My dad now owns a pair of khaki pants from USAJeans.net, makers of pants for people who use wheelchairs. I’ve written about the company previously, and here’s my review of the actual product:
First, my dad’s happy with them, and they really do look pretty much like conventional khakis when he’s sitting. They fit him comfortably. The fabric isn’t the quality of LL Bean, dad’s favorites, and I thought the weave was a bit coarse and the texture a bit rough — but LL Bean is intentionally using a cotton with a softer ‘hand’, and doesn’t have to use the 10 ounce weight I specified. The softness vs. strength trade-off is probably unavoidable.
The seat is cut to be roomy, and the back waist rises (see above, left) so that there’s plenty of coverage when seated — both good features. I’m not sure how the wide back waist elastic will stand up to institutional washing — it’s a lighter weight than I would have chosen. Workmanship was good, but not excellent — most of the belt loops needed to have threads clipped, and none of the cut edges on the loops are finished, so I’m expecting them to unravel in the wash.
The lifting straps at the knee seem to be stitched adequately, but the transfer strap (“transfer straps – $5”) was a surprise — I had assumed it was a single strap across the back of the pants just below the waistband. Turns out it’s two loops sewn onto the elastic waist band. Though neatly made, they look a bit crude, and stick straight up — but maybe they have to, if they’re going to act as handles. A strap across the back would probably be less obtrusive. I’m not sure which would be better to lean against. As it turns out, we probably won’t be testing their strength, as Dad now requires two people to help him transfer, and they are holding tightly to him instead of to his clothing.
Total price with shipping and the customization (straps) was around $80 USD — they would have been more if I’d had pockets added (which, in retrospect, I probably should have done). As the website notes, the front pockets aren’t real — they’re just stitched to look like regular pants. (That’s so thumbs won’t catch in them when using the chair.)
Now the bad news:
I tried to place the order originally on March 23. I sent an email, specifying the type of pants I wanted, asking a couple of questions which weren’t adequately addressed on the website, and requesting a phone call so that I could confirm the details and supply my card number for payment over the phone — the only way to pay, other than by sending the order through the mail.
By April 3, I still had no response, so I called the number on the website. My number’s unlisted (and blocked so that businesses can’t see it), and their number refused my call. At this point, not very happy, I sent another email (including a copy of the original.) I got an immediate reply from Darlene, saying that she didn’t check her email anymore, and that her new office person might have missed mine. She said someone would call me the next day — which Cindy did, promptly.
Cindy, it turned out, was in New Mexico, and couldn’t answer questions about customization of the pants, or about what was in stock, because the inventory is apparently in Oklahoma (where Darlene was). She mentioned that there had been various problems with getting fabric from suppliers, and that orders are running six to eight weeks behind. She thought I might be able to get the pants immediately, though, if they had the right size on the shelf.
So I made yet another call, to Oklahoma, to find out what was on the shelf. Turns out the size chart on the website isn’t actually how they figure size — weight is more important. My dad, at 220 pounds, with a 44 inch waist, takes a size 40. No way to figure that out on the website, which is a tangled mess from start to finish.
There was a pair of size 40 khakis on the shelf, and Darlene said she could make the simple modifications I wanted right away — adding lifting straps at the knees, and a transfer strap at the waist. That promise was kept, and they arrived very quickly.
Both of the people I talked to were extremely nice, but this was a very frustrating transaction from start to finish. If you’re not in a hurry, and if you expect to develop a long-term relationship with wheelchairjeans.com, all this bother might be worth it. If you need pants for the short term, you might just want to stick with sweatpants.
Khakis from USA Wheelchair Pants or USA Jeans Specialty Pants or USAJeans.net . . . you get to pick what you call them, I guess — there’s no consistent name on the website.
Previously: Jeans for People Who Use Wheelchairs