Important Clothing Considerations for People Who Use a Wheelchair

Find out which brands and which features work best to stay comfy all day long.

Updated November 29, 2022
Cool woman in wheelchair looking at the camera

Everyone deserves to look and feel their best. Clothing is a tool that many people rely on to give them the confidence they need to take on the day. Whether you consider yourself to be fashion-forward or just like wearing clothes that help you feel like you, your outfits can be a wonderful way to express yourself.

People who use a wheelchair need to consider certain factors to find the right cut and style for clothing. Their outfits need to be versatile, comfortable, and of course, suited to their lifestyle. Whether you have a loved one who uses a wheelchair or if you're a wheelchair user yourself, you can use the tips below to find clothing that keeps you feeling good and looking sharp.

4 Clothing Tips for People Who Use Wheelchairs

When you feel comfortable and happy in the clothes you wear, it can boost your confidence and self-esteem. It can also give you the push you need to make connections with others, grab opportunities, and rise to any challenges that come your way.

At some time or another, most of us have found clothing selection to be challenging. You might like a certain style, but dislike the way it fits your body. Or maybe you have a hard time finding textures that feel good on your skin. If you use a wheelchair - sometimes or all of the time - there are just a few extra considerations you might want to keep in mind.

1. Make Sure Clothing Doesn't Hang Down

Clothing sits differently on the body depending on your posture. This is an important aspect of your wardrobe to keep in mind if you use a wheelchair, especially for safety reasons.

For example, when seated, longer-sleeved tops, such as peasant shirts and baggy sweaters, can puddle around the wrists. Clothes that hang might dangle near the top of the wheels on a wheelchair or near the brakes. This can pose a safety hazard for wheelchair users because the excess fabric can get caught in the wheels or make it difficult to push the chair.

Other clothing items, such as cardigans, jackets, and dress shirts may hang down the back of the wheelchair. This can also be dangerous, as the material can get caught on items behind the chair or get stuck beneath the wheels. Some baggy items can also bunch up on the seat of the chair and make sitting uncomfortable.

2. Adjust Clothing to Fit Your Body When Seated

Clothing bends with our bodies. So, for instance, pants that are the right length for a person who is standing, can turn into highwaters as they bend their hips to sit.

For this reason, it might be helpful to find clothing that fits the way you want it to when you're sitting down. For example, you can look for skirts or pants that are a few inches longer - especially if you don't use your chair all the time. This way, the clothing will fall a bit lower when you're using your chair. For pants, you can buy them at an appropriate length for standing (if that is an option for you) and then cuff the pants to show off some snazzy socks if you decide that's how you want to style your look when seated in your wheelchair.

3. Find Clothing That Feels Comfortable

Whatever your style, make sure that you find clothing that feels comfortable for you. For example, it might feel better to find bottoms that fit loosely around the hips and thighs so that your outfit feels less restrictive when you're seated, especially if you'll be using your chair for longer periods of time. Relaxed-fit or wide-legged pants can be a fashionable and cozy option.

Another comfy option is to find tops and jackets that fit loosely across the shoulders and arms. This can give you a bit more wiggle room to move these areas of your body freely as you use them to get where you want to go. In addition, you might find it helpful to avoid belts or fitted waistbands that might feel uncomfortable after sitting for a while.

You might also consider having clothing tailored to fit you the way you would like. You can have some of your favorite items altered to better suit your current lifestyle needs.

4. Find Seamless or Flat-Seamed Clothing

Be sure to check the seams of your clothing. Nothing hurts more than a rough or protruding seam that can rub against parts of your body and even cause chafing.

Start by feeling the inner leg seam of your pants. It should be soft and sit flat against the leg to ensure that it doesn't pinch, bunch, or rub against your legs while you sit. You can also try on a pair of pants and see how they make your legs feel after you've been sitting for a while. Some pants might imprint lines in your skin along the insides and outsides of your legs from the seams, which can feel uncomfortable or even painful after extended periods of time -especially if you already have sensitive skin.

