What is Anthropometry?

participant getting measure with a Faro arm in an anthropometry study

Anthropometry is the study of the dimensions and abilities of the human body. Wheeled mobility devices are used by people with mobility impairments to support their mobility in buildings and in the community, e.g. manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs and scooters. Static anthropometry is the measurement of body sizes at rest and functional anthropometry is the measurement of abilities related to completing tasks. In the case of wheeled mobility, static anthropometry includes measurement of people and their devices. Functional anthropometry includes measurement of reaching abilities, maneuvering and other aspects of space and equipment use from a wheeled mobility device.

The database used for accessibility standards in the United States was developed in the late 1970’s. Since that time, both the technology of wheeled mobility and the demographics of device users have changed dramatically. The primary goal of this research was to develop a database that reflected the sizes, abilities and space needs of contemporary users and devices. A secondary goal was to identify, develop and disseminate reliable and valid research methods that could be used by many research groups effectively to increase knowledge and inform design and code development over the long term. A third goal was to disseminate our findings and provide technical assistance to standards committees, government officials and designers to help improve accessibility to the built environment by wheeled mobility users.

Aerial view of a wheelchair user

Anthropometry of Wheeled Mobility Project

Final Report prepared for the U.S. Access Board

This report documents the research conducted at the IDeA Center from the initiation of the project in 2000, including analysis of data on a sample of almost 500 individuals who use WMDs. Our findings are compared to those in three other countries and to the current standards in all four countries. The research included the collection of demographic information and WMD characteristics, and the measurement of structural and functional anthropometry. The demographic and WMD characteristics were recorded for approximately 30 variables using a checklist, along with digital still photographs of each WMD user.

The report also includes results of analyses of data on the basic aspects of wheeled mobility anthropometry. The topics covered include: selected dimensions of unoccupied and occupied devices, knee and toe clearance, reaching abilities, gripping strength and turning spaces. We also completed a study on the usability of several doors for a sub-sample of our participants. This study provides information on the effectiveness of current standards in meeting the needs of WMD users.

Additional Reports

The Anthropometrics of Disability

participant getting their reach range measured with a Faro arm in a anthropometry study

This report discuss the results from a workshop with 40 international experts. Participants included researchers, standards developers, experts in accessible design and wheelchair designers. The report describes advances in the state of the art in anthropometry, the  challenges of measuring people with disabilities and recommendations made by the experts at the workshop.

Space Requirements for Wheeled Mobility

closeup of a wheelchair ramp

This report discuss the results from a workshop with 70 international experts from the U.S. and abroad. The group represented the fields of anthropometry, biomechanics, human factors engineering, human modeling, rehabilitation engineering, standards development, wheelchair manufacturing and consumer advocacy.

Standards for Wheeled Mobility

participant getting measure with a Faro arm in an anthropometry study

Provide guidance in the further development and revision of the ADA-ABA Guidelines and in providing technical assistance to designers and code developers. The analysis highlights the importance of integrating research with standards development, organizing international research collaborations and developing international standards.