As previously discussed, wheelchair fencing takes place in a much smaller, compact space than able-bodied fencing, maybe 3 to 4 meters in length and about one meter wide.
Wheelchair fencers literally fence at "arm's length distance" from one another. All of the action takes place in the wheelchair fencing frame. All frames used in competition must be approved by the international governing body for wheelchair fencing, the "International Wheelchair Fencing Committee" or IWFC. All frame designs must be easily adjustable and able to accommodate various widths and makes and models of wheelchairs.
All wheelchair frames must be able to be easily configured "right to right," "left to left," and "left to right" to accommodate both left and right-handed fencers. There is also a center bar mechanism that allows for adjusting the distance between the fencers to arrive at the correct distance.
Not only are the rear wheels secured to the frame, but also the front casters of both wheelchairs should be as far forward as possible to ensure that everything is lined up in the frame. Additionally a ratchet tie-down strap is used to secure the front end of the wheelchair so the wheelchairs remain at the proper distance and angle to one another throughout the bout (or approximately 110°+/-2° to the center bar.)
The distance between the two fencers is determined by their relative arm length. Usually the fencer with the shorter arm sets the distance. The fencers are placed on guard, sitting upright and centered in their wheelchairs before the measure is taken. First by one fencer and then the other to determine who is the fencer with the shorter arm length.
In foil, the seated fencer extends his or her weapon arm with the point in the direction of his or her opponent. The opponent in turn, raises his or her weapon arm, parallel to the floor with bent elbow. The tip of the weapon of the fencer with the shorter arm length should just reach the crease in the elbow of his or her opponent's jacket as seen in the above photo.
For sabre and epee, the point of the weapon of the fencer with the shorter arm should just reach the outer edge of his or her opponent's elbow. While all of this measuring is taking place, it is important for the referee to monitor both fencers and make sure that they are sitting centered in their wheelchairs, completely up right.