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What is Anthropometry?

image of woman in wheelchair accessing a lift prototypeAnthropometry 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 is to develop a database that reflects the sizes, abilities and space needs of contemporary users and devices. A secondary goal is to identify, develop and disseminate reliable and valid research methods that can be used by many research groups effectively to increase knowledge and inform design and code development over the long term. A third goal is 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.

Project Directors: Edward Steinfeld | Victor Paquet

Our work includes the following activities;

1. Review and tracking of the state of the art in this field

2. Development and testing of research protocols

3. Data collection to develop a database for research, design and standards development

4. Development of an interface to access the data being collected

5. Organization of international workshops on the subject

6. Dissemination of research findings through reports, publications and public speaking

Now Available (2/2011):

Anthropometry of Wheeled Mobility Project

Final Report prepared for the U.S. Access Board

wheelchair userThis 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.

Click here to download a PDF version of the report.

ms word icon Click here to download a MS Word version of the report.

Anthropometry of Wheeled Mobility Online Course

participant in anthropometry reach study

A self-instructional module has been developed to use for online continuing education  ( This course is designed to meet the requirements of the American Institute of Architects for online learning (the IDeA Center is an accredited provider). It provides an overview of the project, three modules on the findings, implications for design and a link to resources like the reference list of publications derived from the project, the Final Report and the collection of Design Resources. Completing the evaluation quiz sends an email with results to the IDeA Center for review.

The online course is designed for expansion by adding more modules. It will be managed and administered through the IDeA Center's online education program. The Access Board will also use this program for its own educational efforts.

Click here to visit the website

Previous Dissemination Efforts

Two international workshops were organized by the IDeA Center to bring stakeholders together in order to discuss the state of the art in the anthropometry of wheeled mobility and identify needed research directions.

Workshop #1: The Anthropometrics of Disability (2001)

This workshop was held in Buffalo, NY in June of 2001 and was attended by 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.

Click here to download a PDF version of the report

internet explorer icon Click here to download an HTML version of the report


Workshop #2: Space Requirements for Wheeled Mobility (2003)

This workshop was held in Buffalo, NY in October 2003. It was attended by 70 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. The report provides abstracts of commissioned and submitted papers as well as a description of the discussion following paper presentation.

Click here to download a PDF version of the Workshop report.

internet explorer icon Click here to download an html version of the report


Four papers were commissioned and presented at the workshop:

1. A critical review of recent anthropometry research of wheeled mobility users

2. Trends and issues in wheeled mobility technologies

3. Trends and issues in lift and deployed ramp technologies

4. Trends and issues in disability data and demographics

Several other participants presented shorter papers.

Click here to go to the site where papers can be downloaded.


Report: Standards and Anthropometry for Wheeled Mobility

This report was prepared at the request of the U.S. Board to 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.

Click here to download a PDF version of the report.

Click here to download an html version of the report

Faculty and staff of the Center have published many peer reviewed journal papers and conference papers on our research. Click here to learn more >>

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