrests. But the biggest difference is that it has a 300 pound weight capacity.
Like the Poly Fly above, this one has two wheel configurations. You can use it as a transport chair with small wheels. It is narrowest in this configuration. Or, you can pop on the larger wheels when you aren’t as concerned with the width. This allows the user to move it by themselves too.
So, if it has a few extra features, why don’t I make it my top recommendation? It does cost a bit more than the Drive model and it isn’t quite as readily available. But, it’s a great choice especially if you need the bigger weight limit.
The Drive Medical Blue Streak is a very affordable narrow wheelchair option while also not being too wide.
This one is a standard manual wheelchair and the user can move it themselves by using the handrims. So, it’s a great option for people who need a small wheelchair that they can propel independently. Plus, the tires are solid rubber and don’t require air.
The arms are detachable on this model and it also has the swing away legrests too. The seat has some cushioning and is pretty comfortable for what it is. The wheel locks push down to lock and they are easy to operate.
I like the powder coated blue frame too. It gives it a different look than the standard black manual wheelchairs you usually see.
Calf straps are included to keep the user’s feet safely on the footrests. The total weight capacity is 250 lbs and the wheelchair itself weighs about 41 lbs.
The Medline K4 Lightweight wheelchair is another well-built model that I recommend. This one comes in more seat width options to fit a wider range of users. Even the wide 22 inch version will fit through 30 inch doorways.
Another edge this one has over others is that the arms flip back instead of just detaching. This is a slight difference but it can make a big difference in terms of ease of use depending on how the user transfers in and out. This gives the user more independence and control over their comfort because they can move them without having to get help.
The leg rests are also detachable and swing-away, letting you choose what works best for you.
Other than that, the weight limit is higher than the others (300 pounds). This is a great choice for a larger person who really needs that narrow mobility.
Best Narrow Lightweight Transport Chairs
If you are sure that a transport chair is the best choice for your needs, here are the narrowest wheelchairs on the market.
This product is very narrow, coming in at about 21.5 inches wide overall with a 17 inch wide seat. So, it should go through most of those tight doorways unless you have one of the real small 20 inch bathroom doors.
It also has cushioned armrests and swing-away footrests. The sturdy steel frame provides durability and structure, and the seat is made out of nylon upholstery for easy cleaning.
There are a few drawbacks to this model though.
First, the padded armrests are not adjustable and also not removable. So, they can not be taken off for folding or for transfers in and out of the wheelchair.
Also, this is a transport chair so it cannot be propelled by the user so someone must push it for them. But, it’s a good choice if you need the narrowest wheelchair possible just to get a loved one from room to room of their home.
This transport chair from Medline solves two problems in one product: it is both narrow and lightweight! So, it’s a great option for people who need a slimmer wheelchair to navigate tight spaces but also need a light weight narrow wheelchair that can easily be lifted into the car.
It folds up easily, quickly and in multiple ways to make it extremely easy to transport. First, it folds up vertically like most any of the narrow wheelchairs I recommend. Second, the back canes fold down too. Third, the footrests swing back and lock in place – no need to remove them!
All this leaves you with a small package that most anyone can lift and stow in the trunk of the car.
The seat only comes in 19 inch with an overall width of 24 inches but that should accommodate most people’s needs. It also has a weight capacity of 300 pounds, a pocket on the back, and even a cup holder.
You even get a choice of colors: Blue, Silver, Red and Black!
Outdoor-Friendly Travel Transport Chair
- Seat Width: 19" | Overall Width: 24.5"
- Larger wheels improves performance outdoors
- Will fit in all kinds of vehicles
- Fold down back for simple storage
- Slips through doorways easily
- Brake levers are difficult at first
- Footrests can be tricky to install
Medline also makes this chair for adults that isn’t too wide and made for outdoor use.
The first difference you might notice are those handles on the back of the push handles. Those are actually wheel locks for the caregiver to use to slow or lock the wheelchairs completely.
Think about pushing the chair down hill and it starts going faster than you want. Simply apply gentle pressure to the handles to help you keep it in control. It’s the same as the brakes on the best rollators and rolling walkers.
Another feature that makes this a better choice for outdoor use are the larger 12 inch wheels on the back. This option gives you a smoother ride on bumpy terrain like sidewalks and gravel driveways.
It is the same width as the ultralight weight model above but the added features make it a bit heavier (23.5lb). It folds in much the same way too except that you’ll have to take the footrests off during transport.
Best Electric Wheelchair for Tight Spaces
For those of you who need an electric narrow wheelchair for your narrow doorways, here are my top recommendations. (Note: Small, portable wheelchairs like these aren’t usually covered by insurance.)
This lightweight and foldable power wheelchair also meets the needs of wheelchair users who live in small places with an overall width of only 24″”. It is even airline approved.
Plus, it is highly portable because it folds up in one piece and only weighs 50 lbs – even with the batteries. It’s a great choice if you need a narrow power mobility device at home but also need a caregiver friendly power chair that you can take on the go.
This one has a top speed of 5 mph, a travel distance up to 15 miles, and a ground clearance of 3.5 inches so it is well suited for outdoor use too. It uses 1 Lithium-Ion battery that is included.