Clothing Adaptations for Older Adults in Wheelchairs

If you're an older adult that uses a wheelchair (or a caregiver for one) there might be some additional considerations to keep in mind when putting together your wardrobe. Older adults might have different levels of mobility that can make getting dressed and moving around more challenging. You can select clothes with other adaptations for comfort and convenience to keep yourself or your loved ones safe as they navigate life with their wheelchairs.

Easy-to-Use Fasteners

Buttons, clips, neckties, and other fasteners may pose special challenges for older adults with conditions such as arthritis that can make buttoning shirts, pants, or coats both challenging and painful. Fortunately, manufacturers have come up with clever solutions for easy access.

For example, many companies design shirts that fasten with magnets or Velcro. These easy-to-use designs are hidden behind traditional buttons, seams, and pockets to keep them discrete. Not only can this type of clothing make your loved one feel more independent, but it can help them continue to dress the way they want.

Slip-on Shoes

It can be challenging for older adults to wear shoes with laces that require them to bend over in order to fasten them. For this reason, slip-on or Velcro shoes can be extremely useful. Your loved one will be glad to know that they come in a wide variety of styles that can keep their fashion choices functional, effortless, and in style.

If you or a loved one uses both a wheelchair and a walker in their daily life, slip-on shoes may not be the best option. They often fit a bit loose on a person's feet in order to be pulled on and off effortlessly, which can make them a safety hazard for people that use walkers. Velcro, slip-resistant, or other easy-fastening shoes might be best for individuals that use both of these devices.

Breathable Fabrics

Many people enjoy wearing clothes that feel good on their bodies. Soft, breathable fabrics are a great addition to any wardrobe. Look for natural fibers, such as wool, cotton, and blends that allow the skin to breathe. In addition, many of these fabrics are machine washable, which can make laundry days just a bit easier.

In addition, light fabrics are easier to layer. This means that your loved one can bring additional shirts, sweaters, or jackets along with them wherever they go. They can layer up when they're feeling cold, and layer down when they're feeling warm.

Adaptive Clothing Sources for People Who Use Wheelchairs

There are several clothing lines dedicated to creating accessible designs. These companies take into account specific challenges faced by wheelchair users, older adults, and others with disabilities. Not only are their designs accessible, but they come in a wide variety of colors, patterns, and styles to give people the option to create a wardrobe that makes them feel good.

Easy Access Products

Easy Access Products features clothing for work, school, play, special occasions, and more. In addition, to their adult line, they also have clothing designed for children.

Many of their products are designed with snaps, buttons, and Velcro closures that make getting dressed a lot easier. In fact, instead of traditional seams, many of their clothing has snap closures along the entire sides of both shirts and pants. Adaptive pants for adults start at around $60, while long sleeve shirts cost around $40.

Silvert's Adaptive Clothing & Footwear

Silvert's Adaptive Clothing & Footwear offers men's and women's clothing for both assisted and independent dressing. They offer magnetic closures, open-side pants, jumpsuits, and more. They also offer a wide variety of non-slip footwear, such as sandals, slippers, and socks. Their shirts cost around $40 and their pants are about $35. In addition, they offer cost-efficient clothing bundles that contain two shirts and a pair of pants for around $100.

Izzy Camilleri

Designer Izzy Camilleri created her line IZ Adaptive to give wheelchair users a choice in adaptive clothing that rivals fashions found in traditional clothing stores. Their motto, "fashion IZ freedom," highlights the importance of adaptive clothing. They offer three-piece suits, peacoats, and capes along with pants, shirts, shorts, and more. Their bottoms start at around $68, while their tops cost around $40. Women's pants start around $60 and men's pants start around $80.

Patti + Ricky

Patti + Ricky also offers a wide variety of fashion-froward adaptable clothing options. They create designs for men, women, and children featuring bold prints and modern styles. Their bottoms start around $45 while their tops cost around $55. In addition, they offer accessible lingerie, swimwear, loungewear, work clothes, and more.

Everyone should be encouraged to let their personal style shine. Explore the accessible clothing brands listed to curate a closet that really feels like you. At the end of the day, wear whatever makes you feel good inside and out. You might just find that it gives you the confidence and freedom you've been looking for.

Important Clothing Considerations for People Who Use a Wheelchair