Have your heard wheelchair camber and wondered what the heck it is? It’s a fancy word for the angle of wheels in relation to the ground. With wheelchairs, this applies only to the rear wheels. Camber is measured in degrees and is described as positive or negative. Additionally, the higher the camber, the more tilted in the wheels are.
- Wheels perpendicular to the ground have a zero camber measurement
- Wheels angled away from the wheelchair, at the top, have a positive camber measurement
- Wheels angled in toward the wheelchair, at the top, have a negative camber measurement
Note that the higher the camber, the more tilted in the wheels are.
Impact of Adding Camber to a Wheelchair
Adding camber to a wheelchair’s wheels (a negative camber measurement) increases stability and is used in sports wheelchairs. For example, sports wheelchairs used for basketball and tennis, typically have 20 degrees of camber, which allows the chair to turn quickly. However, racing wheelchairs only have 10-15 degrees of camber to provide lateral stability.
A disadvantage of this is that it widens the profile of the wheelchair making harder to maneuver in tight spaces. Cambered wheels also cause uneven wear on tires. It also can impact speed, so higher-functioning athletes often reduce camber to gain speed — using their bodies to keep the wheelchair from tipping.
To camber or not to camber really comes down to how you are using your wheelchair. If you are or want to be involved in some sports, having a cambered sports wheelchair might be the right thing for you.
Video Explaining Wheelchair Camber (5:30)
Learn more about sports wheelchairs,including considerations when selecting a chair, such as optimization for specific sports, sizing, fitting, transfers, maintenance and repair.