Check out this video to see it in action:
If you are looking for the narrowest power wheelchair that is also portable, then you’ve found it. The Golden Technologies LiteRider Envy is ultra-narrow at only 22.5 inches and ultra-lightweight too with the heaviest piece being 37 lbs.
If you aren’t familiar with this style of power wheelchair, it’s called a transportable power wheelchair and is a hybrid of a power wheelchair and a scooter. It drives with a joystick like a power wheelchair but disassembles into multiple piece like a scooter for transportation.
This chair is highly maneuverable in a home because of it’s narrow with and also because of it’s turning radius. It only requires 28.5 inches of space to make a complete revolution.
As far as power specs go, it uses 2 22AH batteries, has a top speed of 3.5 mph, and a range of up to 15.5 miles between charges. It has a large footplate too and comes in multiple color choices. You won’t be burning up the roads with it but it should go over where you need it to at home – even through those tight doorways.
Here is a video from the manufacturer with a few more details:
Frequently Asked Questions / FAQ:
Chances are you probably have a few questions about buying a wheelchair. Use this FAQ as a guide or feel free to ask other questions in the comments below.
What is the Width of a Regular Wheelchair?
In terms of total width, wheelchairs can be as small as 22 inches wide and as wide as 40 inches or more. Common standard wheelchair widths are between 24 and 28 inches in width. But, when you are shopping, you will see two different width numbers: the seat size (seat width) and the overall width. As you can see from the graphic these are two different measurements.
Here’s an example: An 16 inch Drive Medical’s Blue Streak Wheelchair has a seat width of 16 inches but an overall width of 24 inches.
Do Wheelchairs Fit Through Standard Doorways?
Yes, most standard wheelchairs will fit through today’s standard doorways which is usually 32 inches. But what if you have an older home with small doors? Maybe not. If your doorway measurement is less than 28 inches, your wheelchair may not fit depending on the width of the person and the width of the wheelchair.
How Do You Measure Your Doorways for A Wheelchair?
When measuring a doorway, make sure you are measuring the width of the actual opening. This is what the ADA calls the clear width. You see, when you open a door, you can see the edge of the door. This edge blocks about 1-1/2 inch of the opening. So, make sure you measure from the inner edge of the door to the inside of the opposite door trim.
Do Wheelchairs Come in Different Sizes?
Yes, wheelchairs come in many different sizes but the common sizes are 26″, 18″, and 20″. Keep in mind, they should fit the patient as well as fit the home. But, that can be delicate balance. A larger person will need a wider wheelchair which many not fit through their doorways. So, they must squeeze into a smaller one or widen their doorways.
What’s the Best Doorway Width for a Wheelchair?
For average sized people, you will need at least a 24 inch wide doorway for a wheelchair but 26 inch or 28 inch wide doorways will give you more options. Larger sized people will need wider doorways.
To roughly figure your needed doorway width, measure the hip width of the user (while seated) and add 8 inches to your measurement. Compare that to the width of the smallest door in your home.
While the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t apply to private homes, they do offer some doorway width recommendations for access. For doorways, they suggest a width of 32 inches with the door open all the way. If you are concerned about hallway widths, the ADA also recommends a hallway width of 36 inches – for public buildings at least.
What is the Narrowest Type of Wheelchair?
Generally, transport chairs are usually the narrowest wheelchairs for adults. Why is that? Their rear wheels are smaller and tucked under the seat instead of sticking out the side of the frame. You can see this better in the graphic below.
How to Make a Wheelchair Fit In a Small Home Better
Yes! Here are some tricks I share with my patients to get an extra inch or two out of their existing doorways – no major remodeling required.
1. Remove the Door
I am often in homes where the door has actually been removed from the doorway. The drawback here though is a lack of privacy especially in the bathroom.
2. Remove the Door Trim
The trim and jamb of a door take up about 2 to 3 inches of a doorway’s width. Removing the trim and jamb can increase the total width of a doorway by this much. Of course, this isn’t going to look great. You will have exposed 2×4’s and rough wood.
3. Replace Existing Hinges with Offset Hinges
The first two tricks aren’t wonderful options. But they do work. Here is another trick I tell my patients about all the time: offset hinges! Offset hinges work by making the edge of the door move behind the door trim when the door is opened.
Here is a video that demonstrates this better than words:
You can find these at your local home improvement store or Amazon has them too in a wide variety of colors and styles to match your existing home design.
Ultimately, it will come down to you to decide what would work best for you and your lifestyle.
To find out how narrow your wheelchair has to be, measure the door openings of your home – with the door open! As long as the narrowest door is 22″ or more, you will be a-ok with any of these narrow wheelchairs.
As a general rule, transport chairs are usually the narrowest wheelchairs.
Doorways less than 22″ are going to be tough. I haven’t been able to find any wheelchairs smaller than 22″ wide that would fit an adult. As a matter of fact, it is hard to find walkers that small except for Lumex who has a rollator that is only 20″ wide.
Worried about scraped knuckles and hands? See my recommended wheelchair gloves for extra protection and comfort.
Do you have any tips on how to navigate narrow doorways in a wheelchair? Have you seen a wheelchair small enough for really narrow doors? Please share below!